The Trouble with Trolls

Photo by Eirick Solheim via Flickr/Creative Commons

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl//ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as anewsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion,[3] often for their own amusement.

Wikipedia, 2015

 For rescues like ours, social media offers endless opportunities to connect, share information, and network with others. But there’s a dark side. The anonymity of the internet allows users to act out in ways that would be embarrassing or grossly inappropriate in real life. Read the comment section of almost any newspaper article, and you’ll see discussion devolve into accusations, arguments, and  personal attacks. When the article concerns anything remotely controversial you can see this happen almost immediately.

It comes as no surprise to see this around discussion of certain dog breeds or breed specific legislation (BSL) . In the last few years we have also become aware of organized groups that purport to have community safety as their mandate – which sounds great. That is our goal as well! But when you start to explore these groups, it turns out that they have a clear agenda of restricting or euthanizing certain categories of dogs.

These groups use the internet to advance their message, and have generated their own “statistics” and “studies” to support statements like “75% of fatal dog attacks are by pit bulls” or “1 in 20 pit bulls sends someone to the hospital”. Although these statements, in their shocking and soundbite-y appeal, sometimes find their way into media reports or your friends’ mouths, it doesn’t make them true. These figures are quickly discredited by sourcing credible data (like animal control reports and published, peer-reviewed journals).

These groups have been around for a while and we respect their right to exist. We even respect their right to comment when an event like this affects them locally. But a couple of weeks ago they crossed a line.

HugABull was invited into a local pet store as part of a fundraiser and community awareness initiative, and this caught the attention of one of these groups. The individuals, some based in the US and/or using fake profiles, attempted to take over the event page with hateful messaging, graphic photos of bloody dog attack victims, and multiple posts of scare-mongering material. Some posts on the store’s event page swelled to 300+ comments, as people responded to these posts and added fuel to the fire.

There is a small but growing body of research around internet trolling and cyberbullying. It shows that the trolling phenomenon does not come from a place of concern or a desire to educate or connect with other people. Their goal is to attract attention and to inflame emotions. Engaging with them only contributes to a downward spiral.

As we watched this drama unfold on social media, we had a lot of discussion amongst ourselves and came to a few conclusions.

  1. Trolls won’t change. Anyone who feels strongly enough to haunt our site from their computer desk in California to post mean-spirited comments is not likely to be convinced by anything we have to say.
  2. No one else is reading. Some people tell us they engage in comment threads because they worry that someone reading them won’t have both sides of the issue. In our experience, no one reads 300 comment threads for fun or education.
  3. Trolls live for outrage. It’s really difficult not to get incensed when a stranger talks about killing your dog or accuses you of being a dog fighter. But your outrage is exactly what they want, and it’s what will keep driving the debate forward. What’s more, they will often take screenshots of angry/abusive responses and share them, claiming that the “pit bull advocates” are harassing them.
  4.  Positivity will always outweigh negativity. What makes this abuse so hard to read is that it is so patently untrue. In any given week we encounter hundreds of pit bull type dogs. We share our beds with them. We read the literature about actual dog bite risks. At the end of the day, it’s the work that is being done out of love and compassion that changes minds.

So next time you stumble on to a comment thread cesspool? Try a different approach.

  1. Don’t respond. Leaving an angry, toxic debate is not a defeat. It’s a better use of your time.
  2. If you feel the need to respond, calmly acknowledge that trolls have taken over and no constructive discussion is taking place. Point out that the level of discourse is low and you have other things to do. Post an article about trolling. Post a picture of a troll, if you want to be a bit cheeky. But then leave the thread, turn off notifications, and do not go back. If everyone did this, the trolls are only screaming into a void and will eventually burn out.
  3. Stay positive. If you STILL wish to engage, try a different approach altogether. Ask them questions and let them follow their own logic until they trip up on it. Stay calm and compassionate, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see posted as a screenshot somewhere else.
  4. Report. Depending on the context, you may be able to appeal to the admins of the page. In most cases there should be some kind of policy against graphic imagery, personal attacks, or threats. Be very specific about what you are reporting and why – you can’t report someone for posting a poor information source or saying something that is patently untrue. But you can report harassment and bullying.

