Category Archives: Rescue Dogs

CONTROVERSIAL QUESTION: Are purebreds “better” than mutts?

Dog breeds are created by humans, through “selective breeding” for phenotypic traits such as size, coat color, structure, and behavior. Most modern dog breeds are the products of the controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era. Therefore, the majority of dog breeds we know are in fact only 100-150 years old or less. So while purebreds have their purposes (and I own purebred dogs myself), the “snobbery” surrounding them seems uncalled for, as they were created from mixed breeds themselves.

The FCI recognizes 400 dog breeds. There are modern breeds, older types (type is more general than breed), and more ancient or primitive breeds. A 2004 study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern ones: Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, Chow Chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. These more ancient breeds tend to have different temperament, as they were not all bred to work alongside humans and take human direction. This doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent– intelligence isn’t the same as “trainability.” All dogs can be trained, but some breeds tend to have a higher “trainability” than others.

Neither a purebred or a mixed-breed or cross-breed is “better.” It depends on the individual dog, and the purposes the dog is to fulfill. There are traits and qualities that may be prevalent in certain purebreds, but it’s also important to keep in mind that dogs within one breed do not always have as much in common as one may assume. For example, within Labrador Retrievers, there are dogs who are extremely high-energy and bred for field hunting, and there are Labs who are calm and lazy, and pretty low-key. Anyone who has owned or trained multiple dogs of the same breed can tell you, they are not all the same. If you want a family companion, your choices are wide- think about the traits that are important to you in not only appearance, but temperament aka personality. Don’t get a terrier and be surprised that it has high energy and a tough attitude with other animals. Don’t get a Shepherd and be surprised it acts territorial in the home. Don’t get an English Bulldog if you want an athletic jogging partner. Don’t get any dog just based on looks. As far as health… Nothing is a guarantee. There are purebreds who are unhealthy, and there are mixed-breeds who have health problems as well. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder with health-tested stock is better than purchasing a puppy from an unknown source, but no matter what, there is no “guarantee” on health or lifespan, that’s just the way genetics work. Getting a dog as a puppy and raising it yourself is also no guarantee on behavior, and sometimes adopting an adult dog can be a good fit for a family.

I have no particular agenda, other than helping people find the best fit for their lifestyle, and helping them train the dog they choose. I support animal rescue and have been volunteering my efforts for many years, however, I don’t subscribe to the “adopt, don’t shop” agenda pushed by animal-rights activists. Why? 1) Because consumers have the right to choose the dog they will be living with for the next 10-15 years, and we all have preferences. You cannot force or guilt people into getting a certain dog, they should have freedom of choice for what is best for them. 2) Statistically, the number of homes in the USA getting a new dog each year far outnumber (by millions) the amount of dogs in shelters, so without purposeful breeding, there would be a huge shortage of dogs, and a lack of purebreds. Nationwide, based on statistics, there is no “overpopulation” of dogs, that is a myth. Demand dictates supply. Many high-volume shelters are successfully lowering euthanasia numbers by transferring dogs out to private rescues, and transporting them to different geographical locations that have a higher demand. In fact, many rescues have imported dogs from other countries, yet some are still claiming “overpopulation” here. Get the dog that is best for you. If getting a purebred from a reputable breeder is good for you, great… if getting a shelter dog is suitable for you, that’s great, too. I can help you select and train the best dog for your family regardless.


Dynamic Dogs offers temperament evaluations for animal shelters and rescues

A few days ago, it was reported that a pit bull dog “recently adopted from a shelter” had escaped the owners home and mauled a sleeping baby in a stroller. Unfortunately, news like this is too common. It has spurred the continued discussion about evaluating shelter dogs, temperament testing, and what (if any) culpability does a shelter or rescue group have when a dog they’ve adopted out causes harm?

NUTLEY, NW— An 11-month-old girl is lucky to be alive after a dog bolted out of its owner’s home and viciously mauled the baby in her stroller, police said. The nightmare scenario played out March 25 when the girl’s mother was taking her infant for a walk. Police said the dog, reportedly a pit bull that was recently rescued from a shelter, escaped from a home on Walnut Street and attacked the stroller. A neighbor rushed to pull the dog away from the baby but it wasn’t until police arrived that the dog was separated from the girl and locked in the back seat of a police cruiser, police said. The baby girl was rushed to an area hospital, where she had to remain for three days to receive 70 stitches and undergo plastic surgery, Nutley police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari said Thursday.

