Pay attention to who your dog is, not who you want them to be.

Pay attention to who your dog is, not who you want them to be.

As we sit smack in the middle of outdoor patio season, let’s pause to take a moment to think about our dogs. We love sitting on the patio with our friends, meeting new people and socializing for a few few hours (we especially love coming to the Save-a-Bull brew tour events!) But how does your dog feel about that? While we promote dog-friendly events, and encourage you to bring your dog, if he enjoys such things, please take a moment to consider if he actually wants to be there.

The following is an excerpt from an article by Jill Kessler;  it’s an oldie but a goodie. The author talks about her disdain for dog parks and why. We see many similar correlations in overcrowded, loud, fun-for-us patios. Be sure your dog loves this chaos as much as you do, as controlled experiences are key training opportunities for your dog.

I am not a Dog Park advocate.

October 8, 2015  |  Jill Kessler Miller

…let’s look at [dog parks, patios]  from a dog’s point of view. Dogs thrive on stable relationships. Notice I did not say “pack!” They set up and like to maintain relationships with things that they know: their people, our human friends, their dog friends, their housemates, etc. Unless there are the exact same dogs every time they go to the dog park (which is nearly impossible), they have to re-establish their relationships with not only the dogs they already know in context of the new dog present, but they also have to establish a relationship with that specific new dog.

Some dogs can handle the stress of this–but most cannot. Thus you’ll get what appears to be random fighting, random aggression towards a dog they know, random odd behaviors (“gee, never done that before”), seemingly sudden guarding behaviors (territory, owner, another dog) etc. It’s not random or unpredictable–it’s the stress you, as an owner, causes by going to the dog park! Dog parks require skills that most dogs do not possess, nor would they according to how we have bred them for hundreds of years.

Lastly, I’m very wary of the “unknown” factors. Unknown dogs, unknown owners, unknown relationships and interactions, unknown damages. I don’t like surprises, and dog parks hold way too many unknown factors for dogs’ safety.

One of my main reasons for not being a dog park advocate is what I can’t control my dog’s experience and/or other people’s dogs (and I think it goes without saying, the dog owners). Because dogs are learning all the time, I must control as much of their experiences as possible, so that they build a solid foundation of behaviors that are appropriate and desirable, such as impulse control, bite inhabitation, and exchanging rewarding, affiliative, positive social interactions. 



All mammals remember frightening encounters over non-eventful or even fun encounters. It’s a primal survival brain mechanism, designed to keep us alive. Dozens of positive encounters can be overridden by one bad one; thus I must make sure my dog has only positive experiences for several years, until they are mature and have a solid foundation before I expose them to a possibly unsure environment.

If your dog gets bullied, attacked, frightened or even just overwhelmed at the dog park, he will bring that experience and the subsequent conclusions he made with him everywhere. The reactions can vary from “I’m scared and must get away as quickly as possible at all costs” to “If I come on strong and attack first, maybe I’ll be okay,” to just about anything in between.

Also keep in mind that fighting and bullying in dogs is a learned behavior just as much as anything else, and therefore once your dog does it a few times, it’s now learned and bound to be repeated over and over again. And make no mistake–many dogs enjoy being a jerk! Your best bet is to not let it start in the first place, whether it’s your dog being the bully or being the target.

Of course I recommend dog-to-dog play! If your dog has a few friends that he or she really enjoys, please go for it! Set up play dates, meet somewhere where they can safely run, sprint, wrassle, and jump about. Since dogs generally play in pairs, try for either just the two, or in even numbers, you’ll find it works out better. Some dogs only want or need a few friends (just like people), and some are social butterflies, and can make friends wherever they go. Pay attention to who your dog is, not who you want them to be. Stay within your dog’s comfort zone, and you’ll have a happier, safer dog.

Source: www.jillkessler.com, Photo by Jeremy Wiens

Meet Stacey Thomas

Meet Stacey Thomas

Q: How do you volunteer your time specifically with Save-a-Bull?
I am on the Adoption Event Committee so I run adoption events throughout the year. I am on hand to answer any questions the potential adopters or fosters may have and make sure the events go smoothly.  I also like to volunteer at other events throughout the year such as the bake sale and brewery tours.

Q: How long have you been with Save-a-Bull?
I have been with Save-a-Bull for 3 years and am enjoying all of my time with the rescue.