In our case, the online hub-bub died down and we went on to have a great event. The store handled the negativity with perspective and professionalism, and their faith in us was redeemed as they saw we were a positive, community-minded, nice group of people.

And that felt much better than getting the last word on the Internet.



Pirate, showing off the power of positivity.

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Compassion Care Canines


Notch, silly and full of personality.

Sad as it is, some dogs come to us with problems even more serious than homelessness. Sometimes, in the process of rescuing a dog, we realize that their medical issues are more serious than we thought, and we have to decide what is going to be best for them, long-term.

Instead of going onto our Adoptables page, they might be placed into our Compassion Care program where they can live out the rest of their days in the comfort of a family home. HugABull covers all expenses while they are in this program, but the real contribution is made by the families who open up their homes and their hearts, knowing that the dog they are caring for might not be with them for long. These amazing people provide their foster dogs with all the things that they may not have been able to experience prior to coming into HugABull. Some of these dogs have never known a home, a soft bed, yummy treats, or what it means to let loose and be a silly dog. The foster families that are a part of this program are truly our silent heroes, and there are no words that can describe what an important role they play.

Teya and Benson

Within the Compassion Care program there have been many dogs that have stolen hearts and shown us why our investment is worth every penny. Teya is one of them. In 2011, Teya came into HugABull as a spunky 7-year-old looking for her second chance. Over the course of the following year she would be diagnosed with cancer and given only 6 – 8 months to live. Teya’s foster parents, Krista and Justin, were devastated by the news and immediately decided to commit to fostering her until the end of her days. In the time that they had her, Teya had become part of their family, and when Krista and Justin found out that their family was going to be growing a little bigger, they hoped that Teya would be around long enough to meet their newest addition, a son named Benson. They had five months together as a family of four with memories that will last a lifetime.



Cyrus was another dog who defied expectations. She had been surrendered to the shelter by a very loving owner in crisis, and we wanted her to move straight into an adoptive home that loved her just as much. She was fostered by Angelique and family and was diagnosed with cancer within her foster period. Angelique decided to give her a home for whatever “forever” she had left, and she was another fighter who lived a full two years and had many fantastic adventures along the way.

Gator is currently a part of our Compassion Care program after being diagnosed with terminal cancer soon after coming out of the shelter. A senior citizen who had been a yard dog most of his life, we knew he didn’t have a lot of time, but we were saddened to think that it would be measured in months rather than years. His foster mom Tara stepped

Gator, about to enjoy his first cake.

Gator, about to enjoy his first cake.

up and committed to not only caring for Gator, but making up a bucket list for him to complete while in her care. Gator has been doing great so far and has been enjoying all of the fun activities that Tara has planned for him.

Not all of the dogs in the Compassion Care program suffer from a terminal illness. Notch was recently placed in our Compassion Care program simply because he had a large number of health problems and special needs. While each was manageable on its own, the laundry list of supplements, feeding instructions, mobility challenges, and other issues limits his adoption prospects. After his latest health scare, we realized that it might be best for him to stay in his foster home, where he has a nice routine and he has been thriving thanks to the great care at Queen’s Park Pet Hospital and donated water therapy sessions at Waterworkz Paw Spa.


Playful puppy Rosie.

It’s never easy to accept a terminal diagnosis, but it was especially tough with Rosie, our newest and youngest Compassion Care dog. At only seven months old she has been diagnosed with advanced heart disease. Even though Rosie is expected to have only a year or so with us, we are committed to ensuring that she gets to experience the joy of being a part of a family for the rest of her days.

We are fortunate to see a lot of happy endings in rescue, but stories like these remind us that a happy ending is defined differently for each dog. Instead of mourning their shortened time with us, we take a lesson from these resilience creatures and take joy in every moment they are here.

For all of our fosters, donors, and supporters – please know that your support helps make this incredible program possible. Thank you, and we hope to continue sharing Gator, Notch and Rosie’s adventures over the coming months.

