"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume II - Issue 31:  September 17, 2004
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  Does Temperament Testing Work?
=>  Mail Bag
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  Idiots Among Us

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Gang!

As you all know, I have been rather hard-core about certain organizations in the last few weeks. Maybe “hard-core” isn't the word … honest may be more accurate. As a result, I have had many people write who didn't “appreciate” my articles.

At first, I was a little taken aback by these comments. Not sure why, but I was. I finally decided to say to heck with them. Since starting this newsletter, I have called it as I see it and never worried about being politically correct or maintaining a neutral position to avoid offending certain individuals. I'm not going to start now.

So, to the members and supporters of the organizations I have mentioned … either quit your whining, or clean up your act. As long as such groups exploit the animals they are supposed to be protecting, you can bet I am going to let people know about it. Enough said.

Have you heard of Woof & Co? It is the brainchild of former IKEA and Gap store executives and is basically a puppy boutique. Woof, and their sister subsidiary, Family Pet Centers are designed to support a dog-only lifestyle with a trendy/yuppy look and feel.

The chain's main supplier of puppies is the Hunte Corporation of Goodman, Missouri and is the largest puppy “broker” in the nation. There have been numerous accusations against Hunte as a distributor of puppy mill dogs.

One former employee, who is also a surgical veterinary technician, was ignored when she repeatedly asked for more frequent feedings, better veterinary care, antibiotics and improved sanitary conditions. When she refused to transfer a critically ill puppy in an oxygen cage to a less expensive and ill-equipped hospital, she was allegedly fired.

The company has changed its name to Rufus, Inc. and is said to have redefined its image to a “holistic approach to pet sales and ownership.” Sorry folks, but as long as dogs are marketed like coffee tables and cargo pants, all you are likely to get are sick puppy mill puppies.

Don't even buy a leash from these people. If you want a dog, you would do much better going to your local shelter or rescue group. Dogs aren't born with designer labels. If you want a designer label, go buy some Ralph Lauren underwear.

Now, I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but feel it is worth repeating.

3M Corporation is building the "World's Largest Pink Ribbon" on a billboard in Times Square this October.  For every person who clicks on this link and signs up, Post-It will donate $1 to breast cancer research and place a Post-It in their name on the billboard. Here's the link ...


Keep those letters and suggestions coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!



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We have been looking for a dog at the local shelter over the last few weeks. We saw one we fell in love with but the shelter advised us it had failed their temperament test and was scheduled to be euthanized. She seemed super sweet and when we asked why she failed we were told it was because she was timid and food aggressive.

I have had dogs all my life. Some were timid and some were very outgoing. Is being timid a sign a dog is dangerous or should be euthanized? It just didn't make sense to me from what I know I saw in this dog. Would love to hear what you think.

Name Withheld

Does Temperament Testing Work?

For hundreds of years, canine breeders and trainers have evaluated dogs to determine their personality and workability. It is a fairly involved process that can often takes many hours of evaluation depending upon the experience of the evaluator, complexity of the dogs personality and the task the dog is being evaluated for.

I do a behavioral analysis of every dog I work with, and I am rarely off the mark. However, my analysis is based on an extensive questionnaire given to the client and at least an hour on either the phone with the owner or working with the dog in person. The purpose of the analysis is not to give the dog a “pass/fail.” It is to determine the best method of working with the dog based on its personality.

Temperament testing in shelters is a fairly new trend in the animal adoption world. It has been made rather popular by Sue Sternberg in the last decade or so and recently on television shows that have featured the process.

Temperament testing is a process designed to help shelter employees, with little and or no dog experience, determine the adoptability of animals in their care. With the Sternberg process, dogs are essentially given a fifteen-minute evaluation to determine whether they deserve to live or die. Beyond that, the tests, in my humble opinion, are ludicrous and way off the mark.

For instance, a dog that is timid could fail. A dog that doesn't like having its feet or certain parts of it's body touched could fail. A dog that shows food aggression will fail. Nothing is taken into account for the numerous (and obvious) reasons for these behaviors in a shelter/rescue dog. Pass, you live, and fail, you die.

