Team Unruly’s Favorite Canine Artists

Team Unruly really loves our dogs. And I do mean really loves our dogs. Many of us have, at one time or another, had someone draw or paint or make some sort of other artwork based on our dogs. We thought today we’d share some of our favorite artists with you. If you see anything you like, please do contact the artist to commission one of your own! If you have any recommendations for other artists to check out, stop by the comments section and let us all know!

Artist: Animal & Vegetable Custom Pet Portraits
About: You may have noticed the amazingly gorgeous header on the TU page. This awesome work was done by Mélissa Keays of Animal & Vegetable Custom Pet Portraits. Based on submitted photos, she can create custom artwork of your pets.
Cost: $75-85+
Officer Murphy Paraphernalia:
Samples: (Click on thumbnails for larger versions)

bella      Cherry and Smooch   Murphycerb      Nellie and Lucy   owen and frankie   tayla   dahliasteve

Artist: Pariah Dog Art
About: Callie specializes in custom digital cartoon portraits of dogs, cats, and other pets. She’s done more than one drawing of Dahlia and each one is fantastic. Based on high-res photos submitted of the pets, she can create a customer portrait of individual pets or groups.
Cost: $30-65+
Samples: (Click on thumbnails for larger versions)

dahliaportrait      steveportrait   Tayla small

Artist: AlliePets
About: AlliePets is owned, operated and ran entirely by Allison MacAlister. Our primary business lies in our wide variety of pet portrait options and styles, but we also do custom illustration work and design/branding work for pet-related businesses and others.
Cost: $80-300+ (and I can say she is well worth the money!), but she often has deals going on so make sure you check out her facebook page!
Special note from Michelle: Last winter AlliePets was offering a good deal on Christmas card drawings, which was how I discovered the artist. I came to her with an absolutely off the wall suggestion (Dahlia chasing a UPS truck full of butter) and her response was “Well, it’s certainly one of the more unique requests I’ve had, but who am I to resist such a quirky, fun request.” She did an absolutely brilliant job
Samples: (Click on thumbnail for larger version)


Artist: Linda Zielinski
About: Linda is a very talented realistic artist that works mostly with pencil. She shows dogs herself and owns/breeds English Springer Spaniels. She also sells cards, t-shirts, and other items on Zazzle and Cafe Press.
Cost: $125 for an 8×10 (includes the matting and postage).
Samples: (Click on thumbnails for larger versions)

FieldSpaniel  Beagle

Labrador Puppy

Not all disabilities are visible: Life with a Service Dog in the real world.

13042453925_38b7ff5eb3I never dreamed I’d ever have a Service Dog. I never dreamed I’d need a Service Dog. But sometimes life happens, and sometimes you fall off the edge of a really big cliff into an ocean of rough, dark, deep water and you have to learn how to swim again.

In December of 2012 I fell. I had three psych hospitalizations, more medications thrown at me than I can even remember now, countless therapist visits. I hit the point where I couldn’t live alone anymore, so my four dogs and I moved into my agility trainer’s home with her and her family and their six dogs. It was a challenge. It was stressful. But they kept me safe.

But that couldn’t last forever. I needed to figure out how to become self-sufficient again. I needed to figure out how to do all the normal “every day” tasks that people have to complete, even the ones that require going out in public. Out in public is hard. I get panicky. I get lost. I get overwhelmed by the noise and the motion and the colors and my brain gets stuck, which is such a scary and vulnerable place to be.

When I had lost a significant part of my hearing in my left ear the year before, I had started to teach my Border Collie Steve to respond to my alarm clock by insistently poking and licking and pawing me. As the meds piled on and piled on, I needed him not because I couldn’t hear my alarm, but because I couldn’t find the energy to respond to it.

He naturally started to alert to my panic attacks and to my episodes of dissociation at home, and so I reinforced and reinforced them to make them dependable.1794690_10202521920382148_975814216_n

I told my therapist how great he is, and she asked about using him as a Service Dog. I thought… my crazy dog could never function in public as a Service Dog! He’ll be over-the-top and embarrass me! But she asked me if I’d start bringing him to sessions to see if it helped, so I did and it did. I bought him a vest and we ventured out into the real world, cautiously, one small step at a time.