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Put your pup in the 2016 calendar

sample lower spread

Our 2016 calendar is in production, and mini-headshot sponsorship opportunities are now available! For your donation of $25 or $50, you can submit a photo of your pet that will appear in the bottom portion of our calendar. 

Proceeds from mini-headshot sales cover our printing and shipping expenses, allowing 100% of sale revenues to be directed towards the dogs in our program. These donations are tax-receiptable – just provide us with your full name and mailing address and indicate that you would like a receipt mailed to you.

headshot sampleA $25 donation will reserve you a 2.5 x 2.5 inch space.
A $50 donation will reserve a 5 x 5 inch space.

Interested? Here’s how to get your pet on the VIP list:

1. Email to reserve a spot. Indicate the size of headshot you want, and your pet’s name.

2. Send the photo to High resolution photos are ideal (at least 1MB in size). Close-up photos of the pet’s face work best for the space available.

2. Provide payment.  Use the link below to pay by credit card/PayPal, or send an email money transfer to If you wish to pay by cash or cheque, send us an email and we can provide drop-off options.

Payment and photo must be received by Monday, September 7 to secure your space in the calendar. Email with any questions. We look forward to another year of gorgeous close-ups!



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Turning the tables on intolerance


Volunteer Janessa with Kobe, representing Lovie, an adoptable 8-month-old puppy.

One of the best tools we have to educate people about pit bull type dogs is – pit bull type dogs! Our ambassadogs are loving, friendly, well-trained fixtures at our public events. But what happens when they are not welcome? Well, we take a lesson from them. We persevere, we stay positive, and we bounce back.

Andrea of Fitness Leash had planned for the second annual Planks for Paws event to happen on Saturday, August 22 at a lovely park in Burnaby. This is a fitness event for humans, but we had hoped to bring a foster dog or two so that participants could meet the dogs benefitting from funds raised. We were aware that Burnaby has a bylaw that requires “pit bull” breeds and their mixes to be leashed and muzzled on public property. Like most breed specific legislation (BSL), there is no definition of “pit bull” attached to this requirement, so enforcement is based on the visual identification of a peace officer.


HugABull adopter Megan, with dogs Veda and Sprout, representing Paddington, an adoptable dog (as well as her own dog, Marty!).

The majority of dogs in our program are of unknown parentage. We may accept them into our program because we feel they have the physical characteristics and/or temperament as defined by the breed standard of a “pit bull” breed. We have also accepted dogs that look nothing like pit bulls, but may have been labelled as such somewhere along the way. If we DNA tested every dog in our program, it wouldn’t surprise us at all to find out we’ve been re-homing dozens of mastiff, boxer, bulldog or other square-headed crosses.

Based on this, we had a couple of mixed-breed dogs lined up to attend our event. But that was not to happen. Someone with a bone to pick with the breed called Animal Control and multiple contacts at City Hall – it was made clear to us in a series of emails that our event would be patrolled and unmuzzled “pit bulls” weren’t welcome. With that threat, we decided that even our unmuzzled mixed breed dogs weren’t safe to have at the event due to the increased scrutiny and arbitrary nature of the bylaw. The last thing we wanted at a peaceful yoga fundraiser was an ugly confrontation.


Rescue dog Shiloh and his humans representing Pepper, an 8-year-old dog in foster care with HugABull.

What to do? Muzzling dogs at advocacy events is a controversial issue. Some people are for it, as it gets the dogs out there and starts a conversation. Others point out that muzzles also have an (unwarranted) negative association with the general public, so it would only keep people away and perpetuate stereotypes. In the end, we decided not to muzzle our foster dogs, as none of them had been muzzle trained – it was too much to ask of them to attend an event with new people, to sit in the sun on a hot day, and to accept an unfamiliar contraption on their face.


April borrowed Rocky for the day, to represent his big sister Billie.


Preet and Roscoe stand in for Notch, who is part of HugABull’s Compassion Care program.

