May 29, 2021

Steve Dale - Animal Behaviorist & Trainer | The Long Leash #17

Steve Dale - Animal Behaviorist & Trainer | The Long Leash #17

Steve Dale is an award-winning journalist and certified animal behavior specialist. For more than two decades, he has been dedicated to advancing wellness in our pets, every which way he can.

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In this Long Leash conversation,, we’ll find out what Fear Free is and why it’s been a game changer for veterinarians AND dogs, gain insights into how dogs grieve loss, and explore the impact on our furry friends as we emerge from the pandemic.

Steve has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, seen him on TV, read him in print and online, and watched him speaking at events around the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many awards and recognition around the globe.


James: [00:00:04] Welcome to the Long Leash. I'm James Jacobson. Steve Dale probably isn't a stranger to many dog lovers. Perhaps you've heard him on your radio, or seen him on television or read some of his articles. That's because for more than two decades now, this award-winning journalist and certified animal behavior specialist. Has been dedicated to advancing wellness in our pets, every which way that he can. Steve has covered all kinds of stories over the years and has been fascinated at how owners and their pets connect and how that has changed over time. But he's also interested in how the media has evolved in covering those relationships and pets in general, as well as the role that social media, and the internet has played in helping to elevate our understanding of animals and empathy for them. In this wide ranging chat, Steve and I talk about Fear Free, and why it is a game changer for veterinarians, and for dogs. Steve also shares his insights about how dogs grieve loss and on the impact on our furry friends, as we all emerge from this pandemic. But first, Steve took me back to where it all began for him and how he partly created and partly fell into a job as a pet reporter. 

Steve: [00:01:33] Well in truth, that's probably about right, because  for all these years, 26, 27, I don't know, years, uh, the guy who used to cover entertainment and write about all sorts of things, uh, has written one story, I think, that is, has had nothing to do with pets. 

James: [00:01:52] Okay. So you've pretty much been covering, you've been on the beat for 26 years.  

Steve: [00:01:56] Whatever that number is, I don't know. I'll take it. 

James: [00:01:59] Okay. So the evolution of it, um, when you like your first gig, your first job, where you were, where you were covering this, was that on radio? Is that in print? Television?

Steve: [00:02:12] Well, I tried to bring pets with me no matter where I happened to be at the time. Uh, and I was working at a legendary radio station in Chicago. I was. 21, 22 and I was 23. I don't know. I was producing a show, uh, with well-known Chicago radio personalities, Bob and Betty Sanders, and they, uh, had different segments in the show. So I said, we need a segment about animals, and we did it, it was called all about animals. On Monday, we interviewed someone from say the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Tuesday. It might've been the Lincoln park zoo. I don't remember what day we did what. On another day it was someone from a shelter, uh, and on and on through Friday, uh, Friday we rotated actually, we usually interviewed a celebrity about that person's pets. Uh, so we had the likes of Betty White on and Mary Tyler Moore and all those folks. Um, so I brought pets with me and then on, uh, when, when the station changed format, I was doing a bit called Professor Penguin where I would come in and give interesting animal facts on the midday show. So I tried, but just because of my interests. And at that point in time, I began writing for the pet publications. So Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy, they were around back then. And, and Dog World, I think was one. And, and I wrote for those publications and one day, uh, when I was fired from the radio station.  

James: [00:03:38] As tends to happen in radio. 

Steve: [00:03:41] Yeah. We were all, I mean, the station went all religion, everyone was gone and I was among those. I found out because. I read the paper in the morning, and saw my name in it. So I began clearing out my desk, and the first call I got was from, uh, uh, the Chicago Tribune, and I had been writing there as a freelancer. I wrote feature stories about whatever it might be, just general features stories, including sometimes about pets. Uh, but I got a call from this editor who said, I'm beginning a new section. Uh, it's say pull-out entertainment weekend section, I've been covering sort of the celebrity beat. And he said, do you want to do a column called Celebrity Watch? And I said, sure. You know, it sounds fun. I'll interview celebrities as they come to town, and I did. But I said, can I do one other thing? He said, what I said, can I also write about pets? He's like what? I said, pets, he said, yeah, whatever. So I wrote for 12 years, I think, about pets for that pull-out section in the Chicago Tribune. 