My dog did not falter.

My crazy, screaming flyball dog walks calmly next to the cart in the grocery store, ignoring the food on the shelves, ignoring the people who invade his space, who try to pet him, who babytalk him. He lies down while I unload all my groceries at the cash register. He goes under the table in a restaurant and hangs out there while I eat dinner. And he continues to alert me, interrupt me, help me ground myself when I need him to. And having him with me makes me need him less, because I am more confident knowing that I can trust him to have my back, to keep me safe if I need to be interrupted from going out of my mind.

But being out in public with my clearly vested dog has opened my eyes to how utterly ignorant people are around and about service dogs.

A service dog can be large or small. He can be walking by his owner’s side, leading him, or held in his arms. It all depends on what the dog is being used for. There are dogs who help people with a wide variety of disabilities from balance to hearing to seizures to diabetes to PTSD. Just because a person doesn’t look a certain way, doesn’t mean that their dog is not doing important work. Just because we do not meet your stereotypes does not mean we are fakers. Not all disabilities are visible.1662092_10202375352278037_772026057_n

Please do not try to disrupt these dogs while they are working. Do not bark at them, so not try to pet them, do not throw food or toys at them, do not babytalk or make kissy noises at them. Just leave. them. alone. These dogs are very well trained, but they are still just dogs, and their attention wavering at just the wrong time because some dumb person at the mall was barking at him again (why people think this is funny, I will never understand) could end up in disaster for the person depending on him.

Please don’t treat the owner as if she’s not there. There are two members in every service dog team. It’s ok to ask polite questions, but don’t be offended if the handler is not interested in talking or in revealing her personal information or history. General questions are usually ok, but “what do you need a service dog for, you don’t look disabled?” is not an ok question.

Employees may ask two specific questions to verify if the service dog is a “real” one. He may ask whether the dog is a service dog, and he may ask what tasks the dog has been trained to perform. That’s it. He may not ask why the handler needs a service dog, what disability afflicts them.

Employees may ask any dog who is disruptive to leave. This is one that I think employees don’t necessarily know and that they are afraid to use. If the dog truly is a service dog and the dog is being disruptive and is not under the control of the handler, the ADA still gives permission to businesses to ask them to leave. While all service dogs are guaranteed access to any public place under federal law, that federal law does not allow them to abuse the privilege and cause problems.Serviceable Steve

It’s just a service dog, not a unicorn. Service dog teams may be uncommon in your area, but surely you’re aware that they exist, right? Don’t stare, don’t cause a scene, don’t whip out your cell phone to snap a picture. Just let us go about our business. Just let us fit seamlessly into the flow of people on the street or in the aisle. Respect our privacy and our space the way you would that of any other stranger.

And please, stop trying to pet my dog when I’m not looking. He doesn’t like it.

AKC Community Canine Testing for Perri!

I have written about AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test in this blog before, and how I feel it is an excellent training step for any dog – be it for a pet dog, a dog moving towards service/therapy work, or a dog headed for a life in competition sports.  So last August when AKC announced a new CGC “level” called the “Community Canine” available for dogs to be able to test at, I was interested.

One of the differences between the CGC and CGCA test is that the CGCA test is, by definition, a test that needs to take place in a natural setting – in the “community”.  It is a test that evaluates a dog’s skills in public.  When my dogs took their CGC tests, it was in quiet training centers and it was a low stress evaluation of their skills.  The CGCA test, on the other hand, is definitely going to take place in a public setting.  A dog show or event, a pet store, a busy park.  CGC tests can be done at these places, but they are not required to be.


Ein “in the community” at Pennsylvania Amusement Park Knoebels, where well behaved dogs are welcomed (even on some rides!)

So, what’s the point of doing this test?

I have been asked this a lot!  I actually took Perri to an entire training class to prepare her for this test, which was a personal decision.  I knew that I could train Perri independently for the test items (they are very similar to a therapy dog certification test, which we have already passed through Therapy Dogs Incorporated.)  But I love classes, and I firmly believe that every bit of training improves a dog’s confidence.  And Perri and I are definitely in the market for more confidence.

