Friday, January 28, 2011


Supervised, calm play between Luca the senior AmStaff and Sedona who is a bust dog. Luca is a little unsure of Sedona's energetic play style but he wants to engage and she is respecting his boundaries after he gives a little "that's rude" growl early in the vid. Notice that Luca "shakes off" at one point. That is an indicator of mild stress (not all stress is bad, remember) but since his overall demeanor is relaxed with a softly wagging tail and overall inquisitive attitude, and Sedona is not overwhelming him, I allow the play to continue.

Shortly after the video ends, I break the dogs and let them take a time-out. Even though this session went beautifully and both dogs were appropriate, I chose to interrupt them after a short while to "end on a good note". This is opposed to allowing them to continue on until someone gets tired and cranky, and hurt feelings ensue.

(Ignore my "omg" in the background - I was responding to someone I was talking to on the phone while taking this video ;-) )

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shout out to!

Thanks so much for allowing me the opportunity to contribute to your Pioneers page. I'm flattered.

Paws 4 Change is a wonderful website dedicated to creative education on important animal welfare issues. They are very pro-Pit Bull and have been super supportive of RPB (they created our public service announcement and got it on the air for us).

Please support this website by visiting and sharing with your friends and family.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Snippets from Sedona

Foster mom note: Sedona is one of the Ohio 200 Bust Dogs saved thanks to grand efforts by HSUS, Hello Bully and others. Sedona's been living with yours truly and my elder AmStaff Luca since October 1st. It's been a trip, to say the least.

Sedona is a bunch of personality traits all rolled up into something equalling awesome. The longer I have her and the more time she has acclimating to the real world (aka what exists past the end of a chain), the more I see this little dog's unbroken spirit, her zest for life, and her endless capability for love - and to be loved. Some days, looking at her gentle smiling little face, I could just cry. Other days she makes me laugh hysterically. Still other days - when she's taking running leaps onto the couch and dive bombing poor Luca - I feel like I must have been crazy to take on this tiny bundle of insane joy. Most of the time I am so thankful that I was blessed enough to have crossed paths with this dog.

"Snippets from Sedona" will be occasional posts that give a Sedona-eye's-view of the world, in her own words. Hopefully you'll get to know her personality a little, her unique take on life, and gain a little insight into the mind of one of those supposedly dastardly, dreadful "fighting Pit Bulls".

And maybe somewhere along the way, you'll fall in love and realize that adopting Sedona is something you just can't NOT do. If you find yourself in such a situation, please be sure to email me for an application:

I'll miss her when she's gone on to bigger and better things in a new forever home, but Luca would be glad to get his spot on the couch back.


This is right after I jumped on the bed, and right before Foster Mom told me to get off the freshly-washed blankets n stuff with my dirty outside paws.

I don't get wut the big deal is. And I feel I am far too cute to be told what to do. Just look at me. This is one of my 'sad faces', by the wayz. It is sad face 1. I didn't have time to unleash sad face 2 which usually allows me to get whatever I want in any situation. Foster Mom has gotten wise to the various levels of sad face and mostly acts too fast and makes me stop whatever I am doing before I have time to hit her with sad face 2. But lately, sad face 2 hasn't been working anywayz. She's getting wise to my ways......note to self: must forego sad face 1 and 2 in favor of sad face 3. This should be far more effective. Foster Mom won't know what hit her......

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Announcing our tee shirt slogan contest winner!

We recevied a bunch of wonderful contributions when we announced our slogan contest late last year. After much deliberating, we settled on a slogan written by RPB Forum member, Shandee. The slogan is paraphrased from a poem written by Shandee. So, here we are proud to unveil the winner:

"Judge all the same by what's on the inside and not by a name."

The poem itself is beautiful and expresses a sentiment we should all carry and hold close to our hearts:

If there were darkness
And no more light
Who would we hate?
Who would we fight?
We would have to judge
All the people the same
By what's on the inside
And not on their name
The color of their skin
Their height or their weight
None of which would matter
It's their heart and soul we'd appreciate
If there were darkness
And no more light
Might not be bad
We could all learn to be kind

From Shandee:

My family brought home our first Pit Bull when I was 13 years old, I knew then I had found my favorite breed. I began my research and decided I wanted another when I was on my own, so a little over a year ago I brought home my sweet girl Aida. And of course not too long after that I saved a sweet little boy, my Pit Bull mix Bruiser, from a very neglectful home. I can say having two dogs of any kind can be stressful at times, so I started my search for help. That's when I came across The Real Pit Bull forum and with the help of the amazing members I now have two very well behaved pups that are the best breed ambassadors in my neighborhood. Also with help from Mary I have many ideas for bringing about awareness for the breed. The love of the breed came naturally and quickly, the inspiration to do more came from the sparkle in Aida's eyes, and of course the encouragement and ideas came from all the wonderful members of the forum. Without them I'd just love the breed, but now I know how to create something bigger, and hope they'll be there along the way.