James: [00:04:42] And it must have had a following after, after you put it in a few articles and he was like, okay, this is okay.

Steve: [00:04:48] I guess, I don't know. Uh, what's most important is that an editor at the Tribune saw it and, and called me and said, would you like to be a syndicated pet columnist? And I did that for the Tribune. Until sadly the point in time where more people would read blogs. The newspaper columns. So then I switched it over to just my blog, which you can still check out at, but for a couple of decades, I was a syndicated columnist, and at the very beginning, for many years, I reached millions and millions of people, but then newspapers began to go away. 

James: [00:05:24] So is this evolution from radio and newspapers to social media? Has that been a generally good thing? 

Steve: [00:05:33] Oh yeah, I think so. Um, I think it's been a great thing. I've been very, I've been very fortunate in my career.

So somewhere along the way, I became a certified animal behavior consultant and, uh, somewhere along the way from there, uh, I began to speak at veterinary conferences and still do. I speak around the world. Uh, not anymore. Now I speak mostly from my office or the living room and you know what, that's more difficult than it is to travel. I, I don't get jet lag anymore, but I spend more time than I did on airplanes because I go through the kitchen and that is not a good thing. 

James: [00:06:11] Yeah. Well, you can take, you took another route. 

Steve: [00:06:15] Yes.

James: [00:06:15] Do you think that, pet parents have found a new relationship with, uh, other pet parents as a result of that? And how has that impacted the way they parent? 

Steve: [00:06:28] That is a great question because that's both good and bad. So the internet, as I said, I think can be a great place and there is wonderful advice out there. Uh, but it depends on where you go for that advice. And a lot of pet parents, instead of going to their veterinarian are getting, we know this, their advice from, the wonderful, wonderful well-meaning employees with 87 tattoos. Not that there's anything wrong with tattoos, at the pet superstores or, or the guy at the dog park who just got a dog himself and really doesn't know anything. I mean, that's where people are getting their advice from. And, uh, hopefully, not as much as the data suggest, but, uh, I want them to go to websites, like Fear Free, Happy Homes. I want them to go to their veterinarian in the first place, depending on the kind of question they're asking, that is where they should be going for advice. Anytime, anytime. Let me say that again. Anytime there is a change in your pet's behavior, contact your veterinarian. People assume. It is a behavior problem. Well, obviously it's a behavior problem, but what's causing it, and very often more often than you might think it's a medical issue that is leading to the behavior problem. So you can, you can do all you want to do based on what the internet said. You go walk the dog that way or that way or that way. But if the dog is, has Cushing's disease and is responding because of that, it doesn't matter how you walk the dog this way or that way you have to treat the medical problem before you deal with the behavior problem and believe it or not, that kind of thing is really common. So my hope is that, uh, um, one of the, one of my mantras is please, please, please, please, if you see a change in your pet's behavior, there's a reason for it. It doesn't happen overnight. Our pets don't get up in the morning thinking I want to screw with their heads. No, they're, they're acting the way they act for a reason. 

James: [00:08:31] You've seen a lot changing in the world of how people and their pets connect and how the media covers that.