Coming back to the theme of resilience, we consulted with Andrea and we made a plan. We printed posters of all the dogs who would have loved to join us for the event, and we invited “proxy dogs” to attend in their place. People got their doggie fix, we raised awareness about Burnaby’s BSL, AND we got some publicity from our creative solution to this challenge. Check out our appearance on Global BC news and the Burnaby Now. (We hope that you like it too, and will share this post to make it viral!)

While we missed having some friendly blockheads at the event, we managed to make it a positive and educational experience. We even raised additional funds due to the expanded profile! We learned that taking the moral high ground feels almost as good as a yoga session.

Thank you to everyone who made this possible, and helped us turn a setback into a pretty spectacular event. Start warming up for next year’s Planks for Paws, because we intend to do it again in 2016! Should you wish to support this initiative, the donation page is still open:

Photos courtesy of Glenny Sipacio.







IMG_7553 (1)

Min pin Sam came, representing his sister Tia, an adopted pit/lab cross and his best friend.


Staying zen in the face of adversity.



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Peanut’s Petition

photo (1)Leanne contacted us a couple of months ago about a challenge with her dog, Peanut. As a responsible dog owner, she has registered her dog with the City of Richmond and attempts to comply with their breed-specific bylaws. However, doing so severely compromises their quality of life. Leanne has attempted to work collaboratively and respectfully with City Council, asking only for the opportunity to prove her dog is no danger to the public. She has been met with closed minds and closed hearts. We asked her to share her story on our blog.

My husband and I rescued 6-month-old Peanut in October 2012.  Well, a wonderful rescue agency did the rescuing and we gave her a forever home.

We didn’t know it at that time, but Peanut was born with Progressive Retinal Atrophy, an inherited disease, in which the rod cells in the retina are programmed to die.  By age 1½ or so, Peanut was functionally blind but you wouldn’t have known it!  Blind dogs adapt very well to familiar situations and with time and training, she began to use her other senses to compensate for her vision loss.

Whiskers 1Peanut has become well known in our neighbourhood in Steveston and we can barely walk down the street without people, children and other dogs stopping to say “hi”.  We have been told by many people that the ability she shows through her adversities is inspiring, and we certainly feel the same way.

Peanut is a very gentle mixed-breed showing characteristics of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and due to the City of Richmond’s current Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) we registered her as a “dangerous dog”.

One of the City’s BSL requirements is that all “dangerous dogs” must wear a muzzle outside of their home. Peanut relies heavily on her sense of smell and her whiskers in order to navigate in the outside world and we were unable to find a muzzle that doesn’t hinder those senses.  All muzzles of all types/materials interfere significantly with her whiskers, which she uses to feel a wall before she hits it, or feel the edge of stairs or our car before falling.

Whiskers 2An animal’s whiskers are sensory in nature and are rooted much deeper than normal hair. They can sense distance and space, and they feel through vibration.  These whiskers are very sensitive and are good for detecting objects and picking up air currents. Dogs with reduced vision are especially dependent on their whiskers.

We keep a muzzle on Peanut as best we can when we are outside of our home, but have resorted to walking her in other municipalities and leaving her at home more often in order to avoid injury.  This has continued to be a very heartbreaking thing for us to deal with and prompted me to take action.

I wrote multiple letters to the City, provided a large information package including many support letters and have attended at a council meeting in an effort to ask the City to consider a review of their current Bylaws to allow dog owners to apply for an exemption to the dangerous dog bylaw, particularly for dogs with special needs.  This exemption would, of course, only apply if the dog is deemed dangerous because of breed only and if the owner proves their dog’s good temperament.

My suggestion to the City was to consider a similar system to what the City of Nanaimo provides.  The City of Nanaimo differentiates between a “restricted” dog and a “vicious” dog.  It allows for pet registration through the Canadian Kennel Club to obtain a Canine Good Neighbour Certification and to subsequently have the restricted classification removed if they pass.

I was very disappointed to be recently advised that the Richmond City Council has not provided any indications of intent to amend the Animal Control Regulation Bylaw and at this point will not even consider allowing Peanut, or other dogs like her, the opportunity to prove that a muzzle is not necessary.