Thank you, Shandee, for being a part of the effort to save the image of the Pit Bull and being such a wonderful parent to your babies. We're so glad to have you as part of the RPBF team!

Tee shirts will be available shortly for $15. The black shirts with light blue print will feature our logo on the front and the slogan on the back. If you'd like to pre-order to make sure we'll have your size available, please drop as a line at with the size and quantity you want. We'll let you know how and when to pay once our printer is ready with the shirts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Georgia pup, all gown's up!

Jackie was the little Pit mix girl pup who came to NJ from a Georgia shelter last spring. Nurtured by her wonderful, caring foster mom Mariah, Jackie waited patiently for her forever home.

She found that perfect home with Marc and Dana from Southern NJ right before the holidays. We just wanted to update everyone who followed Jackie's story to let you all know she has indeed found a home, as well as post a few pictures of her in her new home, enjoying the good life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh good grief.

A huge eye-rolling emoticon needs to be inserted right here. This ridiculous article was brought to our attention right after we posted a blog on how to pursue a career in dog training which included a bunch of caveats like the field being completely unregulated, with no licensing requirements, and anyone being able to call themselves a trainer with little or no real education. The WA state-based trainer Scott Bennett did a great job driving these points home.

By far, it seems most trainers are opposed to laws that discriminate against dogs of a certain appearance or breed. Those with an understanding of natural canine behavior and how organisms learn recognize that aggression is strongly environmentally influenced, dogs do not attack or kill for the fun of it, aggression is a fear or defense-based behavior, and improper socialization, management and training are prime contributing factors to dog bites - NOT breed. There is insignificant evidence supporting the notion that any breed posesses "genetically-based aggression" as a trait.

Every so often however some "expert" pops up out of no where with opinions that are based on a severe lack of knowledge and dubious sources. Mr. Bennett, for instance, quotes a debunked "report"supposedly proving Pit Bulls (as a breed) attack more than any other dogs.

Hyperbolic statements like "loves/likes/desires to kill" commonly blab out of the mouths of the ill-informed, but educated animal trainers stay away from such anthropomorphisms because they are unscientific and unrepresentative of what we know about the forces driving animal behavior. Fighting is not something Pit Bulls enjoy, fighting is defensive behavior that dogs engage in when they feel threatened. This is behavior dogs learn as an effective means of protecting their own butts. It works, they repeat it.

And the ol' battle cry of "Pit Bulls are bred to fight/kill/maim" becomes a little silly when you realize most Pit Bulls today have been bred to be companions and are far removed from their ancestors. Most breeds were created for tasks (including some requiring aggression) for which they are no longer used. Even Pit Bulls that have been used for dog fighting or are directly out of fighting stock have proven capable of existing peacefully with other dogs and with people (as demonstrated by the dogs from the Micheal Vick case, as well as from the MO500 and OH200 busts, for example).

The statements in the article made regarding the supposedly vastly superior physical ability of all Pit Bulls over other breeds demand proof: who says? what study? Guess what? There IS no study. These are comments coming from someone with merely an opinion, and nothing more. There is no proof to substantiate the claims made that Pit Bulls are stronger/faster/more athletic than any other breed.

Unfortunately, Pit Bulls are "the in thing". Not just amongst a so-called bad element, but also amongst dog people who have good intentions but little to no understanding of the breed, related issues, and dog behavior. Everyone likes to consider themselves an expert on something controversial and "hot". But before you listen to the words coming out of someone's mouth, take the time to consider their actual (not perceived) knowledge, their sources, and their possible motives.

While personally I have no idea how alienating a large potential client-base of Pit Bull parents could be good for Mr. Bennett's business, I do know that the statements made in his article are detrimental to a breed that RPB fights tooth and nail to protect. There are lots of silly comments made about Pit Bulls all across the 'Net daily, but this short article was so chock-full of the ridiculous that it was a good chance to address common nonsense in one shot.

Here's one more piece of reading material: last week I did a short interview which was also posted on This one's on the fallacy of breed-based statistics.

As for Mr. Bennett and others of his ilk: pretending you know what you are talking about doesn't mean you actually do.

So you wanna be a dog trainer?

RPB receives numerous emails from people interested in becoming dog trainers, particularly Pit Bull specialists. We thought it would be helpful to throw together a blog on some things to consider if you are thinking about embarking on the journey to become a humane, well-educated trainer.

But first, please consider the following: there are no regulatory practices in dog training or education of dog trainers. There is no licensing for dog trainers. ANYONE can claim to be a dog trainer or "behaviorist". So be sure to please read this short article. This will help you understand why not only as a consumer is it important to be choosy about the trainer you hire, but also to be cautious about what certifications and education you pursue if you are looking to become a trainer yourself.

So, what is the process of becoming a dog trainer? Who do you talk to, what school do you enroll in? Keeping in mind that the field of dog training is not regulated, extreme caution is warranted when choosing an educational route. Some of the best trainers are self-taught. They start by training their own dogs, then the dogs of family, friends and neighbors. They read the latest and greatest training books, they attend seminars. Then they begin taking paid clients.