Of course this is an extreme example of a shelter dog causing severe harm to a human, but we feel cases like this could be better prevented by temperament testing dogs prior to adoption.

Our dog selection services can help you choose a dog based on finding the best fit:

  • What is your lifestyle?
  • What are the traits that are important to you?
  • What activities do you hope to enjoy with your dog?
  • Are their children or other pets in the family?We also test shelter dogs who are being transferred to other rescues, in the Chicagoland area.

Some of the items we test shelter dogs for:

  • Sociability
    • Affinity for people
    • Attitude towards strangers
    • Attitude towards other dogs
    • (Note, we cannot typically test for reaction towards cats in shelter settings)
  • Trainability
    • Motivation and drive
    • Interest in interacting
    • Speed of learning
    • Ability to problem-solve
  • Sensitivities
    • Environment
    • Handling, physical touch, and grooming
  • Aggression
    • Possessiveness
  • Reaction to correction or verbal scolding
  •  Fear
  • Recovery period after being startled
  • Working aptitude for jobs
  • Placement in a foster-based rescue

For more information on temperament testing and evaluation of rescue dogs in the Chicagoland area for your rescue group or shelter, contact us at:

Are you causing your dogs anxiety and over-attachment?

Most often, over-attachment is an issue within the relationship of the dog and the person. It is a problem because it’s very stressful, physically and mentally on a dog. It’s also problematic for people, as the symptoms of the problem are bothersome. If you think your dog may be over-attached or have signs of separation anxiety, you must consider: are you behaving in a way has enabled an unhealthy over-attachment?

Have you noticed these signs of separation issues?

  • Excessive stress barking when left alone, sometimes for hours
  • Refusal to eat when left alone
  • Breaking out of enclosures, sometimes causing self-injury
  • Drooling, panting, whining; panicked and frantic behavior
  • Any numerous other stress signs
  • Insecure or nervous personality and/or behavior may predispose a dog to suffering from this
  • Separation issues are a common reason dogs are given up to shelters (because of the destruction that ensues), so we see this issue a lot in rescue dogs particularly. It also has to do with how the dog is introduced to the new home and new owner. If you get a new dog, begin obedience training classes/lessons immediately.

How many of the following signs apply to you and your dog?

  • Do you allow your dog to follow you around all the time?
  • Have you neglected to crate-train or pen-train your dog?
  • Have you considered getting another dog “to keep him company”? (Hint: don’t!)
  • Do you tend to have very emotional greetings?
  • Are you constantly acknowledging and touching the dog?
  • Do you give the dog constant attention?
  • Are you your dogs primary (or only) caretaker?
  • Do you often re-arrange your schedule to satisfy your dog?
  • Have you hand-fed the dog?
  • Do you co-sleep with your dog?
  • Are you often cuddling together?
  • Do you have emotional goodbyes?
  • Are you allowing your dog to get what they want on their own terms without earning anything?
  • Can you handle your dog in basic obedience situations?
    • Do you struggle to get your dog to obey commands the first time you say them?
    • Can you have your dog lie down across the room and simply stay put and be quiet?
      • How much will you struggle if tasked with an “out of sight” down-stay?
    • Are you the type to “give up and give in” when your dog isn’t listening?

Some people do these sort of things all the time, and for most dogs it’s not going to be a big deal, but for a dog prone to over-dependence, it is. A lot of people who present with over-dependent dogs are (coincidentally?) also very in-tune to their dog. But in a way, their dog has trained them, rather than vice versa. So you have to think of all the things a particular dog wants, and how the person behaves in every interaction. Remember, there is no such thing as an “untrained” dog, there is only poorly trained or well trained. Dogs with bad habits have been poorly trained and have adapted to the behaviors they’ve been allowed to practice. All this sort of prior “training” has to be un-done. Imagine you had a brand new dog, and he was extremely standoffish. All he wanted to do was do his own thing, and had no use for you. What would you do to get him to bond to you? Maybe you’d tether him to you (aka “umbilical cording”), or maybe you’d hand feed him and sleep in bed together. Think of all those things, then reverse them for your over-attached dog.

Solutions: Your solutions will depend on your individual case, but here are some general tips.