Obviously, a dog that attempts to rip the face off anyone who walks in its kennel is a fail too and I can live with that. Any animal that is so obviously a danger to humans isn't going to be a candidate for adoption. These are not the dogs I am going to talk about. I am going to address dogs that would make wonderful family pets that are being destroyed based on what I consider to be nothing but a ridiculous process.

Shelter Dog Stress

Many shelters are little more than doggie jail. I don't mean this to be a derogatory comment about shelters. I simply mean we have to look at the situation realistically. Just imagine you were placed in a 12 by 12 foot room with two other people you don't know and being stuck there for twenty-three hours a day. No television, radio, books or entertainment of any kind.

I don't know about you, but that would make me a little nuts after a while. I'm fairly certain I wouldn't be in top form after a few days. What makes us think it is any different for a dog in a shelter? Additionally, dogs don't understand the reason they are in that environment. If a person is thrown in jail, they generally have a good idea of why they are there.

Timid or Barking Behavior

Now with stress in mind, is it any wonder a dog, that may not be as confident, might be a little timid (scared) while in that type of environment? Additionally, they may have been attacked/intimidated by another dog(s) in their kennel. Maybe they have had little interaction with people in the past or abusive treatment from a previous owner.

Simply because a dog is timid in no way means they are unsuitable for adoption and deserve to be euthanized. What they need is trust-building exercises in a non-threatening environment. They need a little patience and love not the green needle.

It would also be fairly understandable if a confident dog barked a little more than normal. More than likely all he is doing is saying, “Hey, what the hell am I doing in here? Take me for a walk.” I have literally seen dozens and dozens of dogs that talk a big game inside the kennel, only to turn into love mongers when they come out to play.

Undesirable Physical Contact

I don't like feet. I don't like touching other peoples feet and I don't like people touching mine. Some people like feet. It's a personal choice. You know what a wet willie is? A wet willie is when someone sticks their finger in their mouth, covers it in spit, and then sticks it in their buddy's ear. Personally, I can't stand it, but I am sure there are people out there that get turned on by it.

The point I am trying to make is everyone has their own personal boundaries when it comes to being touched. Some are more sensitive than others. Why should dogs not be allowed this personal respect? As long as they don't attack me when I touch them, I can work the anxiety out of them through trust exercises. It's no big deal.

Food Aggression

This is my “favorite” in the temperament test process. It is so asinine in its concept, it shows to me at least, the person who created it hasn't the slightest clue when it comes to canine behavior in the high stress environment of a shelter. Let me explain what they do.

They place the dog's food in the kennel, and then, using a mannequin hand and arm, they reach in and try to take the food away from the dog. If the dog growls or snaps at the “hand” he fails the test.

First, lets look at this simply. If I sit down to dinner and someone I don't know suddenly comes and tries to snatch it out from under me, you can bet all they're going to be pulling back is a nub. At the very least, they are going to hear a few nasty words.

Now lets apply it to a dog in a shelter environment. Keep in mind this dog may have been competing with other dogs in their cage for food for a couple of days. Additionally, we know that if a dog's nutritional needs aren't being met, they are very likely to act up. Now, they have a free shot at some food and someone sticks a “hand and arm” into their face and attempts to take it away.

Are you kidding me? Do we think dogs are so stupid they actually think it was a human arm taking their food? Heck no! You have a dog in a shelter that is in survival mode. Let me put you in the same position and see how you react. I am betting it is fairly similar.

I love shelter dogs and the people who work with them regardless of their dog experience. I believe there does need to be a standardized type of test to evaluate shelter dogs as well. However, the current tests being conduct are, in my humble opinion, garbage. You all know I have no problem tooting my own horn, but, there is no way I could evaluate a shelter dog in fifteen minutes and I don't believe anyone else can either.

We have way too many wonderful dogs in shelters. Current temperament testing has served a purpose. It justifies uneducated individuals with an excuse to kill dogs rather than rehabilitate or understand them. It gives them validation for their lack of knowledge and ability to work for additional funding and staff. I know they are under-funded and need training, but the end certainly doesn't justify the means.