It really is a good idea to pursue some sort of organized, concentrated education via a dog training school. There are many, many schools out there but very few are actually worth the money (and dog trainer schools can be very expensive). Beware "online schools" that certify you in weeks or months and then send you out as a "certified master trainer" or something along those lines. There are several excellent organizations and companies that offer genuinely valuable online education but these can never, ever replace hands-on instruction. Two avenues for online learning include and Companion Animal Sciences Institute.

Learning from an actual trainer in a real-world training environment is by far the best way to go about educating yourself. Some are lucky enough to be able to apprentice with good trainers. Sometimes an appreticeship develops after you've enrolled in a trainer's programs with your own dog, and you later begin assisting in classes, and so on. Schools that offer genuinely valuable hands-on learning are not as easy to find. Several schools to consider include the Karen Pryor Academy, The San Francisco Academy for Dog Trainers and Pat Miller's trainer certification program. Any school you choose should include a curriculum that focuses on use of positive reinforcement to teach dogs and solve behavioral issues. Avoid schools that offer such certifications as "master dog trainer" or use prong, choke or shock collars as their tools of choice.

A large majority of dog trainers remain self-taught. These trainers can go on to validate their education by pursuing a certification called the CPDT - or Certified Pet Dog Trainer. This certification is offered through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and remains the only independent certification for dog trainers. Another certification available is offered through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Both of these certifications are available to those who have completed certain educational and experiential prerequisites but neither require graduation from any specific "dog trainer school".

Educating yourself via books, DVDs, and seminars is extremely important. There is a very large number of resources available. offers a huge array of books and even offers lists of recommended reading for those pursuing CCPDT and/or IAABC certifications. An excellent source for DVDs is

Independent hands-on work with dogs is essential no matter what, and a great way to get this experience is via apprenticeships with or assisting local trainers; working with dogs of friends, family and neighbors; volunteering with shelters or rescues. Documenting the hours logged actually training and handlings dogs, as well as keeping case studies will be helpful later on when you seek certification through CCPDT or IAABC.

There is no quick or easy way to become a dog trainer. This fast-growing field is full of trainers with limited knowledge who bill themselves as experts and charge huge sums of money as they utilize inhumane/old fashioned training methods, or fail to help individual dogs with serious behavior issues that require a more knowledgeable professional. To become truly proficient in this field, you must spend years learning and working with dogs. Even once you become a professional dog trainer, your educational experience will never end - there will always be a new book to read, a new DVD to view, a new seminar to attend. This field is largely self-policed, so it is up to you to insist for yourself that you hold yourself to the highest educational and ethical standards. Dogs and their people will be relying on you for your help and expertise and in some cases, the situations you encounter may even be life or death scenarios for the dog involved. This is not a line of work to enter into without much forethought, or take lightly.

The above recommendations apply to those seeking to become dog trainers and/or behavior consultants. If you are seeking to become a behaviorist, education to the Masters level or higher through a legitimate grad school is a must. Courses of study that behaviorists pursue include behavior analysis, animal behavior, clinical behaviorism, and veterinary behaviorism. Since there are no laws governing use of terms such as "dog trainer" or "behaviorist", many people who label themselves behaviorists actually aren't - in other words, they do not have the college degrees that should accompany usage of such a label.

(Disclaimer: the mention of the above schools, organizations and resources is for your convenience only. RPB is not affiliated in any way with the above and we are not responsible for the use or misuse of the provided resources. It is up to you to do the proper research before pursuing any work or education in this field.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just had to share!

Here is our co-director Michele's dog Harley relaxing over the weekend. It is definitely indoor snuggly weather in NJ. Between all the snow and the bitter cold, who wants to go outdoors! Certainly not Harley.....

Harley was a rescued street pup and is Michele's biggest inspiration for working to save the breed. These dogs have a way of sneaking their way into your life and then turning you into an advocate before you even know what's happening. That's the power of the Pit Bull!

Sunday, January 16, 2011 Interview

Shain Kirby interviewed me this week about aggression and bite statistics in response to growing concern over the possible introduction of state-wide BSL in Texas. Here is an excerpt - read the entire interview at the below link.

It should be noted that Centers for Disease Control no longer monitor breeds involved in attacks (they ceased doing so in the 1990s). They found this method of statistical record keeping to be unsuccessful and insignificant. Various polls and statistics from other sources are only as good as the data collection methodology. I would ignore any "breed bite statistics" unless there has been a sound, scientific collection of said statistics that involved proof of breed for dogs labeled as "pit bulls" (and there are none that exist to my knowledge). In regards to breed bite statistics, the term "pit bull" does not refer to any breed, but refers to dogs that simply look a certain way. How anyone could consider such so-called "breed statistics" relevant when they do not even refer to a specific breed is a mystery to me.

Continue reading on Interview with Mary Harwelik - Aggressive Dog Trainer Specialist. - Dallas Libertarian | Click here.