Steve: [00:08:40] That's true. I've absolutely seen changes both in the way of our companion animals are covered. Uh, which is now serious. I mean, I can give you so many examples of that. Number one, hurricane Katrina, you know, I remember watching from this very room I'm talking to you in, if I turned to my right, I'd see a TV on that TV I saw, I remembered to this day, that image, woman on the rooftop with three dogs, one of those dogs, you could even see from a distance look like a Rottweiler. The other two look like dogs. You might call pit bulls. They were not picked up. Maybe if they were smaller dogs that would have been, I don't know. All of them perished the woman, and those dogs and we saw in the media followed .It. It was right in front of our eyes. And we learned a lot of lessons from Katrina on the animal side. Uh, one is we learned that people, if they, if they don't have somewhere to go with their pets, they're not leaving. No matter what the circumstances they're not leaving their pets home alone, inevitably to die. They're not going to do that. It would be like leaving any other member of the family to be home alone, to inevitably die. You wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that. And people in New Orleans didn't do that either. So that was one lesson that we learned. And we're learning these lessons because we can see it. And, and you know, what social media does some good in that regard. Another example of, I just saw this a video of a sadly, and I'm a huge supporter of law enforcement, but a police officer beating a dog. To quote, unquote, train that dog. If it wasn't for videos being everywhere, and I don't know that that's all good, but if it wasn't for videos being everywhere, you look not where this policemen expected to look and then social media sharing it. We wouldn't have known the story. And if we did, we might not have believed the story so we can see it with our own eyes. And it's not only. Stories like that, that are horrible, but really good stories. The stories that are bound on the internet of people rescuing animals or animals rescuing humans. And again, we can see that in real time.

James: [00:11:02] So it sounds like there's a common thread between those, those examples. And that is that there's the social media component versus just the days before social media, when it was a reportage of things. And then pets would kind of be thought of as, as a, as a side angle, right? 

Steve: [00:11:23] Yeah. I mean, they were considered property and legally in some ways still considered property, but another changes even judges have said, yes, I know this was a legally supposed to be chattel, I think is the fancy term property. But. I understand their sentiment beings. And even judges are saying that now, and more and more and more we are as pet parents interested, concerned, worried about the emotional wellbeing of our companion animals. So our dogs and cats and other pets, don't only go to the veterinarian for vaccinations or because the dog is coughing. It is also because I'm worried about the emotional well-being of my animal, and that is hugely important. And to that Fear Free came along at just the right time. Fear Free is a program which deals with the emotional health of our companion animals. Looking at what's really important aside from our physical, their physical health and well-being their emotional health as well, how to get pets to the veterinarian.

So they're not terrified. It's changed already the world of veterinary medicine, but what's more is dog trainers have said, I want to be Fear Free too. Uh, groomers have said, I want to be Fear Free. Every veterinary school is Fear Free. I mean, this idea from Dr. Marty Becker was brilliant and the timing could not have been better.

James: [00:12:52] But when did, when did Marty come up with fear free? 

Steve: [00:12:55] Oh, we'd have to get Marty on your show to exactly tell you I was there from the start. 

James: [00:12:58] You were okay. Well, let's do the, do the backstory. Give us, give us the inside poop on how Fear Free was born and how it's evolved, where by everyone is talking about it. 

Steve: [00:13:09] It was approximately six years ago and. I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember, uh, it was at a veterinary conference. He came up to me and I've known Marty forever and, and Dr. Becker who I've always admired because he, he takes these ideas and he's able to market them. He can, uh, convince anybody to do anything just because he is so likable and passionately personally believes in whatever he's talking about. And, um, when he came up with the idea of Fear Free though, he had to do no convincing with me, I instantly understood and still do the power of what he was suggesting and it's proven to be absolutely correct. So he took me aside and said, I've got this idea where we can, uh, pay attention to in a way we haven't before the emotional wellbeing of our companion animals. I've said before that, and he knew this. That, uh, so many of our dogs, most of our cats and most of our other pets, whether they be rabbits or ferrets or parrots actually feel they are going to die, literally. They are going to die when they visit the veterinarian. I mean, it would be like a little kid getting poked and prodded and treated in a way that you can't explain to that child, that you're going to be better as a result of all this. And fear-free is saying, you know what? We don't have to do this. There is a better way, and it is not beneficial to our pets. That they are so afraid. First of all, for the obvious welfare issue, veterinarians, I don't know one, and I've met thousands at this point. I've never met one or a technician or nurse, who's gone into the profession to do anything, but to help our companion animals, they don't want to encourage fear, anxiety, and stress. But that's, what's been happening for decades and decades and decades, and it was thought to be acceptable. Well, it shouldn't be acceptable because we can do better than that. But moreover, if you are having a bad experience, so if you go to Target, and you have a really bad experience, you're not going to go back. Right? So, so all of these people have had bad experiences, so they don't go back to that veterinarian. And in many cases they will try to avoid any veterinarian. And when it comes to cats, the carrier comes out. And, uh, if you were in Washington, DC, that cat then would be in Washington state to do anything, to get away. I mean, you have to run around the house  and do an aerobics class to just try to grab the cat. Who's screaming. Your heart is breaking because you know, your cat is so upset. And I would suggest again that these animals were upset. Isn't the word? I mean, they really likely feel at least a lot of them, like they are going to die. Dr. Becker said it doesn't need to be that way, and because of him and this Fear Free initiative, it isn't that way anymore.