I am a lifelong Richmond resident, home owner and tax payer who is now forced to move out of the city I work in, have grown up in and love in order to keep my dog (who just happens to show the “characteristics” of a pit-bull) happy and healthy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.55.30 PMWe hope that in sharing Leanne and Peanut’s story, we can raise awareness of how BSL affects the lives of responsible community members. We would like to see Richmond follow the lead of surrounding communities and adopt breed-neutral, evidence-based animal control bylaws that can protect the community without punishing responsible owners and good family dogs. But if this is not an option, there should – at minimum –  be an exemption for dogs who can be shown to be of sound and stable temperament, and no risk to the community. Particularly if these dogs suffer by the city’s muzzle requirement.

Please show your support by signing Leanne’s online petition. It’s a small step but we hope it will encourage Richmond City Council to re-evaluate this issue.


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The Truth about BC Shelters

bubs crate“I found a stray dog, but I can’t take her to the shelter – she won’t make it out alive!”

“Dogs in the US need our help more. They still have KILL shelters there.”

“I’d rather re-home my dog online than take her to a shelter – you know they don’t adopt out pit bulls.”

We receive a lot of emails about shelters and euthanasia, and hear a lot of misconceptions about what happens in BC. It’s a strange phenomenon. Some people believe that BC is “no-kill”, where animals are safe in shelters as long as they need to be there. Others believe that shelters are still medieval places, where unadoptable dogs (and particularly pit bulls) aren’t given a chance. The truth – as with most things in life – lies somewhere in the middle.

The good news is that many shelters (both municipal shelters and SPCAs) follow progressive animal welfare practices and are certainly not in a rush to euthanize dogs. Most of the Metro Vancouver shelters we work with try very hard to provide dogs with a fair and accurate assessment, and as well as vet care, training, and enrichment.

If you find a dog running at large in a BC community, we would always recommend contacting your local pound or animal control. They have the most resources available to house the animal and take steps to find the owner. Most important, ONLY a shelter has the legal right to take custody of the dog after the impound period has passed. Some rescues choose to accept stray or privately surrendered dogs, but they assume a degree of legal risk in doing so.

If you are in the position of having to re-home your dog and struggling to do so yourself, we recommend contacting your local shelter or SPCA. Most SPCAs and some municipal animal shelters will take a privately surrendered dog if they have space and if it is adoptable (whatever they define that to be). For more information about re-homing, visit our website.

Now for the part no one wants to think about – euthanasia. While it isn’t an epidemic in BC, and most shelters try to avoid it, it happens. It happens every day, and to call BC a no-kill province is absolutely incorrect. Euthanasia happens because dogs come into shelters, either as strays, surrenders, or cruelty seizures, and present with one or more of the following:

  1. Severe medical problems. Many shelters, particularly smaller or remote ones, have limited budgets for veterinary care, and they have to spend carefully. Do they pay for a $3000 surgery for an 8-year-old shepherd mix? Or spend the same amount to treat a litter of 8 Lab puppies for mange? Shelter managers have to make tough decisions, particularly in smaller communities where they may not be able to fundraise or seek vet discounts.
  2. Severe behavioural problems. While training and management can help a troubled dog immensely, the reality is that  “rehabilitation” or “sanctuary” opportunities are so rare as to be virtually non-existent. There are not many adopters looking for a dog with serious behaviour challenges, and far fewer with the skills to rehabilitate serious issues and/or provide appropriate management for the rest of the dog’s life.
  3. Space. Many shelters in Southern BC will call themselves “low kill” or “no kill” meaning they do not euthanize for space. If kennels are full they will pay for boarding, appeal to the community, or work with rescues – which is fantastic. But small community shelters may only have a few kennels available and not many staff to care for them.
  4. Deterioration. This is probably the most common and most heartbreaking scenario that we see. A dog may enter the shelter relatively adoptable, but perhaps he is young and untrained with a high energy level. In a shelter with lower adoption rates, he may be kennelled for months. Stress behaviours develop, along with hyperactivity, leash pulling, and general bad manners. This makes the dog a pain to handle – volunteers stop walking him and potential adopters are turned off by the jumpy, mouthy, obnoxious dog in the kennel. It’s a cycle where these behaviours only get worse and caretakers have to ask questions about quality of life.

