Monday, June 25, 2012

Cooper's Evaluation and Next Steps

Notes by Dulce Garcia, CPDT-KA


Cooper has been kenneled for almost a year and we have little information about him. Therefore an evaluation was crucial in pointing out what further steps to take with him. I evaluated Cooper's temperament through SAFER® Aggression Assessment created by Dr. Emily Weiss. “ASPCA SAFER® Aggression Assessment is a predictive, consistent method for evaluating the probability of canine aggression in individual dogs. The seven item assessment generally takes no more than 10 minutes per dog to complete.” (

After tallying up the results, Cooper didn’t display any aggression signs and will be under a behavior modification and management program to address his jumping up at strangers and mouthing. He enjoys the company of people and becomes excited to greet them but he needs to be taught what is appropriate and what is not. Unfortunately, Cooper’s behaviors have been accidentally reinforced and may have gotten worse by being confined in a kennel with little opportunity to interact appropriately with people. He has accidentally learned that the only way to get a person’s attention is by jumping up at them to say hello. He displays no food/toy aggression and doesn't mind being touched. He does have a lot of energy and this can make any beginner dog walkers uncomfortable. Considering that perhaps he may have been a bait dog in his past explains his fear-related issues when it comes to other pushy male dogs.

The evaluation will help us place Cooper in the appropriate home and furthermore assists us in matching him with the right family. It also gives us added insight into any manageable behavior concerns that can we can work on while he is waiting for a forever home. It will provide staff and volunteers with information about Cooper’s personality.

Next Steps For Volunteers and Staff

Sit and Release: Cooper knows how to sit on command and can stay up to 20 seconds before being released. I want to encourage anyone who interacts with him to ask him to sit at any doors before placing his leash and when out in the yard playing. He has picked up on sitting when a person approaches or when he is called.

Name Recognition/Recall: It is important that Cooper learns his name so that when he is called he can come reliably. As he improves, I will teach him “Watch Me” when a dog or any other distraction is nearby. To learn how to teach a dog to come when called read my blog post, Recall Game.

 Dog to Dog interactions: I encourage that Cooper be kept solitary from other dogs on walks and social time. The goal is to give him positive experiences around other dogs. He is comfortable around female dogs it would be best for him to hang out on his own so that he doesn’t get caught up in a bad situation. We want to set him up for success. He had gone unaltered for quite some time (he was neutered recently) so being around male dogs is not recommended. He will ignore them at times, but can become stressed when a pushy dog is in his face.

Mouthing: Anytime Cooper mouths (puts his mouth on any of your body parts) don’t give him any attention for it. Just end any interactions with him and go away. He will learn that anytime he engages in mouthing the fun ends. Instead, give him toys to play with or practice sits.

These small things can help save Cooper’s life and teach him life skills to cope out in the real world. These are just basic concepts and will change as Cooper improves. I will give a demo and put together information for interacting appropriately with him to help him succeed. Video clips will also be provided so that you may view his progress. If you are interested in assisting me with Cooper, send me an email at and I will give you tips and pointers for working with him.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Update: June 10-23, 2012

Visit to AC; notes by Wendy Thiessen, Tauna Ready, Eva Belendez, Marjorie Jackson, Dulce Garcia, Gloria Medina Zenteno and Lynn Rodriguez 
Angelica Wurth and Amos in the backyard at AC

We spend most of our time working with the dogs in the back yard at the boarding facility. Thanks to recent rains and plenty of watering, the grass sod we planted there is growing in well. Wendy will mow with her push mower soon if she can.


Cooper was evaluated last week by our dog trainer and behavior consultant, Dulce Garcia. Cooper did well and did not show any signs of aggression. This is very good news; the vet who initially treated Cooper when he was found thought he may have been used as a bait dog because of all the scars on his face so we have been concerned about his temperament and  demeanor. Dulce’s evaluation enables us to work more with Cooper to socialize and train him so he can eventually find a home.

Cooper seems to enjoy the company of people but doesn't know how to interact with them appropriately. He has learned to jump and mouth for attention. He does have a lot of energy and will do best in a home with no children under the age of ten. Before going into a foster or adopter's home, Cooper will have to meet his new siblings first. His behavior is manageable and with the right program, he will improve.  As far as Cooper being out in public, because he will be under a behavior modification program he needs some restrictions. Before taking him out, please talk to Dulce or email her at for more information. Dulce has prepared a complete report on her evaluation that is available for potential fosters or adopters.Otherwise, Cooper is doing well. Wendy bought raised beds for him, Derek and Amos and Cooper just loves sleeping on his raised bed!