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
VISIT NOW: http://www.Master-Dog-Training.com

Quote of the Week

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over I am his reason for being by the way he rests against my leg, by the way he thumps his tail at my slightest smile, by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without him.

When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, his joy is unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful.

He is loyalty itself. He has taught me devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of the dark and unknown things.

He has promised to wait for me… whenever – in case I need him and I expect I will as I always have. He is just my dog.

~ Franklin P. Jones ~

Mail Bag


I had to move to S. Calif from the SF Bay Area to take care of a relative, and the politically correct sham about animals here is stifling! I'm a former Birman breeder who got into it because this breed came close to extinction (only 2 registered Birmans were left in Europe at the end of WWI & WWII) & was historically a free-roaming cat that evolved in Burma, much like the Turkish Angora to which it may be related. The breed is not extreme in any way, & the breeders I know want to keep it that way. But HSUS & PETA would eliminate every dog & cat breed if they could, which they can't, of course, but their extremism is definitely scary, as are any extremists.  

It was really refreshing to read the article about HSUS. I would like this article to be seen by every breeder in the country. Have you thought of posting it to the major dog & cat associations like AKC & CFA & TICA? And, also the individual breeder associations? I think the document would quickly make the breeder rounds. In Birman chat rooms, HSUS activism is universally despised, but nobody has quite the ammunition of facts that you provide.


Diane M.

Hey Chris,

I'm not one of those people that would write in but I wanted to thank you for last weeks article. After reading it, my husband sat down and looked at our own dogs with different eyes. We don't have any problems with them but we were able to have a better feel for their personalities and why they do some of the things they do. I swear you must be part dog.


Christie K.

Dear Chris,

I found your article very informative and appreciate your research on the financial activities of HSUS. You also mentioned that HSUS hired an ALF member and PETA members and claimed that hiring these people was a bad choice because of the manner in which they help animals. As a PETA member, I do not consider my activities the least bit threatening. I have NEVER broken any laws and ALWAYS act in an appropriate manner. As for ALF, their direct action tactics have saved thousands of animals over the years, no human has ever been hurt in the process, and many animal testing (or should I say animal torture) labs have closed. These people are not "terrorists", they are freedom fighters and their courage should be applauded. Thank you for considering my views.

Name Withheld

Normally I don't respond to Mailbag comments, but I thought I should in this instance. I truly believe the writer has never done anything illegal or threatening. I have to give them the benefit of the doubt, as I don't know them personally. However, it shows how these organizations use, in my opinion, misinformation to secure and hold their membership.

The writer says, “no human has ever been hurt in the process.” Tell me, do you think standing across from elementary schools and yelling, “if your sandwich has meat on it, your mother is a murderer” doesn't hurt those children? Do you think giving school children comic books showing their mother covered in blood as they stab a chicken to make dinner is healthy for kids to see? Do you find it healthy for such groups to sell, without parental consent, books to your children showing people beating seals over the head with bats?

Do the ends justify the means? Not in this case. Believe what you want, but before signing that donation check, make sure you believe in the policies of the organization you are making it out to. Do your homework, and you won't be fooled.

~ C

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Joke of the Week

Idiots Among Us

In a semi-rural area a new neighbor called the local township administrative office to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on his road. His reasoning? “Too many deer were being hit by cars and he didn't want them to cross there anymore.”

A young woman walked into a local Mexican food restaurant and ordered a taco. She asked the young man behind the counter for “minimal” lettuce. He looked at her apologetically and informed her they only had iceberg.

A gentleman was passing through airport security gate when the security officer asked, “Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?” The man, a little confused, replied, “If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?” The security officer smiled knowingly and said, “That's why we ask.”

A goodbye luncheon was being held for a beloved employee who was leaving the company due to down sizing. A company manager, with all the intelligence his Harvard degree could muster, cheerfully announced, “This is fun. We should do it more often.”

A woman arrived to pick up her car from a automobile dealership and was informed the keys had been locked inside. She went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver-side door. As she watched from the passenger side, she instinctively tried the passenger side door and discovered the door was unlocked. “Hey,” she called to the mechanic, “it's open.” The mechanic replied, “I know, I already got that side.”

They walk among us ... scary!

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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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