While pit bull breeds have gained a lot public acceptance and, to our knowledge, do not face automatic euthanasia in BC, they are overrepresented in all of the above scenerios. The breed does make them “less adoptable” and is a strike against them when people need to balance the life of one dog against another.

What can we do about this? Please don’t blame the shelters. For the most part, shelters do the best they can with the resources available – and until there are empty kennels everywhere and a windfall of experienced “rehabilitation” homes, the situation isn’t going to change soon. Support your local shelter, whether by helping to fundraising for vet bills, volunteering to walk the large and high energy dogs, or learning about their challenges so you can educate the community and/or appeal to your city council for change.

IMG_2736Support efforts to help BC’s most vulnerable dogs. There are also some great organizations working in the North and on reserves. Groups like Spirit’s Mission, Big Heart Rescue, Crooked Leg Ranch, and Victoria Humane Society actively work to bring northern and reserve dogs to larger centres with higher adoption rates, while also working in the community to provide spay/neuter and vet care. (And of course, HugABull works to support shelters with the pit bull type dogs in their care).

But if you do nothing else, please stop and think before making global statements about shelters and euthanasia. Being realistic about our local problems is the best way to help dogs in our province.

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Notch’s Angels

11539801_10155675400730497_1298356749_oNotch of the big head, soulful eyes, and eager face washes came into our program five months ago, after being in the shelter for a year. With a long list of mobility challenges we don’t expect him to be adopted quickly, but we are pretty confident that his sweet and playful temperament will win over the right person. He already has a lot of fans!

Jolee&DaisyOne of the smallest, and possibly the most devoted, is Jolee. This little girl grew up with a loving pit bull companion, Daisy, and her whole family has a soft spot for the breed. When her birthday rolled around this past February, she asked for donations to HugABull in lieu of presents. Where most kids would ask for video games and Disney paraphernalia, she only wanted to help dogs.

Jolee came to Notch’s foster home to drop off her $270 donation, and they were immediately smitten with each other. We kept in touch with Jolee, sending updates about Notch over the past few months, and Jolee was inspired to do even more for this gentle giant. She and her family organized a bottle drive through her school and raised over $100!

notch swim jolee resize 2 resave notch swim jolee resize 3When she came to Vancouver to drop off the donation, the ladies at Waterworkz Paw Spa planned a special treat for her. The invited her to come to one of Notch’s water therapy sessions and join him in the pool. They swam, they chased balls together, and had the most special afternoon. Jolee’s parents were thrilled to see her following Notch around in the water with comfort and ease – she is normally a bit nervous about being in deep water on her own but with a life jacket and a big friendly dog at her side, it was a piece of cake.

Thank you so much to Jolee and her family; Notch’s other sponsors Sarah Rowley and Shalini Nayar; and the people at Waterworkz. In a lot of ways it takes a village to help special dogs like Notch, and he is so lucky to have a great team of people behind him.

notch swim jolee resize 2 resavenotch jolee resize 6

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Media case study – breed identification gone wrong

After posting the commentary below, we were contacted by a CTV representative. She explained that Sunday’s story occurred close to deadline and was presented as a “pit bull attack” based on the witness’ description of the dog and no evidence to the contrary at that time. It was acknowledged that the story should have been covered differently and there have since been internal discussions around the matter.

It was also brought to our attention that a follow-up story aired the following day with a very different focus, and the online content was reviewed to remove any references to “pit bull” in the online articles.

This may be the first time we were proactively contacted by a news agency around the topic of biased reporting – so while it still stings to see an unnecessary “pit bull attack” story in the news, we want to look on the bright side. This event spurred some important conversations and CTV does have some people who care about getting this right. Kudos to them for being open to a conversation. 

Original post is below.