Raven is a little selective about people so we need to handle him with care. If he knows you already, he is more willing to cooperate. For now, we can spend more time playing with him in the yard. He likes walks and attention but can be skittish. Don’t get your face too close to him and don’t touch areas other than his head and back without being careful. Let him see you coming when you pet him.

He has a skin condition that the vet thinks is caused by the stress of living in a kennel. We took him to the vet recently and had him checked out. The vet prescribed medication for the condition but the medication can only be used for the short term. Raven looks better but until he is out of boarding, the skin condition will probably continue to bother him. He is apparently still having trouble with his feet. We trimmed his overgrown nails recently and that helped but he still has difficulty walking; he will walk okay for a bit then start limping. Raven loves to get his thick black coat brushed. Sometimes we find him in the outdoor kennels but because he is a big black dog with thick fur, he needs to be kenneled inside as much as possible!

Izzy at Dock Dogs at Discovery Green
She seems to be the happiest dog at AC because she is usually doing exactly what she likes but we probably need to separate her from the other dogs on occasion. A volunteer had Derek in the backyard and was playing with him; Izzy kept stealing his toys. The two started to play a little too rough so we broke it up and put Derek back in the kennel. On a positive note, Estelle Mack took Izzy to Dock Dogs at Discovery Green on 6/23/12. These types of outings are excellent for her and also get her exposure so she can find a permanent home.
Wallis outside!

Wallis ready to go back to his kennel

Volunteer Tauna Ready had been spending extra time with Wallis and has been able to get him out of the kennel twice. She’s been going in the evening when it’s quiet which is a perfect time to let him out. He actually touched his nose to the beggin' strip she was offering; he is going to be such a cool dog if he ever opens up.  We’ve never heard him bark and wonder if he can. Wallis is making slow and steady progress; he is a timid dog who was in a terrible accident before we got him so we are being patient and have high hopes.

Dulce had a good suggestion for working with Wallis, which is to make him work for food. With timid and fearful dogs, she recommends being strict about feeding time; with Wallis, if we don’t overfeed and try to feed him when we are working with him, we might get a better response. When dogs are overfed they will do training only for treats; however, treats make them gain weight. If they can work for their food, we can monitor weight and not add any extra pounds. 
Derek and Rachel Gonzalez
 Derek went to the vet last week because several volunteers have noticed he didn’t seem like himself; he’s been tired and aggressive with some of the dogs. Thank you to Eva Belendez for taking him. Dr. Palmer did a complete work up on him: fecal, blood test, checked his temperature.  All came out great.  Dr. Palmer thinks that the tiredness may be a combination of his paw being sore and the heat (when we found him, Derek had a bullet in his paw from a gunshot wound).  She explained that black dogs heat up faster than other dogs so we need to keep an eye on him when he is outside or on walks.  She gave us a week’s worth of pain medication in case it is the paw. Some of the volunteers are seeing worms when he poops but he has been treated and we hope he is just pooping out dead worms.

Derek recently got into a fight with Amos so the two should never be out at the same time and should not be kenneled near each other.
Amos has a great personality

Amos was supposed to go into foster but it didn’t work out so he is back at AC. He has an injury from his fight with Derek that we are keeping a close eye on; it should almost healed but he keeps scratching it. He walks pretty well on a leash but watch out for his drop and roll move on every available patch of grass. He doesn’t always pay attention to commands but he has a great personality. 

Amos has recovered from sarcoptic mange and the vet has given him a clean bill of health. He still has skin issues that we are treating but practically every dog living in a kennel has some type of skin issue. The remedy is finding them a home. He also suffers from sores from lying on the concrete floor so Wendy bought him a raised bed that we're sure will make a difference.
Kiddo’s personality will only begin to shine when she spends less time with Izzy. Since Izzy’s owner Estelle Mack has been taking her out more, we have an opportunity to work with Kiddo alone. If possible, separate Kiddo and Izzy when working with Kiddo.

Kiddo's was dumped in the Hardy Street and Cavalcade area of Houston earlier this year.  She was lost and confused but obviously smart since she found a safe place to hide and caring people who fed, watered and eventually rescued her. After vetting and spaying, she has been living at AC.

An Opportunity to Observe Training

Message from our dog behaviorist and trainer Dulce Garcia:

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you all for being regulars at AC and participating in the, Barrio Dogs “A Home for All” special project. Also on behalf of the Barrio Dogs team we'd like to give a warm welcome to all the new team members who showed up at our last orientation. 

Here are a few reminders:
  • Don't forget to sign in on Volunteer Binder
  • Check the star rating and the latest information on the dogs
  • Check off any activities you have completed with the dogs
  • Visit the blog daily to find out the latest on the program
Because our time together has been very limited, I will be doing training any time I go to AC.  I'll send notices by email about the days I'll be there; I hope some of you can join me there. 