Q: How did you learn about Save-a-Bull and what made you decide to volunteer?
I first heard about Save-a-Bull at the Pet Expo in Minneapolis.  We had recently moved to Minnesota and I was looking to get involved in something.  We have a pit mix and we stopped at the Save-a-Bull booth to check it out.  I loved what the group was doing for the breed and signed up to volunteer right away!

Q: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a volunteer so far?
It’s rewarding to see all of the families at the adoption events looking to add to their family.  They are always so excited to meet the dogs. (And get puppy kisses of course!!) It’s even better when you see that the adoption went through and the dog has found it’s furever home!

Q: Do you have any dogs of your own?
I have two wonderful dogs.  One is a pit/lab mix and the other is a collie/husky mix.  They definitely keep me on my toes and make life more enjoyable.

Q: What do you do for work? For fun?
I work as a corporate trainer for a home mortgage company in Minneapolis. For fun I like to go kayaking, bicycling, read, visit family and friends, travel, take my dogs for walks, and spend time with my husband and daughter.

Meet Kara Buchanan

Meet Kara Buchanan

Q: How do you volunteer your time specifically with Save-a-Bull?
I’m a foster for Save-a-Bull. I tend to prefer fostering dogs with medical issues!

Q: How long have you been with Save-a-Bull?
I’ve been with Save-a-Bull less then a year

Q: How did you learn about Save-a-Bull and what made you decide to volunteer?
I learned about Save-a-Bull after a friend of mine texted and said they had a litter of puppies and not enough people, would I mind applying to foster? As we, my husband and I, had just settled into or own home, we were in a position to help.

Q: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a volunteer so far?
The most rewarding experience was finding a good match for our first puppy. She loved her forever home.

Q: Do you have any dogs of your own?
I recently adopted/foster failed one of my medical fosters.

Q: What do you do for work? For fun?
For work I’m self employed as a massage therapist and extra hand. For fun I hang out with Teddybear (our adoptee), read, play video games online with my adult children who live in other states, and play table top games with my friends

Meet Toni Fernandez

Meet Toni Fernandez

Q: How do you volunteer your time specifically with Save-a-Bull?
I enjoy volunteering at events. The Cabin Fever Reliever and Valentine’s Bake Sale are my favorite! I also like handling when the fosters are not able to be at an event.

Q: How long have you been with Save-a-Bull?
I have been with Save-a-Bull a bit over a year! My first event was the Valentine’s Bake Sale- I met Katie Rushlo and it was her first event too!

Q: How did you learn about Save-a-Bull and what made you decide to volunteer?
I heard about Save-a-Bull from various online postings about events, I had a pittie and wanted to get more involved. It has been so rewarding and I love sharing my experience with other animal lovers!

Q: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a volunteer so far?
I absolutely love knowing that all of our hard work and money we raise goes to helping our Save-a-Bull pups. I love seeing our dogs find there forever homes and seeing updates on how they are doing.

Q: Do you have any dogs of your own?
I have two pitties. Tucker is 3 and Alice was my first foster who I failed with, she just turned 2. They are my furry children.

Q: What do you do for work? For fun?
I am a dental assistant, going back for dental hygiene. For fun I do a lot with my dogs and bring them everywhere! I love that so many places are dog friendly. That way people are able to get to know them and see that pitties are great and loving!

Meet Peggy Arveson

Meet Peggy Arveson

Q: How do you volunteer your time specifically with Save-a-Bull?
I am a foster.

Q: How long have you been with Save-a-Bull?
Since 2011

Q: How did you learn about Save-a-Bull and what made you decide to volunteer?
I did an on line search for rescues, and Save-a-Bull popped up. My dog was getting older, and I thought that instead if getting another dog, I could just foster. Then I foster failed.

Q: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a volunteer so far?
Fostering Jarvis. He was horribly abused and neglected and loved everyone anyway. (Read Jarvis’ Intake story, then find out where is Jarvis now)

Q: Do you have any dogs of your own?
Two dogs: Rusty, a 13 year old Dachshund mix, and Honey, 7 year old English Bulldog/ Dogue de Bordeaux. We also have an eight year old cat who was a stray that I took in, and 2 Guinea pigs.

Q: What do you do for work? For fun?
I am a nurse. I like biking and camping, and love to cook.