Jeff Silverman

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Jeff is a Certified Dog Behavior Conultant (CDBC), and co-owner of Training Tracks Canine Learning Station with 2 full-service training centers in Southwest Ohio. He has been working with dogs for over 20 years, and training professionally since 1998. He specializes in working with fearful and aggressive dogs and assisting animal shelters in creating behavioral enrichment programs and support services for adopters. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Jeff has a BA in political science, completed the coursework (if not the dissertation) for a PhD in history, and has a background in IT management consulting in addition to dog training. This background inspires and informs a special interest in the professional culture and institutions of the dog training profession. He lives in College Corner, Ohio his partner in business and in life, Melissa “Mel” Bussey. They share their home with 4 dogs - Maggie, Ubu, Professor Chaos, and Miley as well as 2 cats who are expert dog trainers in their own right - Iculus and Raja.

Blog posts by Jeff Silverman

Misbehavior and The Second Puppyhood of Old Age

We often refer to old age in people as a second childhood, and my 13-year-old dog Cheyenne’s old age is turning out to be a bit of a second puppyhood, complete with some basic retraining. Time has not been kind to Cheyenne. She has arthritis in her hips and back, cataracts, and hearing loss. None of those ever seemed to slow her down much, but she was recently diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy (DM): an autoimmune disease that has her slowly losing control of her hind end. Most people would expect obedience to be very near the bottom of one’s list of concerns with a dog in this condition. Most people have never lived with Cheyenne.

 

Goodbye Ollie

Certainly the hardest thing about life with dogs, is the short time we get with them. Last year I wrote a series of posts about a Great Dane named Ollie. Ollie came to a shelter I work with, the Animal Adoption Foundation in Ross Ohio, under tragic circumstances and became dangerously aggressive within weeks of being adopted out. Ollie’s adopters returned him to AAF, where – with a little guidance from me – the shelter’s amazing staff and volunteers taught him to trust and to safely be amongst people again.

 

Pushing Boundaries

I’m not a big fan of electronic containment systems where a collar delivers a shock to a dog when he approaches an invisible boundary. My general concerns include the frequency with which dogs escape these “fences,” their inability to keep unwanted people or animals out of the yard, and the fearful behaviors that some dogs develop after being shocked. Many of my clients decide to take these risks in spite of my advice, and I usually don’t push too hard to change their minds. I do have one opinion about these systems, however, that I persistently and adamantly repeat: do not use them in the front yard or anywhere near regular foot traffic.

 

Making Me a Match

Few things about my work upset me as much as clients who give up on a dog. Regardless of the reason, it usually means broken hearts for the people involved. For the dogs it means lots of stress, likely homelessness, and even the possibility (or sometimes the certainty) of euthanasia. Even in the case of dogs who are obviously too dangerous to remain in their homes, I take every client’s dog that loses its home (or its life) personally. Some of the most upsetting cases for me, though, are those where the dog never really had a chance to succeed in a home. I’ve been seeing a lot of these bad matches lately.

 

Beloved Companions or Just Property?

There’s a dramatic story in the news this week that elicits powerful emotions from me and probably will do the same for all DSD readers. The story goes back almost a year and a half and raises questions about our pets’ place in society, our moral obligations to them, our relationship to the laws that govern us, and the power of compassion. I don’t know the whole story. I’ve only read about it. I find it both very upsetting, though, and very compelling.

 

Energy Crisis

Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds. ~JoJo Jensen, Dirt Farmer Wisdom, 2002

 

Saving Ollie - Part 5 in a series about a shelter dog with severe behavior problems

Click to read Part 1
My series on Ollie the Great Dane has been on an unplanned hiatus for the last month. I hope some are still reading as I start examining some of the larger questions my experiences with Ollie and AAF have raised for me.

 

Saving Ollie - Part 4 in a series about a shelter dog with severe behavior problems

Click to read Part 1
We know what sort of person Ollie will need to create a good home for him. He needs an experienced dog-owner committed both to safely managing his environment and to working on his behavior. We’re not, however, so sure what environment would be best for him.

 

Saving Ollie - Part 3 in a series about a shelter dog with severe beahvior problems

Click to read Part 1
Ollie’s aggression posed a threat to the volunteers and staff at the Animal Adoption Foundation’s shelter facility. They accepted that risk in hopes of improving Ollie’s aggressive behavior, however, and the gamble paid off. Next they had to consider the risks of having a dog like Ollie in their adoption program.

Placing an aggressive dog involves risks to the adopting family, the general public, the dog, and the shelter. The dog might bite someone in his new family. He might bite a stranger. If his behavior declines and the adopters return him to the shelter, it may be harder to improve his behavior the second time. It can also hurt the shelter’s reputation, and (although I’ve never heard of a case) possibly even expose the organization to legal liability.

 

Saving Ollie - Part 2 in a series about a shelter dog with serious behavior problems

Click to read part 1
Ann and Meredith returned Ollie to the shelter soon after our visit. AAF’s Executive Director, Eric Johnson, asked my advice about how to proceed. In other shelters I had worked with, the answer would have been obvious: euthanasia. At AAF, however, that option would not be considered before making every effort to improve Ollie’s behavior.

For now, I’ll dodge the question of whether committing resources to dogs like Ollie, rather than euthanizing them to make room for more “adoptable” dogs in need of scarce shelter space, is good policy. I’m hoping to clarify my thoughts on that issue with this series of posts. I’ll start with the first issue that any shelter considering keeping a dog like Ollie must evaluate: risk.

 

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