Sunday’s reporting of a dog attack illustrates one of the big problems with the reporting of “pit bulls” in the media. A serious dog attack story appeared as *BREAKING NEWS* on CTV on Sunday evening. In a piece titled “Pit bull seized after fatal attack”, reporters described a “vicious” attack that left a puppy “nearly disembowelled”. A stunned witness described how the “…unneute

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.38 AMred pit bull, brindled pit bull dog…ripped into my friends puppy.” The inevitable comments ensued about banning breeds.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.48 AMBut then it was quiet, and Monday’s Metro News story gives a strong hint why. In that story, the dog is identified as a bulldog/mastiff cross.

CTV has since changed the online version of the story to “large dog” in the headline, but the video can be seen with the original breed mention.

Our guess is that a large, brindled, boxy-headed dog attacking another dog was assumed to be a pit bull on scene. When animal control apprehended the dog it was determined to be an entirely different breed, and there was some attempt to correct this after the fact. Still, everyone in the vicinity and everyone who watched the news on Sunday came away with the impression that there was yet another one of those “vicious pit bull” attacks.

Why can’t an attacking dog be reported as a “large dog” from the beginning?

Our condolences to Mila’s family during this difficult time.

The above article was edited to revise the breed mix, originally stated as a mastiff/lab cross. This was seen in an original report but there now seems to be a reasonable consensus that the dog is a mastiff/bulldog cross – which is still not a “pit bull” or a “pit bull mix”. Apologies for any confusion the original post may have caused – no one is immune from error when it comes to breed identification!

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Nose to Nose with Kathleen and Miah

kathleen and miah hug

Three years ago, Kathleen was working on her PhD and in desperate need of some balance. From past experience, she knew that balance could come only from a dog. She didn’t set out to adopt a pit bull, but when she came across some HugABull dogs online, she learned about a little chocolate-coloured wiggle bum named Miah. As soon as Kathleen met Miah – she knew. Miah was the one. Her family agreed, and a match was made.

kathleen and miah cgn

A certified Canine Good Neighbour!

Miah, bright, beautiful and athletic, was also selective with her dog friends and obsessed with chasing anything small and furry. There was a lot of training to do, for both human and dog, but from the beginning Kathleen considered this work a challenge and a privilege. They took basic obedience and behavioural classes and sought out opportunities to work around other dogs. “Despite the many highs and lows, I just had to see the love in her eyes and I’d persevere, determined to be the best guardian possible for her,” says Kathleen.

“One year in, we discovered Miah’s true talent. After attending a nose work seminar, I enrolled her in a class, and she not only loved it, she excelled! This made her a calmer, easier dog, and with her newfound purpose, we started competing as a team in scent work competitions held by the National Association of Canine Scent Work in the US.”

10505242_10101271284427821_7752739154603971394_oThere are five levels — from the Odor Recognition Test to the Elite division – and after passing her Odor Recognition Test in April 2014, Miah earned her Beginner (NW1) title and won second place in Interiors in October 2014. When she earned her Intermediate (NW2) title in February, Kathleen was overwhelmed with emotion. Besides her title, she placed second fastest dog overall, won second place in containers and exteriors, and third place in vehicles. But the greatest honour (and biggest shock) was receiving the small white “Pronounced” ribbon, given to the team whose work in all four search areas has most impressed the judges. “I did my dog justice that day,” Kathleen recalls proudly.

Nose work has brought these two best friends even closer. “I’ve never communicated as deeply and effectively with a dog as I have with Miah, and it’s a two-way street. I watch her behaviour change when she’s located a target odour and I let the judges know. When she’s frustrated, she communicates that to me as well, and it’s my job to help her. Then, once she’s found everything that needs finding, I reward and praise her to show just how much I appreciate all HER hard work and effort.”

“As we continue our daily training for future competitions, I learn more about her searching tactics and how to help her more effectively. Although I’ve loved this marvelous dog from day one, because of our work together, I have a much deeper respect for her as a dog. Miah may be a rescue, but she isn’t ‘broken’. She’s perfect.”

10380908_10101104918935601_1566730323563894892_nFor a girl seeking balance, Kathleen soon found herself with even more commitments! She started volunteering with HugABull shortly after Miah came into her life. She began by writing adoptable dog bios, then joined the Fundraising and BSL committees, and subsequently became our Fundraising Coordinator. Earlier this year, she was voted onto the Board of Directors.