  • Have designated times where you ignore the dog and go about other activities, and I mean totally ignore. No touch, no talk, no eye contact.
  • You will not allow the dog to jump on you when they return to an area, or when you come home. You will walk right through the dog and go about other activities until the dog is completely settled down, which could take 5 minutes, or an hour.
  • A new person should immediately begin to care for the dog
    • They will provide the food
    • They will provide access to outside, toys, and attention for the dog
    • Time to drop doggie off at a friends house or a trainers house for the weekend. This is a great time for board and train!
  • You will iron-out much of these over-dependence issues in obedience training.
    • Obedience builds a dogs confidence in their job
    • Obedience is a healthier bond, a partnership between dog and human
    • You will practice more control-based exercises, like down-stays, in a calm manner.
    • You will work your dog 6 days a week, for 20-60 minutes a day
    • At the end of basic obedience, you will demonstrate a 5-minute out of sight down-stay
  • Your dog will learn crate manners
    • You will begin by crating your dog randomly while you are home
    • Begin by crating the dog for 30 minutes while you go do the dishes or some other task, just put him in there and close the door
    • You will leave for longer and longer periods of time
    • When you arrive home, you will not let the dog out of the crate first-thing. You will go about another activity for 15 minutes, until the dog is completely settled down.
  • Exercise program will be instated
    • This will include both cardio (like playing fetch), and exercise that uses mental capacity (like obstacles, scent work, games)
    • His down-time will be calm and relaxing… and on his own.
    • Dog will be off-leash trained so it can get proper exercise
  • You will not get another dog “to keep him company”
  • Your dog will earn things and learn a system of training where he works for rewards!

Once this issue is addressed, your dog will be calmer, more relaxed, and you will both be less stressed. Then you can focus on what’s really important: Experiencing the joy of having a good companion.

Dog training demos for children

We want dogs to be a welcome part of society. Our goal is to educate the future generation on dogs, and how wonderful they really are. Last weekend, a childrens group came to our Chicago canine training facility to learn about dog training. Some of the children had previously been afraid of dogs. Their topic in school was dogs and how they are trained, so they had a lot of questions. My Dalmatian Rockwell helps me show children how fun, smart, and useful dogs really are!

Some topics we address in demos for children:

  • How to approach a dog to greet it, dog safety
  • Reading dog body language
  • How we train dogs to do the right thing and have manners to live in our families
  • Dogs are USEFUL
    • Rockwell does directed retrieves to specific objects on the floor. He brings me a bottle of water, his food bowl, and a phone
    • Dogs can do many jobs, in addition to being awesome family companions
  • Dogs have FEELINGS
    • Just like you, dogs can be happy, scared, etc. and you should respect their feelings
  • Dogs have NEEDS
    • Dogs require daily care and training, and are fun but also a responsibility
  • Last, but not least… Dogs are FUN

Performance at White Sox “Dog Days”


Twice a year, Dog Day allows fans and their pets to enjoy a White Sox game together at U.S. Cellular Field. Attendees purchase special tickets and are seated in a dog-friendly section. Dynamic Dogs was personally invited by White Sox management to attend as an exhibitor. Aliya and Jennifer were given a table to set up in the dog section of the ballpark. It was a pleasure to meet so many nice people and their dogs!

Jennifer did several obedience and trick demos with her Dalmatian, Rockwell, as crowds gathered around. They were filmed twice– once by MLB, and once for a flawless routine on the big screen at the park, during an inning! People were coming up afterwards and asking to take photos with Rockwell. The Sox also put video footage on Instagram and their website. It was a lot of fun, and we appreciated the opportunity to be invited to this event!

“Dalmatian Dominates Dog Day at the Cell” was the headline on the White Sox website:


My Experience Adopting from Anti-Cruelty Society


I had such a positive experience adopting a dog from the Anti The Anti-Cruelty Society I have to share! The adoption process was seamless and informative.

I wanted a small dog. Both for myself and for my grandma to help care for. She lives alone, and loves having a companion to spoil. I knew it would really cheer her up to have a dog come stay with her since her last one died of old age, and she’s had dogs all her life. She’s a huge dog lover just like me! I tried contacting a couple rescue groups with no response, and I tried Craigslist, no luck. I was feeling a bit irritated, why is this difficult, I work in dog rescue (primarily Belgian Malinois Rescue). Then ACS (Anti Cruelty Society) was recommended to me by a trainer– they offer puppy and adult classes there in their on-site training center.