So, the short answer would be: Because I enjoy it and because I can.  Because I think that the 10 Steps in the Community Canine test are good skills to train for – and why not honor your training by taking a test and earning a title certificate.


The long answer is that I would like to explain how the 10 Test Items apply to my every day life.

Continue reading

Marketing Foster Dogs, Part One

In my review of Pat Miller’s How to Foster Dogs (spoiler: it’s great! if you are thinking of becoming a foster parent, you should totally get it!), I mentioned that I would have liked a little more discussion about how to market foster dogs to adopters. Finding great, loving homes for your foster dogs is crucial — you want to make a good match not only so that the dog and the adoptive family get to live Happily Ever After, but so that you, the foster parent, can be completely satisfied that you did the right thing for your foster dog. Second-guessing your placements, trust me, suuuuucks. And good marketing helps you avoid that.

So, in the spirit of putting money where is one’s mouth, I figured I’d write up a couple of posts on How to Hock Your Homeless Dog.

Today’s installment is geared mostly toward “easy,” highly adoptable dogs — young, cute, medium-energy dogs who are sociable to people, friendly with other animals, and don’t have major behavioral issues. These dogs should do well in a variety of homes, are generally suitable for novice owners, and don’t require any special considerations in their placements.

Foster dog Florence (later renamed Dori), the poster child for “highly adoptable.”

For these dogs (and, well, also for the others, but with Complications), marketing pretty much comes down to three things:

(1) Be Positive;

(2) Be Honest;

(3) Be Thorough.

Pretty simple, right? But like so much else in dogdom, simple ain’t easy, and also simple-in-theory isn’t always the same thing as simple-in-practice.

Be Positive is probably the most straightforward of the three. Put your foster dog in a good — honest, but good! — light. Present his traits in a way that makes it easy for the right home to imagine that dog being a part of their lives. Take pictures that show the dog being adorable (and calm!) in household settings, playful (but manageable!) in outdoor settings, sociable in the presence of other dogs, well-mannered in the face of minor distractions.

Foster dog April modeling her padded seatbelt shortly before embarking on a long cross-country ride to her forever home.

When it comes to Petfinder postings, I aim to get three standard shots: an indoor shot of the dog being relaxed (because everybody wants a dog they can live with in the home!), an outdoor shot of the dog doing something that communicates whatever I want to show about that dog (actively playing if she’s a more energetic dog, being mellow if she’s more laid-back), and a “group” picture where the dog is in frame with at least one other animal or person. One of the pictures (doesn’t matter which) should focus on the face and show the dog making direct eye contact with the camera in an engaging way, one should be a full-body shot, and the third can be either of those or something in between.

If you have a reasonably trained resident dog or dogs to use as props in your picture-taking, this is gold. Once you have a 2-second Sit-Stay (even a “fake” Sit-Stay that’s 100% lured and bribed), you can line the foster dog up in a posed group picture with your own dogs and people will be amazed. Seriously. The Fake Family Portrait is a subgenre I have mastered, and is a super simple thing that takes less than half an hour of effort to accomplish in most instances… but it never fails to impress prospective adopters as visual proof that this dog has Good Manners.

The Fake Family Portrait, a time-honored subgenre here at Casa de Dog Mob. This one was faker than most. Foster dog Foozie was 100% lured and bribed into position there.

Be Honest is slightly trickier but probably the most important aspect. Be candid about any behavioral quirks, the dog’s probable lack of training/manners (every foster I’ve ever gotten has been completely untrained on arrival), and — important, but often overlooked — the limitations of your own assessments. Since this post is geared primarily toward “easy” dogs, I’m assuming that whatever issues your foster might have (isn’t potty trained, doesn’t know how to walk on leash, etc.) are minor and pretty easy to fix. Whether or not they are, though, be forthcoming about them. Adopters deserve to know exactly what they’ll be getting.

Foster dog Tulip was initially unsure of herself and would submissively urinate when approached in her crate. Her adopters knew about it and were prepared to handle it.