I would also like to extend an invitation for you to attend my Basic Level 1 class that I will be starting soon at the Houston SPCA. I encourage you to sign up for a day to come and observe training demos with real life 4-legged friends and owners. Many of the lessons will apply directly to our work with Barrio Dogs' kenneled dogs at AC.

Please reserve your spot by sending me an email with the day you'd like to attend; space is limited so reply early if you are interested. Here are the details:

Houston SPCA
900 Portway Drive
Classes are every Saturday from 11am-12pm
Date: June 30 and July 7, 14, 21, 28

You can follow Dulce's blog, Paws to Claws Training, at

Volunteer Orientation, June 17, 2012

We recently had a small but very informative orientation session for new volunteers in our "A Home for All"  training program for our kenneled dogs. We were delighted that new volunteers Marjorie Jackson, Buffy Martines and Laura Garza joined us along with Tauna Ready, Rachel Gonzalez and Lynn Rodriguez. After a presentation from behaviorist and trainer Dulce Garcia, the volunteers spent time with the dogs, taking some for walks and playing with others in the yard. We are so grateful to all the people who are supporting our program.

If you would like to volunteer at the boarding facility where our rescued dogs are kenneled, let us know. We are planning another orientation session in July 2012.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Always Use Care

There was an incident recently at AC where a dog going for a walk with a volunteer slipped off his leash in the yard and got into a fight with a dog already in the yard with another volunteer. Both dogs are okay but this was a good reminder that we have to be careful when working with our dogs.

It is easy to get comfortable with the dogs but the stresses of living in a kennel can change a dog’s demeanor. We realize that a former street dog (or any dog) living in a kennel has a big adjustment to make; they often get bored, frustrated and stressed out with kennel life and may react negatively to other dogs. However, with care, training and good judgment, we can help our dogs make a successful transition from their prior life to the kennel to a forever home.

Here are some safety tips:
  • Only one dog out at a time unless there are 2 or more humans outside too.
  • Play groups should always have 2 or more humans.
  • Don’t leave a dog outside alone.
  • Check to see if any dogs have had recent behavior changes. Either ask the staff or check the white board for notes.
  • LET US KNOW IF YOU OBSERVE ANY CHANGES. Send an email to, or if you see changes in mood or behavior.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Upcoming Orientation and Training

We are planning an orientation/training session for participants in the A Home for All program.

We will talk about the program and meet the dogs. Also, our dog behaviorist will do a training demonstration. If you can attend, send an email to for information and directions. Also, please download the volunteer handbook and complete the volunteer form on the sidebar.

Sunday, June 17, 2012 
11:00 a.m. - noon 
AC Boarding & Grooming 

If you cannot attend this session, we will be scheduling a follow up in the next couple of weeks. If you are not already on the A Home for All mailing list, please send an email to to be added. 

Thank you!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Update: Week of June 4, 2012

Visit to AC; notes by Wendy Thiessen with comments by Tauna Ready and Lynn Rodriguez 

Last Sunday was a big day for the A Home for All project as Barrio Dogs’ volunteers added mulch and sod to the play area at the boarding facility. Regular watering and recent rain are making us hopeful that the grass will last. As you can tell, the dogs love it! 

Amos went to the vet this week. He’s gained 5 pounds, is no longer contagious and is scheduled for neutering. He does have sores from laying on the hard kennel surface (we’re working to do something about that). I think Amos must have been crate trained or really well house broken in a previous life because he's the one dog who is always dying to get out on a leash to relieve himself.


Derek seemed a little off yesterday (other volunteers have noticed and he is going to the vet soon). He played in the yard, and it was nice because the sprinklers I brought to AC were on. Derek and I were playing with a stuffed squeaky toy which he loved but then we were playing tug of war with it and he's so strong we were pulling off the legs so I switched to one of the heavy braided ropes. First I was swinging it around and he was jumping trying to grab it but I figured that wasn't a great idea for such a big pittie so then I'd take it from him, tell him to stay, then throw it and told him to go, then he brought it back to me. Such a smart boy! He's a great dog.

Raven was limping a bit and holding up his rear left leg. I didn’t walk him since he seemed a little uncomfortable but I did hose him off in the grass and then towel dried him which he loved.


Sugar walked and played in the yard a bit. She doesn’t really know how to play (hope she’s learning from being around Izzy and Kiddo). She didn’t really like the water but maybe she will warm up to the idea. [note from Tauna: Sugar was sitting on command. This morning I had to touch her rump with my index finger. This afternoon she watched Izzy and got it down.]