My criteria was:

  • Small enough for an elderly woman to handle
  • Not too high strung
  • Sticks around naturally, not a bolter, which leads me to the next one…
  • Temperament to follow a human, NOT independent, as I would be training her
  • Very low-shedding
  • Affectionate lap dog
  • Adult, preferably older, no puppies
  • Not going to cost me a huge fee to obtain. I was not interested in spending $500+ on a pedigreed adult. I certainly would never buy from a “backyard breeder” or pet shop who sells mixes anyway. There’s no need to.

I am a dog trainer, what can I say… I know what I want.

It is super important to know what you want. You know, going in, that you WILL have to say “no” to several dogs, no matter how cute they are, until you find the perfect match. I would recommend that any pet owner bring a dog trainer with them to help them select a dog for them. I will not lead my clients wrong, because I listen to their criteria, I ask the right questions, and I know what will be the best dog for them. I also give them transition advice. When I get hired to do “dog selection services” 99% of the time people will be happy with their choice. We take our time, and we look around. We do not grab onto the first dog that we see, and we use logic first, emotion second. Logic says “here are the pros and cons of this particular choice” and emotion gives you the ability to make a connection to love the dog. If you “logic, then emotion” backwards, you might end up with the worst emotion of all: regret.

I found a shaggy little dog on their website (they appear to keep their “adoptables” on the website up to date! I noticed this is rare for rescues). She is a Yorkie X Chihuahua, estimated 4 years old. I went in to see her. I was eager to get the paperwork started since it was almost 6:30, but the shelter manager said “Spend some time with her first.” That is fantastic advice. They have great hours, you have until 7pm to view the adoptable dogs. I walked her around the main room and checked her out– outgoing, tail up, happy go lucky! Perfect. So small. She is only 3.5 pounds. I immediately thought she was sweet and adorable. The picture I posted does not do her justice.

Then I was taken to a counseling room where the manager went over everything. She explained all the vaccines, and when more were due, and went over the vet exam, which detailed she has luxating patellas, common in tiny dogs. This might be an issue if I planned to compete in agility with her, but it is not a big issue for a house pet, and I will keep an eye on it. They also mentioned she has some tartar on her teeth, also not uncommon for small dogs. Then another employee went over the behavioral eval she conducted (THEY ACTUALLY EVALUATE THEIR DOGS TEMPERAMENTS) which included the dogs reactions, behavior around food, and soforth. The behavior eval was detailed. I really respect that they do this and report it honestly.This really helps one find the perfect fit for a person, and for the dog as well. Tiny dogs are not always good with kids– rambunctious kids may accidentally hurt a fragile dog like a Yorkie. They also give the dog a “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced” label, and explain why– so people find the best fit for them. A dog who barks or startles a bit might be “intermediate,” slow to warm up, for example. Of course nothing is a guarantee, these are living animals, but it gives you an idea. Then they went over care– how often to feed her, how to house her best, etc. They knew I was already aware of all this, but they did their job.

The shelter facilities itself was very nice. I liked how some dogs had a cover, like a blanket kennel cover, clipped onto their enclosures. It can be really stressful for a dog to have constant commotion and other dogs walking past their kennel. It seems to help keep stress down. The facilities were bright and clean, and you can see some of the dogs from outside on the street through the window. I picked her up after her spay, at the clinic. When I called to confirm the time, they answered promptly. I saw several people taking advantage of the low-cost spay and neuters there, which is great.

The adoption fee was only $95… here’s what it included (pictured):


  • Adorable dog
  • Spay surgery
  • Microchip
  • Rabies, distemper, parvo, bordatella, heartworm test, Strongid deworming
  • Goodie bag with dog food samples, 3 toys, a rawhide,etc.
  • Leather collar with ID tag, Rabies tag, and microchip tag, dog t-shirt (just for her, I assume 🙂
  • handouts on training, health, and more
  • A DVD on how to begin training your dog, and the number to a behavior hotline

That is quite a deal for $95. And donations go to a good cause. The Anti-Cruelty Society is one of only two open-admission shelters in Chicago. Check them out if you’re looking for your next companion! And if you’d like professional advice, give me a call and I’ll come with to guide you.

Jennifer Hack, of Dynamic Dogs


Even at 3.5lbs, a dog is a dog and needs to socialize and be normal! Here she is running with the friendly big dogs. She is learning some obedience, especially “come when called,” and potty training, which she’s already taken to very well.