I try to be as blunt and unvarnished as possible about whatever “bad stuff” I see, because my experience has been that good adopters are understanding and flexible, and are willing to meet whatever challenges they believe are within their ability to handle. And bad adopters? I want to discourage them from the get-go, so if hearing that a dog has a temporary issue with submissive urination puts them off, great! My foster dog deserves a home who’ll rebuild his confidence with love and patience, not someone who will dump him the first day for peeing out of fright. So I’m not going to gloss over anything. No euphemisms here.

Another aspect of “honesty” is that if you are evaluating the dog based on its first few days or weeks in your home (as I usually am), then it is possible for an experienced eye to see some things and get the broad contours of the dog’s personality, but there is a ton of stuff that nobody, no matter how experienced, is going to be able to spot while the dog is still in the process of emerging from its shell. Based on a week’s acquaintance, I feel confident judging a dog’s general demeanor, confidence level, and sociability with other dogs and people… but then there are other traits (such as one foster dog’s fondness for picking out unauthorized “treats” from the resident cat’s litter box!) that surprise me to learn about later. I’m just not going to see that stuff in my own home.

So I try to be candid about the fact that there are limits to my early observations and what I can extrapolate from them. There are loads of things I’m not going to see in the relatively short timespan that I keep a foster dog, and there are other things I see today that will probably not be there a few weeks or months down the road. A lot of less-confident dogs initially present as much more mellow and subdued than they really are, for example; they may not show much interest in other dogs or critters on leash at first, but can start yanking hard toward squirrels and pigeons when they relax enough to be interested in chasing things again. If I don’t know for sure, I’m not going to promise a dog is neutral to squirrels on leash. Might be true today, but it probably won’t be in a month.

Then, finally, Be Thorough. This one can be time-consuming, but in my experience, it pays off hugely in the end.

I blog about my foster dogs. I blog a lot.

I try to record every little bit of minutiae that might be of interest to a prospective adopter… and yes, it does take some time to do that, and yes, it can be hard to find the time between work and side-job commitments and training my own dogs and training the foster dog. But since I started blogging, and putting down all those little details and posting all those pictures, the caliber of adopter I’ve been able to find has absolutely skyrocketed.

What I have learned is that the most serious adopters — the most conscientious, responsible, thoughtful homes of all — love having all that information, because they really want to make a carefully considered choice about which dog will be the best fit for their families (which is also the exact same thing that YOU, the foster home, are aiming to achieve).

I want prospective adopters to know MUCH more than “hey, here’s a cute picture!” before they bring one of my fosters home. I want them to know EVERYTHING. All of the things!

Many of these homes are also cautious about committing too soon. The more they can read about a dog, without any pressure to make a decision right away (because the blog post is just there, it’s not like a private email that might carry the implicit pressure of “I spent all this time writing this just for you!”), the more confident they’ll become that yes, this is the dog they want. And the more forthcoming they’ll be in exchange, because they feel like they’ve gotten to know you through the posts, and therefore they’re more comfortable telling you about themselves. It just puts everybody on a much friendlier footing.

I genuinely, absolutely feel that I have been able to place my fosters in some of the best homes on Earth since I started blogging intensively about them, and my only regret these days is that I don’t have enough dogs to go around. I’ve been forced to turn down awesome homes just because I only have one dog to place. I hate disappointing them, because these are FANTASTIC homes, but I also recognize that this is very much a good problem to have.

Meanwhile, impulsive and ill-considered adopters who just want to know “how much is the dog and when can I get him”… my experience has been that these people click on the link, see a huge wall of text, realize that there’s another huge wall of text under that one, and ANOTHER under that… and then they vanish silently into the ether of cyberspace and I never hear from them again.

Which, again, is just fine with me.

So! There’s a novel on how to market easy dogs. Next time: what happens when your foster is a little more challenging to place.

Growing Up Guide Dog Puppy: House Manners!

As our area coordinator tells us constantly, if you teach nothing else to your puppy, teach it to have good house manners. Obedience can be worked on and refined at the guide dog school, but with a string for 35 dogs to train, with 4-5 strings being housed in the school’s kennel at a time, no trainer will have time to take each individual puppy home repeatedly to work on house manners. If house manners is a problem by the time they go for training, the puppy will be dropped from the program.