Wallis poor baby, I don’t try to take him out (he doesn’t come out of the kennel readily). I just always stop and talk to him and give him snacks. I really wish he could get in someone’s home because more human contact would help alot. [Note from Tauna: What I do with Wallace is just open his kennel and the back door and stand way back. He creeps out to make sure no one is around and then runs outside. He loves it when he gets outside. I stand back and just talk to him. He's getting better with each trip, but is still afraid of everybody.]

Izzy and Kiddo hung out in the yard and got love and snacks
Cooper went for a walk and got a little yard time
That's all for now but we'll have more soon!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where We Are, Part 1

Update by Dulce Garcia

It has been a little over a month since we initiated the Barrio Dogs “A Home for All” program for the purpose of finding homes for our rescues. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who take the time to visit the kenneled dogs!

Together we have accomplished more than we thought possible in a short amount of time. Since the program began there have been a total of nine (9) Barrio Dogs in boarding, four (4) have since been fostered and one (1) has been adopted. There are four (4) other dogs in the program that are not Barrio Dogs but belong to independent rescuers. They are also participating and have come a long way; some have even been given the green light to attend adoption events.

The goal of A Home for All is to help the kenneled dogs gain the appropriate life skills to help them become more adoptable through training and enrichment. Working closely with a certified experienced trainer and behavior consultant, the program has been carefully put into action. We began with Phase 1, which focused primarily on establishing a routine for the dogs that includes potty breaks, play time, exercise, grooming and social time (approved people or dog time). Besides creating enrichment, the routine provides dogs with the necessary health and mental stimulation.

For now, volunteers are encouraged to do hand feeding any time they approach the dogs’ kennels. This allows for dogs to create positive associations with a stranger’s presence. Now that dogs know that they obtain treats when volunteers approach their kennels, they are more likely to stop barking out of fear. In the future we plan to teach the dogs to sit quietly for treats in their kennels before they are let out for a walk.

Phase 1 has gone smoothly; with the help of volunteers, these dogs have gotten more positive life experiences than they ever had being confined in kennels. They have also been exposed to each other by having arranged dog socialization play time. Knowing each other outside of the kennel (and not just behind the kennel) discourages  reactivity when they see each other walk past their kennels. We are very careful with dog/dog play times and make notes as to which dogs are good with each other and which dogs are better off doing solo play time.

Phase 2 will be very interesting and exciting as the dogs begin taking private basic manners lessons. We hope to film this process so that potential adopters can get to know them better. After the dogs have completed Phase 2, they will begin going out on field trips to practice and show off their “good manners”.

All these dogs would have been labeled unadoptable at most local shelters/animal control for reasons such as breed, behavior concerns, skin conditions and medical necessities. This program aims to rehabilitate these dogs whether their needs are medical or behavior factors. We are working hard to increase the chances of these dogs being adopted and becoming part of a loving and happy home.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Update: May 27 and 30, 2012

Visit to AC; notes by Lynn Rodriguez

Volunteers please don't forget to sign in when you visit AC to spend time with the doggies. This is the only way to know who (if anyone) is visiting them. We are planning another volunteer orientation on June 10 or 17 at AC so if you know anyone who wants to work with the dogs there, let them know about it. Details about the orientation will follow.

Amos is feeling better. He barks loudly when we are there and craves attention. His skin condition is healing and his fur is growing back. We try to keep him separated from the other dogs in the yard but sometimes that is impossible.He loves playing in the yard.


Cooper has a hot spot on his neck. We took him to Gulfgate and the vet treated him with antibiotics. He seems to be healing up okay.

Raven also went to Gulfgate this week so Dr. Palmer could look at his skin condition, which seems to be getting worse. She said his condition is noncontagious and caused by a weakened immune system that results from living in a stressful kennel environment. She believes he will improve dramatically if he is placed in a foster situation or adopted. Until then, she prescribed a variety of medications to treat the condition.

Despite his medical problems, Raven is in good spirits.

Kiddo and Izzy

Izzy and Kiddo continue to enjoy spending time together in the yard. It would be so wonderful if these inseparable friends found a permanent home together. They both benefited from attending adoption events this past weekend along with Sugar.

We are mystified about why Sugar has not been adopted yet. This sweet, well-behaved petite dog will make someone a great companion.

Derek was not his usual lively self. We are keeping a close eye on him and if he continues to be down, we will take him to the vet.


We need for our volunteers to be our eyes and ears at AC. If you visit and see a problem or if a dog seems sick or depressed, please let us know ASAP. Send an email to, or Thank you!