Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life and times of a fight bust dog: Sedona update!

October 1st marked a year since Sedona (one of the dogs from the OHIO200 case which was the largest single-yard fight bust in history), came into RPB's adoption program, and she just celebrated 6 months in her forever home with her adoptive dad Dave, and new brother and sister Rocky and Lola. We thought it would be nice to share some recent pictures and video footage of Sedona to celebrate her progress, as well as an update from Dave:

"Living with Sedona these past six months has been a learning experience for both of us. Yes, she has her baggage like most rescued dogs, but she’s been slow to let it go. Continuing what The Real Pit Bull staff began, to teach her to be a pet, has been very rewarding. Sedona is coming out of her shell a little more every day, and her highest achievement thus far has been her first group trail hike recently, with more than a dozen strangers and their dogs. Sedona really shone and impressed me so much on this two hour hike. Everyone was very supportive, and Sedona made more than a few friends that day.

Sedona and housemates Lola and Rocky have adjusted to each other and live in harmony. She really is happy to have the other two dogs around, and is a complete clown around the house. Just like any other Pit Bull she is prone to zoomies, loves her treat ball, enjoys her bones and screams for joy when I come home. Sedona continues to make good progress with her leash manners, and is learning how to interact with strangers. Her CGC is a long term goal that we keep our eyes on, and we will keep working at her socialization issues until the day comes when I can say she’s just like other dogs, but she will always be one Very Special Little Dog."

Playtime between Sedona and Rocky:

Sedona came to us with extreme generalized fear and was far from an easy case. Despite her "emotional issues", she continues to show true Pit Bulldog spirit: an attitude of try, try again, as well as 100% reliability around people despite her very real fear. Dave has been an amazing blessing to Sedona and is one of those adoptive homes rescue organizations dream of: complete and utter dedication to his dogs and acceptance of who they are as individuals.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Volunteer Spotlight

Carolann Puzio is one of our volunteers, and she specializes in lecturing on responsible dog caretaking and dispelling Pit Bull myths. She and her dog Rocky (who has his Canine Good Citizen certificate, has passed a Temperament Test, and is a certified Therapy Dog) spent Pit Bull Awareness Day teaching enthusiastic (potential) dog parents about Preparing for a Four Legged Friend.

Like so many, Carolann found herself an "accidental Pit Bull parent" when she adopted Rocky from a shelter. She fell in love with her adopted dog, then the breed as a whole, and eventually found herself a breed activist when she teamed up with RPB.

Thanks Carolann for your dedication and eagerness. You are a truly valued member of the RPB family!

Watch for more lectures from Carolann and her sidekick Rocky on various topics in the upcoming months.....

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Had to Shares"

Hello Bully is awesome. We love them and think they rock, especially for the work they did on the OH200 bust (it's been a year since that bust! Wow, how this year flew by......) They also put together this lovely tribute. Take a few minutes to watch this, it's worth it for the before-and-afters. Just have a tissue handy (you've been warned!)

October is Pit Bull Awareness Month and Oct 22nd is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. This fantastic campaign was started by Bless the Bullys' founder, Jodi Preis. All month long, Bless the Bullys has been honoring Pit Bull advocates on their blog. It was so cool to wake up this morning to a Facebook post letting me know that I was today's featured honoree. It really is an honor. You can read the blog by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tellin' it like it is, no apologies.

RPB is a teeny tiny org with minimal funding. Ok, I say this not to whine and moan, or hint that we need donations (even though we do, *hint hint*). I say this because when fundraising or promotional opportunities arise, ones that could get us some exposure, perhaps generate some donations, and also raise awareness for the breed, that's pretty darn cool!

Those opportunities don't come along very often, however, for RPB.

RPB is a fairly no-nonsense organization. We advocate hard for responsible breed caretaking, and talk a lot about what it’s REALLY like to live with Pit Bulls; we don’t just lean towards the "cute and cuddly" stuff. We also discuss some of the things that aren’t so fuzzy about the breed that people need to be aware of before they decide to bring one home. We don’t rewrite history (the breed wasn’t originally the “nanny dog” or bred for hunting or herding or farm work). There are “easy” Pit Bull temperament traits, and there are “not so easy” temperament traits. There are things about the breed that make them super easy dogs to call your own, and things that make them rather difficult – we tell it all, like it is.

RPB is called The REAL Pit Bull because we don't sugarcoat, make stuff up, or twist facts just because sometimes facts aren’t so pretty. Marketing goes a long way in the nonprofit world - same as in the world of for-profit corporations, make no mistake. Nonprofits need to market to fund their organization’s efforts. That’s part of life. But RPB's concern has always been first and foremost the dogs, the people who interact with them, and bringing the truth to light. The REAL Pit Bull - as in the breed, the American PIT BULL Terrier - isn't a product to sell to the masses, it's not Coca-Cola, or Starbucks, or the latest must-have smart phone. We DON'T want everyone to "buy" our product. We want smart decision-making, educated consumers, and people to realize that hey, maybe these aren't the dogs for their particular homes. So we don’t market to the masses – we market to the truth-seekers, the fact-finders, those who have a true interest in the BREED.