Dierdre’s early days will be spent doing just that- learning good house manners. Among the many lessons she is learning in her daily ‘course load,’ included is- Socks: Not For Eating.

But Mom!!! They smell so GOOD!!!

But Mom!!! They smell so GOOD!!!


Rather than waiting for the opportunity to come up in the natural environment, learning house manners often takes place in short lessons throughout the day. I will ‘set up’ the situation, before allowing Dierdre to enter the room. Socks on the floor, dirty laundry in the basket, a blanket hanging haphazardly off the sofa, a random shoe on the floor, a leftover bit of apple on the counter. Initially, Dierdre is rewarded with kibble for keeping attention on me in the vicinity of the distraction. Slowly we move closer, rewarding for her looking to me and ignoring the object. Eventually we work up, over the course of days and weeks, to walking past, walking over, stepping on or sitting on/near the object of her desire, and rewarding her for ignoring it.

Of course, no human is perfect, and Dierdre will inevitably get what she wants and be automatically reinforced by it at least once in her puppy raising career. On the off chance that she manages to get ahold of a sock I dropped, I calmly walk up to her, make no eye contact, take the sock, and stuff a nylabone in her mouth instead. This is followed by immediate praise for her having such an Appropriate Thing in her mouth.

Do I get double treats for having *two* toys in my mouth?

Do I get double treats for having *two* toys in my mouth?

Of course, this has its disadvantages too, as now Dierdre thinks it is her sworn mission to find a bone upon any release from her crate, x-pen or tie down, and come show me that she has this in her mouth- followed by her immediate dropping it on my bare foot so she can accept whatever treat she has been conditioned to believe is coming. Nylabones don’t hurt as much as the natural hollow bones we keep around also, and I’m fairly certain my toes will continue to be a mosaic of bruises in various stages of healing for as long as I’m raising puppies. This of course, begs the obvious question- why don’t you wear shoes around your house? And the short answer is that- I live in South Florida where it’s eleventy million degrees for 51 of 52 weeks out of the year. Our old A/C unit is ineffective at removing the humidity from the house, which means that bare feet on the cool tile is the most effective way not to spend $500/month on the power bill, overwhelming the A/C by constantly trying to lower the temperature. Plus, who wants to wear shoes in their house, anyway? Bruised toes are a small price to pay for a puppy with good repertoires of house behavior!

Look Mom, I'm chewing my nyla-keys instead of those socks, aren't you proud!?

Look Mom, I’m chewing my nyla-keys instead of those socks, aren’t you proud!?


Another of Dierdre’s kindergarten courses is titled: What Happens on the Table, Stays on the Table.  While not as difficult for Dierdre as the socks, she is always quite interested in what is going on above her head (good for a guide dog puppy to be concerned with Up, as she’ll have to look up for things her handler will whack his/her head on later). I start by placing things I know she won’t be more than marginally interested in on tables. A book, a cardboard box, a piece of paper (this varies with each puppy, as I’ve had some puppies that think paper is Great Fun).When she sniffs it then turns to walk way I quickly reward her for her lack of interest. If she tries to grab it, I pick it up, and walk into the other room with it. No treats, no attention. She quickly learns the game, and once she understands, I up the stakes by only rewarding when she only looks at the item, and doesn’t approach or sniff it.

I'm not touching it, I'm not touching it!

I’m not touching it, I’m not touching it! (My guinea pig ornament that Dierdre just couldn’t leave alone on the tree, but wouldn’t touch it on the table. No generalization going on there!)

In a restaurant, this can be a much more difficult lesson to learn, with amazing food smells suddenly coming from the table, and my inability to control the waiter and ask them to repeatedly bring/take away the food each time she shows interest. After we’ve ordered and Dierdre is settled comfortably under the table, I step on her leash, close to the buckle, so that the leash is nice and loose when she is lying down. As soon as the food comes, if she tries to stand, she’ll find herself prevented from coming up all the way. Often a short struggle ensues, and very quickly she gives up and lays back down. The instant her elbows hit the floor she is rewarded, and I continue to reward in variable intervals as long as she stays on the floor.

