Thursday, January 21, 2010

Understanding Dogs: A Behavior and Training Class

This unique 6 week class has an integrative, holistic approach to training, behavior, health and healing, including obedience, reiki, flower essences, calming techniques and communication. It includes a behavior consultation / coaching session / treatment plan for each participating dog, and a weekly myth buster about dog behavior.

Learn how to solve canine behavior problems! Better yet, be confident that you can avoid creating or encouraging them!

Pre-Registration is required; fees are quite reasonable with rescue discounts.

Call 303-239-0382 or email for more information. Go to for the current schedule.

Classes are offered in a variety of locations including: Arvada, Denver, Englewood, Golden, Lakewood, Longmont, and Wheat Ridge.

A Supportive Class Structure

Each week, one owner will bring one dog. All humans will attend every week. Everyone in class will focus on that dog, and under the direction of Lorraine, will make sure he or she receives what is needed. This process will enable each participant to fully engage weekly in learning and applying fundamental concepts and techniques. In addition, they will gain insight into the motivations, temperament, history, healing and planning for the success of, their own dog.

About the Instructor

Lorraine May, M.A. is the Executive Director and Founder of The Misha May Foundation. She holds Masters Degrees in both Education and Psychology. She teaches classes, and consults on behavior, for the general public, as well as various shelters and rescue groups.

May's methods have proven successful with all kinds of dogs and their issues. Her rescue experience, includes the design and implementation for three years, of the CHAMPS Training Program at MaxFund. CHAMPS volunteer trainers, under the direction of May, attended weekly classes with shelter dogs who needed help to become adoptable, or who had been at the shelter for a long period of time. The program was an important factor in finding homes for harder to place dogs.

Demonstrating the Process, not the 'Finished Product'

May is committed to teaching others how to understand their dog, so that they may spend their time having fun and enjoying life together! Many demonstrations clearly show how terrific the trainer is (and how great the dog is!), but don't show the process whereby the owner and her dog can reach the same competency. May believes that allowing participants to witness her initial observations, subsequent evaluations, ongoing thinking process, including her choices and even mistakes, will help make understanding dogs more accessible.

Goals and Opportunities

This class offers the opportunity to listen and learn, to engage in handling, and to be guided in follow-up practice. Each week, one owner will bring one dog. Everyone in class will focus on that dog, and under the direction of May, will make sure he or she gets what is needed. During this process, which begins with an evaluation, includes coaching and hands-on practice, and then culminates in a treatment plan, each class participant will learn many techniques, concepts and approaches for being the best owner, practitioner, or rescuer he or she can be.

What type of dog may attend?

Almost any dog may attend this class. A pre-class consultation may be required at additional cost if serious issues exist and more information is required.

Multiple Dogs

The instructor may create educational opportunities for dogs from the same household to attend at the same time, or for unacquainted dogs to meet.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dog Myth #1

It is easy to have a dog. Anyone can be a dog owner. Everyone should have a dog.
by Lorraine May, Executive Director

All of these featured dogs were adopted to wonderful homes through

The Misha May Foundation

Dogs are rescued, rehabilitated and found forever homes,

regardless of breed or mix, age or issue, or length of time needed.

Why? Pet dogs will make your life better, lift your depression, encourage you to exercise, replace human beings you have lost or haven’t found yet, love you unconditionally, improve your physical and emotional health through touch and closeness, assuage your loneliness, act as a chic/guy magnet, make you laugh and entertain you, connect you to nature, elevate your status, increase your personal power, ensure your popularity, baby sit your children, keep away burglars, portray you as a certain type individual – caring, macho, elegant, chic, sporty, sweet.

Reality: Unfortunately for dogs, they have been marketed as commodities who have no needs of their own, but are simply here to serve humans. And of course they adore us because they really are wonderful creatures. BUT besides all of the wonderful things they do for us and with us, they also eat, whine, go to the bathroom, need exercise, snore, get sick and throw up, and have bad moods or annoying behaviors. Their care can be very $$$expensive$$$ even when they are well - spay, neuter, vaccinations, heartworm test and medication, food, leash, collar, bed.