Our expert opinion on pit bulls

At Dynamic Dogs, we help a lot of pitties! Pit bulls are a versatile breed with a bad rap.  “Pit bull” is a broad term for a type of dog, such as a “terrier,” “hound,” or “bird dog.” They are an American breed with a long history, and versatile purpose. Pit bulls vary a lot, or at least what is called a pit bull. In fact, many people cannot correctly identify the breed type, and may lump other similar breeds (Mastiff, Boxer, Dogo, etc) in the “pit bull” category.

So what’s with the bad rap? Pits are banned in some areas, but they are popular in Chicago. Any breed can gain a bad reputation if they become overbred and are too-often popular among irresponsible people.  A good pit is a loving and highly trainable companion.  Here we will go over your key points to owning a Pit, then dispel myths regarding pit bulls and training your pit bull.


  • Understand your dog as an individual
    • Classify: Dogs are all dogs, then they are breeds, then they are individuals
  • Train for real-life obedience around many distractions
  • Teach impulse control
  • Take ultimate responsibility for your dogs behavior
  • Set your dog up for success by working with a professional trainer
  • Complete the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program or equivalent

MYTH:  ALL pit bulls are all dog-aggressive due to a dogfighting background and breeding

FACT:  Not every dog will hold up to generalizations of the breed. This depends on their breeding (genetics), how they are raised and socialized early in life, and how they are handled as an adult.  Not every pit bull has animal aggression, in fact many live in homes with other dogs and cats or attend daycare plays.  There is a large population of pit type dogs, and the majority are not bred for dog fighting, in fact, very few are. Most are bred for other reasons: companion pets, for money, for their looks, etc. But not all for actual dogfighters. Because of some of the genetics and history in certain bloodlines, animal aggression and high prey drive can be an issue in the breed. The right training can go a long way, but it comes down to this- Not all dogs are going to get along with every other dog. Do you get along with every human you meet? Even in your own family, are there relatives you just can’t stand? If this is the case, you must accept this and learn to manage it properly. Not every pit bull will be totally accepting of other animals. Even if your dog is non-social, you should still have full control over your dog through obedience, and he should be a safe dog in public and around other dogs under your supervision.  You cannot control what other people do with their dogs, but you can make sure your dog is safe and under your control.

What is “prey drive”?
You will hear this term a lot in relation to dog training. Prey drive is the instinctive motivation to find, pursue, and capture prey. All dogs are carnivores who retain these instincts. Imagine playing with a dog with a toy squirrel… they get excited when it moves, when it squeaks, and they chase after it when you throw it. They might shake it around or want you to throw it again. That is prey drive. Now imagine a dog who halfheartedly chases a ball when you throw it, not very interested. That dog is lower in prey drive than the one who sees the ball and gets very excited. When dogs are “in prey drive” they can still listen and be obedient, but it takes practice. 

MYTH:  Pit bulls require very firm or harsh training because they are a dominant breed

FACT:  Although being physically strong and powerful and even willful is a breed type trait, most Pit Bulls are in tune with their handler and respond to fair and consistent training.  Some dogs require more firmness from by their owner, just as some children require stricter parenting.  If you have a strong and high drive breed you do need to step up and be firm when required, but it doesn’t mean you have to be harsh.  When people get frustrated or think their dog is stubborn, they are no longer teaching the dog, the are only punishing it.  Dominance is a situational relationship issue between a dog and owner, and is not a breed trait of pit bulls.

MYTH:  Pit Bulls are difficult to train

FACT:  They are, on average, no more or less difficult to train than other breeds.  They are generally willing to please if they are given proper direction and clear rules to abide by.

MYTH:  Pit Bulls snap on their owners, attack out of nowhere, or have unpredictable aggression

FACT:  Pure myth.  A dog attacking their owner can be caused by many many things, such as neurological issues, pain, or poor training.  It is not a breed trait of the American Pit Bull Terrier.  According to Karen Delise, founder of the National Canine Research Council, and author of the book “Pit Bull Placebo,”
“The classification of an attack as unprovoked is usually based on the declarations of a negligent owner who does not care to understand canine behavior, an owner who is unable to read (understand) canine behavior, a busy owner who is too preoccupied with the tasks of daily living to see the signs and signals dogs usually display, or persons who deliberately misrepresent the facts to limit their culpability.” Take this to mean that no dogs attacks “out of nowhere,” there is always something precipitating it.