Under my chair at a quick service restaurant, with the leash under my foot.

Under my chair at a quick service restaurant, with the leash under my foot.


A very important class Dierdre had to master (which is still ongoing) is: Leave The Other Dogs Alone, For Pete’s Sake!

The other dogs in the house range in age from ‘older’ to ‘senior.’ Raiden, being a Dog-In-Need-Of-Space/Yellow Ribbon dog, doesn’t want anything to do with the puppy. As long as she ignores him, he’s perfectly fine to coexist next to her. But the moment she shows any attention toward him (and Dierdre’s interaction meter only has two settings, Ignore, and In-Your-Face), he makes sure to let her know what he thinks of that.

Tiki, the youngest of my personal dogs at 7 years old, will tolerate puppies, but doesn’t particularly like them inside the house. She will ignore Dierdre’s attempts to dance on her head for only so far, then she has no choice but to give a motherly snark and put Dierdre in place. As some things are best learned from others, I allow Tiki to shape Dierdre’s behavior in this way. If Tiki and Dierdre go into the yard, they are more than happy to play chase and run all around, and Dierdre is slowly coming to learn that outside ‘break time’ is for play. Inside, you leave others alone.

The oldest of the house is senior, 13 year old, retired guide dog Hawkins, whom Dierdre has knocked over once or twice. When she gets too rambunctious around Hawkins, she goes into her crate for a time-out/cool off period, and she’s slowly learned that Hawkins is fragile and being bouncy around him will result in crate time. (Because the crate is more frequently the source of dinner and not time-out, we avoid giving the crate a negative connotation).

Using Hawkins as a pillow is more acceptable inside behavior.

Using Hawkins as a pillow is more acceptable inside behavior.


And, of course, when I can’t watch Dierdre every single moment, she’s in her ex-pen, crate, or on a tie down, with some appropriate toys for her to entertain herself with. Although sometimes, she makes her own fun.

Mom's busy working, so I'll just roll around on the floor and chew on my cable tie-down.

Mom’s busy working, so I’ll just roll around on the floor and chew on my cable tie-down.

Break the Chain: Saving Kevin and Mickey

You can’t have been on the Internet and not heard lately about the tragic case of Kevin Vincente and the dog Mickey.  Kevin is a 4-year-old boy who was bitten on the face by a chained dog.  The bite was severe enough that Kevin has needed several surgeries and still requires a feeding tube to eat.

The case is a controversial one because both Mickey and Kevin are still alive and while Kevin is struggling to heal, a legal battle is being waged for Mickey’s life.Being an ER nurse, I see entirely too many dog bites, the majority of which happen to children.  Little kids and unsupervised dogs are not a good mix.   There’s a lot of reasons for this—children act impulsively and make mistakes in their interactions with dogs, dogs can and often do react poorly to the persistence of children,  and the height of a young child, particularly from toddler to age 5, puts them face-to-face with the dog during a bite encounter. This accounts for why the majority of dog bites that happen to children occur to the face and why there is such immense tissue damage involved.

Probably one of the most lethal things a dog can do is bite a child.  In nearly every one of the cases that I’ve seen, the dog has not survived the encounter—either the dog is surrendered to animal control where he is later euthanized, or he is killed by his owner in the backyard, often before the child even leaves the ER.  In fact, the dog who is most likely to survive biting a child is not one who is a family pet or is much beloved by its owners—it’s the dog who escapes, a dog who is loose or is a stray and wasn’t immediately caught by the family of the bitten child.  And even then, the hunt will be a fairly exhaustive one and it is quite likely the biting dog will be located and again, killed in one way or another.

Mickey and Kevin’s case is the exception.  Mickey has an owner who surrendered him to animal control, where he now sits in an impound kennel, awaiting his fate.  His case has garnered national attention—Mickey has a Facebook page, an impressively large following, and now an attorney, John Schill, who has taken his case pro bono.   Schill calls both Kevin Vincente and Mickey the dog unfortunate victims in this awful case and in that statement, I believe he is right.