Big problems: Getting a dog without knowing what you are getting into is a big reason why they are discarded so often and so easily, winding up homeless and in danger of being euthanized because there are too many dogs and not enough homes. Dogs deserve to be taken care of and kept forever in one loving home. Only those folks who can commit to the dog's lifetime should get one.

Caution: Everyone is not meant to be a dog owner. Don't buy the marketing scheme to put a dog or two in every home. Take your time, assess your lifestyle first. Spend time with your friends and their dogs. Foster for a rescue. Visit a dog park or a dog daycare. Research breeds and mixes for common behaviors and health issues. Choose a dog wisely if you decide. This is a 10-20 year commitment!

Remedy: When dogs are no longer regarded as an acquisiton that completes someone's life, like a certain make of car or brand of clothing, or as fur-people who should know how to behave like humans, or as a panacea for life problems, the demand for them will go down. When the demand goes down, those who make their money selling dogs will stop creating so many. When they stop creating a surplus, there won't be extra dogs who get euthanized because no one knows what to do with them.

Glorious day: Dogs are valued as individual sentient beings and no one would consider discarding one, much less killing one.

Rescue Remedy Works!

Bach Flower Essence RESCUE REMEDY
by Lorraine May, Executive Director

For decades the Bach Flower Essences have been used alone, and in conjunction with other treatments. Rescue Remedy, the five essence combination used for emergencies and stress, is the most widely known, although there are 38 essences.


Unfortunately, the proper dose is often misunderstood and, therefore, the remedy is not experienced as effective. The information is generally shared in this way: 'The standard dose for Rescue Remedy is four drops. Put it directly on your tongue, put it in a beverage, put in your dog's water.' Sounds simple, doesn't it? Yes, but this is only partial information. Four drops of RR can, and should, be repeated every 10 minutes or until a change is seen. Ample time is needed to reinstate calm.

Several successful cases follow:

Usually, the subject will clearly demonstrate the exact amount of care necessary as did the small bird in this story. I witnessed a car purposefully aim for a group of birds drinking from a puddle on a deserted mountain road. All but one flew away. Not knowing if she was dead or alive, I cradled her in a paper towel in my hand, administering one drop of RR (for small animals) every now and again for about 20 minutes. With each drop, she responded by swallowing and moving a little more, until finally she stood up, looked at me, and flew off to the top of a tree.

The bird in this story also recovered fully. For two days, I gave RR to a stunned baby robin I found in our yard. Finally she found the strength to move, and I knew she needed to return to her family and find food. I searched for a safe place to set her, away from curious cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, etc. She decided on her own place by first climbing onto my finger and then flying a fair distance away. Immediately her family began calling to her and she answered. Later that day when I was in our fenced yard with the dogs, around 100 robins came and sat on our fence, looking right at me. I imagined they were acknowledging my act of kindness.

In another case, a beautiful black Lab was completely down with bloat when I found her in a local shelter where I was volunteering. I constantly administered RR directly into her mouth while waiting for the emergency help I had called for. She regained some strength and was able to focus her eyes on me the entire time. Her surgery was successful and she was adopted soon after.

In each case, Rescue Remedy retrieved the animal from shock and calmed them enough so that they could receive what they needed to recover. I keep a bottle with me all of the time, and don't hesitate to use it in stressful situations.

Easiest way to deliver this: 4 drops in the dog's water bowl each time you change it.

I always have a plain water bowl set out next to it as well. It is fascinating to watch the dog choose where to drink. If another pet drinks from the rescue remedy water, it will either help them, or not affect them.

Can be found at independent pet supply stores or health food stores.

Email Lorraine May, M.A. at for more information.

Bach Flower Essence site:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When Dogs Jump Fences

by Lorraine May, Executive Director
Any part of this blog is not a substitute for a private behavior consultation or training class. Please seek the professional help you need. I do not give advice for dogs or to owners that I have not met. The information contained within is merely a guide for those who feel that this information might be useful, relevant or user-friendly.