We also promote nondiscriminatory dangerous dog laws. We believe we have the right, express that we have the right, and fight for the RIGHT to choose whatever breed we think is the best match for our homes. We each have a RIGHT to become caretakers of the American Pit Bull Terrier if we so choose. A person's right to own a Pit Bull - or ANY dog - should come into question ONLY when such a person has proven themselves to be irresponsible, abusive, or criminal - putting other people and/or animals in harm's way.

We fight Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) because it tramples our rights, hurts the innocent (dog and human alike), and assumes guilt before any act has even been committed. We argue against BSL on principal, using logic. BSL penalizes innocent companion animals and their families, costs tax payers money for no good reason, and gives the public a false sense of security.

RPB does NOT fight BSL by sugarcoating or hard-selling the Pit Bull. We feel such a methodology does more harm than good. We never use tactics that include falsifying the history or temperament of the American Pit Bull Terrier, denying it for what it truly is, or promoting it as "America's dog, the dog for everyone, the dog that can even babysit your kid!"

Popularity is this breed’s downfall. Ignorant, uneducated, negligent and outright criminal people who mishandle the Pit Bull are causing its demise. Promoting the breed – even when intentions are good – is one of the worst things you can do to the dogs. As we like to say, “We promote education and responsibility and if you decide the Pit Bull is the right breed for you, then we encourage you to rescue one.” We do NOT promote the breed itself and we do NOT encourage any average person who may be thinking about getting a dog to run out and adopt a Pit Bull. The last thing this breed needs is to become more popular. While some people get all giddy and excited to see a Pit Bull portrayed in some big way in a positive light, we cringe – we know that kind of exposure, not coupled with education, will only lead to more well-intentioned yet potentially harmful situations.

I suppose all of this doesn't make our organization or our "product" as "consumer-friendly" or as marketable. But we're ok with that.

Recently a documentary was filmed and put into circulation, meant to be used as a tool to combat BSL. We’ve watched as, over the past year, organization after organization has hosted screenings of this movie, benefitted in some way, and helped to spread the anti-BSL message. Pit Bull advocates are raving about it. Earlier this year, before practically anyone had seen this documentary, I contacted the moviemaker and asked if RPB could receive a copy to check out the movie, make sure it was preaching a message we could get behind, and then possibly host a screening. The email we received in reply stunned me. The gist of the reply? “No.”

RPB was told we were "not a fit" for this movie because we, as an organization, hold the position that the Pit Bull is NOT the breed for everyone. Um…..what?

Let me restate this loud and clear: THE PIT BULL IS NOT THE BREED FOR EVERYONE! No breed is. THE END. We don’t apologize for this position. In the right hands a particular breed could be awesome; in the wrong hands it could be a disaster. This isn't a Pit Bull-only caveat - it's an across-the-board thing that applies to ALL BREEDS. I dare you to find one reputable sanctioned breed club or ethical rescue that says, "EVERYONE SHOULD GO OUT and get 'This Breed' because OMG it is just SO AWESOME, the best thing EVER, the perfect match for every home, and so so so cute, and great, and wonderful, and you're an idiot if you don't have one!"

Yet here RPB was being told that no, we couldn’t get an advanced copy of this movie. The moviemaker even went out of their way to tell me that yes, they do allow organizations to view advanced copies to make sure the movie meshes with their individual missions. But nope, sorry, RPB wasn’t gonna get one. Because apparently we don’t pimp out Pit Bulls? The moviemaker was not amenable to even discussing the matter. I was told that if I wanted, I could pay to go so some other organization’s screening, and IF I liked the movie, the moviemaker and I could “revisit” the idea of a benefit screening for RPB at a later date. I was so blown away, baffled, and frankly insulted that I just threw my hands up and said, “Oh well.”

Neither I nor anyone else at RPB has seen this movie. We haven’t “revisited” anything with its creator. We’ve sat by quietly as what feels like every other Pit Bull organization in the country has hosted a screening of this film, and RPB – one of the oldest and most outspoken advocates for the Pit Bull, an anti-BSL 501(c)3 nonprofit charity – was told we weren’t allowed to see a copy because the moviemaker wasn’t “comfortable” sending us one due to “conflicting viewpoints”.

Over the past year, from so-called Pit Bull organizations, we’ve seen less and less breed-focused material, and more non-specific material aimed at pushing Pit Bulls or dogs labeled “Pit Bulls” out of shelter doors with minimal if any breed-specific education given to the adoptive homes, and organizations working at convincing people to adopt Pit Bulls when those individuals haven’t done any breed research. Talking about breed traits has become taboo. Suggesting that Pit Bulls or “pit bull type dogs” are not the dogs for everyone apparently gets you blackballed from certain segments of the Pit Bull advocacy community. Fighting BSL has become all about denying breed idiosyncrasies, promoting and getting MORE Pit Bulls into the spotlight (in other words, INCREASING their popularity), insisting you can’t ever assume breed (and hence assume breed behavioral traits) just by looking at a dog, and calling every dog or breed remotely resembling a Pit Bull a “pit bull type dog” (including breeds with completely different histories and temperaments).