There is tremendous outcry to save Mickey, despite Maricopa County animal control’s assertion that this dog will not be released as adoptable once the court case is decided.  Those in favor of saving Mickey state that this dog is a victim of terrible abuse himself—living out his life on the end of a short chain, that he didn’t receive the socialization he needed as a puppy, and that this bite is not his fault.  Certainly, living on the end of a chain is a horror for a dog.  Confined to a tight  6-10 foot circle, the dog is unable to keep his living area clean—he has to urinate and defecate where he sleeps and eats.  The chain knocks his food over, scattering his kibble in the filth; it catches on the water dish, spilling the water and forcing him to go thirsty until someone notices.  The chain frequently becomes tangled, snaring the dog away from shelter and water.  Dogs living in such conditions become lonely, anxious, and territorial but more importantly, these are dogs who learn very quickly that they cannot get away from what is bothering or frightening them.  So if it is another dog or wild animal pursuing them or if it is only a curious child, the chained dog has already learned that once he reaches the end of his tether, he is cornered with nowhere else to go.



Chaining-related dog bites are unfortunately common.  According to the Center for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs who live out their lives on chains and tethers are nearly 3 times more likely to bite and chained dogs account for a stunning 25% of all fatal dog bite incidents.   The HSUS, the ASPCA, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, PeTA, and notable dog authorities Dr. Ian Dunbar, Dr. Sophia Yin, and Victoria Stilwell have all come out strongly against chaining dogs, citing the egregious cruelty of keeping an emotionally intelligent animal isolated and tethered as well as pointing out how reliably chaining has been shown to increase aggression and fear biting.
With such a preponderance of evidence to demonstrate that chaining creates dangerous dogs, many State and Federal laws have been passed limiting or outright banning the practice.  In 1997, the USDA ruled that people and organizations regulated by the Animal Welfare Act cannot continuously chain dogs, yet chaining continues in the miserable lives of thousands upon thousands of unfortunate dogs.  Advocates of saving Mickey point this evidence out as testimony that Mickey is not actually a dangerous dog off his chain and indeed, the videos and stills of him cowering and shaking in his impound kennel show him appearing more terrified than vicious.  But those arguing to euthanize Mickey disagree, saying that the severity of the bite speaks to exactly how unsafe this dog will always be. And certainly there is reason to be concerned about Mickey’s safety level—the bite Kevin sustained was considerable.  His cheek was avulsed from his face, his eye socket fractured, his tear ducts detached and his lower jaw broken.  Using Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale, Mickey inflicted a Level 5 bite, which is the second most severe bite a dog can cause.  Dunbar’s prognosis for such a dog is grim:  “Level  5 and 6: The dog is extremely dangerous and mutilates.  The dog is simply not safe around people.  I recommend euthanasia because the quality of life is so poor for dogs that have to live out their lives in solitary confinement.”


So even if Mickey is saved, there aren’t too many places he can actually go.  This is a dog who already has a very severe bite on his record—anyone adopting him has some near insurmountable barriers to overcome.  If you rent and you bring this dog home, count on getting an eviction notice because of your landlord’s liability and insurance policies.  If you own your home, it will be nearly impossible to get homeowners coverage.  Local animal control will almost certainly require you to build an extensively dog proof kennel for Mickey, as well as carry dangerous dog liability insurance with coverage into the millions.  And even if you can manage to get past all this, if Mickey ever bites again, regardless of how minor, plan on being sued into financial oblivion.


So if there is no safe home for Mickey, then the argument to save him becomes a moot one.  For this is a dog who desperately needed saving years ago, back when his owners first decided he was less of a pet and more of a nuisance, when that short chain was first snapped on his collar and those he loved walked away without so much as a backwards glance.  More than probably anything else in this dog’s short and miserable life, that chain has been the most significant and most devastating influence, deciding both the child’s and the dog’s fate long before Kevin inadvertently wandered into Mickey’s reach.

We know chaining dogs dramatically increases their aggression.  We know chaining increases the severity of dog bites.   And we know that chaining is inhumanly cruel.

So why are so many dog owners still doing it?