Two jumping tails!

Buddy, a 100 pound German Shepherd, came to Misha May from a shelter where he had been returned by 3 different adopters. Besides separation anxiety and a high prey drive, he cleared six foot fences. Poor thing was a mess. Today his separation anxiety is cured, his prey drive is managed, and he hasn't jumped a fence in years. Since the right home never came along, Buddy has settled in as an affectionate uncle / teacher to all of the foster dogs.

When Buddy first arrived, I assumed incorrectly that if I were with him in the yard he would not be bored or lonely and, therefore, would stay. He did not. He jumped the fence on the second day as I stood right next to him. I am still not sure why, except that he knew he could, and he quite enjoyed the freedom of running around. Eventually he came back to me - I do not know why he chose to, but I was extremely grateful.

I identified my priorities and worked on them simultaneously:
1) to make it impossible for him to jump again - this was a behavior that needed to disappear from his repertoire.
2) to make his time in the yard more fun than his escaping
3) to train him to come to me no matter what

I always went out with Buddy and kept him on a long, long, long leash. I didn't want to tie him out since that wouldn't be much fun and would not encourage him to stay. Tying out is also a way to create an aggressive dog since he can feel so vulnerable and trapped. I did not consider an electric fence, not only because I dislike the idea of shocking the dog, but because if a dog really wants to go through, he will. Misha May has rescued dogs who have escaped such a fence, or who have bitten a nearby person, since the shock can establish a negative association with whomever is near.

With Buddy, I found that I could drop the leash when he wanted to play with the other dogs, but remain close enough to grab it. He only jumped one more time, going after those pesky squirrels. I missed his cues of starting to get overstimulated and then learned the hard way that we still needed to work on his coming to me no matter what. Fortunately, he ended up in the neighbor's yard and felt trapped by our shared 6 foot privacy fence. He was very happy to see me and has not jumped again. I discovered that the words that attract Buddy to my side are, "Are you with me Bud?"

Why did Buddy jump? High prey drive, history of success, it was fun.

Why did he stop? The opportunity was taken away; he received attention and experienced fun in the yard; he learned that coming to me was rewarded.

Do I trust him completely? No, but I give him more freedom after the squirrels have gone to bed.

Flash's owners grew tired of him jumping the fence and then playing keep away. Misha May rescued him from a local shelter when his family decided not to come and get him. Then Flash jumped the fence at his first foster home and again at his adopter's. He found himself back at my
house for more training.

Flash has never jumped the fence at my house. As in Buddy's case, I made a decision to make it impossible for him to do so. Like Buddy, he jumped because he had fun. But unlike Buddy who enjoyed running free, Flash enjoyed the attention of people chasing him. He never went far, just annoyingly out of reach.

My most important observation of Flash was that he started thinking about jumping when he became anxious and worried, not because he wanted to chase something. He began to whine and pace when he heard unfamiliar sounds. When I attached a leash to his collar, he relaxed and was able to focus and play. The other dogs are of great comfort to him.

Flash, a young border collie mix, is a very adoptable dog. He needs a home where someone will enjoy being in the yard with him and give him attention. Then he can completely relax, feel at home and realize it is more fun to stay in his yard. For awhile, he will need to go out on a long leash. If he never jumps the new fence, then he will lose his connection to that behavior choice. The longer he can go without jumping, the better the prognosis for the future. In a new yard, he will have a clean slate and can be taught to stay at home.

Why did Flash jump? He became anxious in the yard alone and sought attention outside; he created a game of keep away; he was successful in at least 3 locations.

Why did he stop? No opportunity to jump was afforded him; his needs were met in the yard by human and dog friends; he is becoming less anxious in the unfamiliar surroundings.

Do I trust him completely? No, but the future is hopeful since he is so young and sweet, and has responded so well to attention and guidance.

Each individual dog is different, so please adapt this information to yours. Please email any follow-up questions or requests for consultations to Lorraine May, M.A. at