We believe Kathleen and Miah make excellent ambassadors both for the breed and for responsible ownership. Who could ask for a better team to better represent HugABull and all that we stand for?

Article by Nomi Berger


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The Truth about Puppies

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Awww Mom! Can We Keep Him?

Puppies. They’re ADORABLE. Everyone loves them, right? But what everyone doesn’t realize is just how much work they can be. Warmer seasons always bring more into rescue, that usually means more teenaged dogs in the shelter systems in 6-12 months. It’s important to keep the commitment in mind as you’re cuddling that adorable little ball of fuzz with the wickedly awful, but somehow incredibly irresistible breath.

finn1. Puppies are like babies, and the saying “I slept like a baby” is a bold-faced lie.

Most responsible breeders send their pups home around 8 to 10 weeks old (other, less responsible breeders send them much younger, sadly). If you think about a human baby at this same age, they’re typically sleeping just a few short hours at a time… and puppies are no different. They’re hungry, they’re restless and bored, they’ve had an accident in their crate… they’re awake. Being prepared to sleep on the couch, and being up every 2-3 hours for potty and play breaks isn’t something most people consider.

2. And then there’s the whole housetraining thing…

2. We’ll get into overall training in just a moment – let’s first talk about those accidents in the crate. And on the dining room floor. And on the carpet in the office. And… and… and… it’s everywhere! Puppies, like babies, have tiny little bladders that don’t hold much, and need to be relieved often; however unlike babies, they don’t wear diapers, so when they let go wherever they are, it means a mess to clean up. One of the first (and most important) training jobs you’ll have with your new bundle of joy is housetraining – some people are great at it, some struggle. This is one of the top reasons family pets are surrendered, so it needs to be a top priority… and it’s not easy to master for us, or our four-legged friends.

Greta3. “Training? But she’s so cute, I can’t start training her yet!”

This is an actual quote from an acquaintance, in reference to a 10-week old puppy they’d adopted who was quickly developing some bad habits. Training and socialization can be a lot of fun when approached properly, but are also an incredible amount of work. Learning to walk nicely on a leash, master basic obedience commands, and interact appropriately with others (regardless of species) will take time and patience, but will make life with your dog about a million times more bearable. Training should start day 1 when your fuzzy little friend comes home, and needs to be a part of everything your puppy does. Consistency is key too, so pick whatever method works best for you and your family, and stick to it.

11156321_933093826712339_6585067225452846561_n (1)4. Little exploding bombs of destruction

So you’ve decided you can handle the lack of sleep and all the work the training and socializing will take, and puppy is coming home. You’ve got TONS of toys: chewies, squeekies, stuffies, ropies… but that puppy doesn’t even care! She wants your shoes, your coffee table, your houseplants and your favorite purse. Puppies are destructors, and you have to be willing to sacrifice any and everything in your home, happily.

white puppy sleepingWhen that sweet little stinker nuzzles into the crook of your neck and falls asleep, just remember that it won’t always be like this. Try to picture the other side of the coin, when you’ve been up all night, you’ve got puppy poop stuck in your hair, your favorite handbag is covered in tiny teethmarks and you’ve got pee stains on your socks. It gets better, but know that it’s a big job and commitment right from the start. Far too many puppies are surrendered into the shelter system because we, as humans, have failed them, and we owe their sweet little faces better.

jroc couch As a last note, remember that – just like with people – certain behavioural traits can always bubble to the surface as puppies reach their version of teenage years. Think of the wonderful, calm puppy who starts to develop a very strong prey drive as she nears a year old; many times, these are personality traits that are inherent to a dog’s wiring. It’s nature AND nurture that makes the final product. For this reason, if you’re looking for a new addition to your family, it might be best to investigate a mature dog, who has been through screening and assessment, and won’t have any surprises down the road.

By Leigh Oxley, HugABull volunteer and past foster mom to Bruno, one of the cuties pictured above.

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