The popular tactic of "fighting" BSL and "helping" Pit Bulls has become a game of dodge ball, where the goal is to avoid addressing REAL issues and instead use semantics and deny, avoid, and twist truths.

We don't play that game.

RPB will keep chugging along and doing what we do. (We’ve been doing this work since 1997. I’ve personally been living with, loving, and devoted entirely to this breed since 1994.) We will keep counseling guardians with Pit Bulls who got in over their heads when a rescue or shelter placed a dog into a home without any breed education. We’ll preach responsible guardianship until we are blue in the face. Breed traits WILL be talked about. Historical fact will be promoted and fallacy will be shot down. We’ll fight BSL and offer alternatives, show up at town hall meetings, distribute information and work to save homeless Pit Bulls.

What we won’t ever do is turn our back on our breed, the American PIT BULL Terrier – no matter how difficult the struggle becomes, no matter how difficult it is to face facts and even if it means we don’t always get to hang with the “cool kids” or miss out on some fundraising opportunities.

And for all you truth-seekers, fact-fiends, the curious, the confused, and even the on-the-fencers – we’re here, for you, to help and guide and educate. And we’ll always be real with you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

“Because Your Dog Is Worth It Too Day”

L’OrĂ©al hosted the 8th Annual “Because Your Dog Is Worth It Too Day” with proceeds going to Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. And The Real Pit Bull was there in full effect. We had our booth set up, ready to inform and educate people on what this wonderful breed is all about. I figured I would see a few Pit Bulls here and there but to my surprise there were more than I expected.

There were plenty of other breeds there as well, as you'll see in the gallery below. The event had lots of food (for dogs and people), refreshments and plenty of activities for everyone. Here are some photos from the event for your enjoyment

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bust dogs just wanna have fun!

Sedona from the OH200 bust last year wasn't 100% convinced that the agility equipment was supposed to be a good time, but she was willing to try it out anyway.

Sedona and her dad recently hung out at North Jersey's Dog Dome for some socialization and exercise. Big strides for this little girl who wouldn't even leave her crate the first few days after she was placed in foster care with RPB. Sedona found her forever home back in April and is doing wonderfully.

Fight bust dogs really DO just want to have a good time and a chance to be normal dogs. All they need is some love and a nurturing environment to teach them that they can!

Your Dog Is Worth It Too! Event 8/20

The Real Pit Bull, Inc will host our Pit Bull Education booth at this year's Loreal Because Your Dog Is Worth It Too event, to be held at the Loreal facility in Cranbury, NJ on August 20th.

This is the first year we'll be attending and we're super stoked! We've heard great things about this day, the proceeds of which benefit the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure of Central and South Jersey.

RPB staff, volunteers and canine alumni will be in attendance. Please join us!

Monday, April 4, 2011

We love our Pit Bulls in so many ways...

...some would call us "crazy", but at RPB we prefer the term "passionate". We wanted to share some pix we received recently showing the love Pit Bull guardians have for these amazing dogs - what better way than through tattoos. Here are some recent submissions we've received. It never ceases to amaze us how dedicated people are to their Pit Bulldogs. Has to tell ya something - these are so much more than "just dogs": they are our life, our family, our best friends.


Sharah Gomez shared her Jersey and Ruben tattoo.

Randi was so inspired by Vick Dog Jonny Justice that she permanently demonstrated her admiration by getting this lovely tattoo:

Sarge's Kim Wolf tattooed her beloved Elberbull on her foot:

Bev Waltons' gorgeous Pit Bull:

Jenna McFall's Jack the Ripper, RIP:

And I figured I'd share my own tattoo of Krash, the inspiration behind RPB, and my AmStaff Luca:

Friday, March 18, 2011


The RPB t-shirts will be ordered on March 31st, and will go out as soon as we get them (turnaround time is about 2 weeks). If you haven't already ordered one (or more!) of these shirts, you can let us know what you need via ( is the email). The shirts are $15/ea. and a great way to make a statement regarding your unwillingness to tolerate discrimination.

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

---->We're havin' a CGC party! Your Pit Bull can test for a $20 fee (which benefits RPB, of course), or you can just come hang for free. Interested? Email:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pre-Order Your RPB T-Shirts Today!

Hi Friends!

Our t-shirt slogan contest was a success! For more about the t-shirt and the contest, please click here:

We are now getting ready to place an order for t-shirts. Shirts will be black with light blue text on the back, reading:

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

The RPB logo (which is the likeness of Krash, one amazing Pit Bull and the "dog behind RPB"), will be featured on the front of the shirt, in light blue.

We were all set to place an order, but unexpected vet bills ate up our t-shirt fund in February. (This is rescue work! Always expect the unexpected!) Now we are accepting "pre orders", which means you pay now and your shirt will be shipped to you as soon as they are printed up (target: end of March).

Shirts are $15.00 and you can pay through our account using the email:

Please be sure to indicate you are ordering a shirt as well as the sizes and quantity you would like. Pre-ordering t-shirts is a great way to support RPB, help us pay recent vet bills for our OH200 bust dog, Sedona (who is doing fine and is healthy now!), and show your love for Pit Bulls by way of a great shirt that sports a great message.

Any questions?

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.