James: [00:16:14] So do you think, as a certified animal behaviorist, I'm going to try and get you to get him to the head of a dog or cat who has that fear, is that something that you think is, cultivated? Is that something that they can smell? The fear and the phytochemicals that are basically that maybe a dog and a cat are picking up? Or what do you think that is, that is causing the animal to feel that fear normally at a veterinary visit? 

Steve: [00:16:44] Well, well, the part of the brain specifically we're talking about is the amygdala and, let me turn it around and answer the question in the opposite way. If you're walking your dog down the street, and if that let's say you go buy a pet store and they offer cookies or any store the bank where we live the dry cleaner, anywhere that offers dog cookies. I bet you can walk by six months later, and your dog will remember and just hit the brakes, and you tried to explain it's Sunday, the bank is open, but the dog's not having it. You know? So the dog emotionally registered and remembers how wonderful that cookie was. The same is true in reverse, uh, with a negative experience and, and multiplied by 10, uh, or 20 or 30, uh, because, and it would be the same for all of us. If you have an experience that is so profound and for our dogs and cats, these experiences are more profound than we understand. Uh, then you will remember, but that fear multiplies upon itself. Unless something is done about it. And that's what Fear Free is about. It's all about doing something about it. Because as I said, it doesn't need to be that way today. We have all sorts of tools and fancy things in our toolbox and we understand behavior modification more so let's use all of that. And that's what we do with  Fear Free. Now, one more, one more answer. So if 10 pets go to the clinic and they're feeling fear, anxiety, and stress, they're telling every other pet there, which is what you also suggested. So yes, they can pick up on those pheromones, but moreover, our pets pick up on our emotions. So if you see your dog or cat is a bit fearful, you are going to become anxious. If you become anxious, actually, the veterinary technician in the room may become anxious. Then the veterinarian becomes anxious because emotions are like that. They are contagious. We cannot vaccinate for them. But true enough, if you're on an airplane. A study was done to indicate that if the passenger, you don't have any fear of flying, but the passenger next to you is one of those white knucklers, you before the end of the flight, your knuckles are going to be a little bit white too, for reasons you can't even explain.

James: [00:19:16] I  have experienced that as someone who used to fly a hundred thousand miles a year, hopefully will someday again, uh, yeah, I I'm I'm kind of comfortable, but when I'm next to, or near someone who is super anxious, I can't help, but think. I just, I pick it up. So I guess that's part of how empathic you are, and of course we know our pets are really empathic. Let's talk about some of the tools and techniques that, that veterinarians who subscribed to this model are using and how it's different. 

Steve: [00:19:46] You don't have the time for me to go through all of that. So I just . Yeah. Well, I'm going to hit some bullet points. So the most well-known is for pets that are not absolutely terrified where the fear, anxiety and stress isn't in say, let's say the red zone for those animals. Uh, to be coaxed using for cats, maybe tuna for dogs. Um, maybe a little pieces of turkey dog, and it works, you know, I mean, uh, dogs and cats are like, guys, they can't multitask. So if the pet is thinking. I'm going to eat this hotdog and is having a great time or turkey dog and having a great time doing it. Or cat is jumping down in that tuna. Then at the same time that cat or dog is not going to be thinking, oh, I wonder if they're going to vaccinate me in the rear end or that happened last time. I'm going to look back there over. No, no, they're not going to do that because they're very busy eating. Does that work for every pet every time? No. Does that work for a whole lot of animals? Absolutely. But Fear Free is much more than that it is creating comfortable surfaces. For these pets. So they don't slip and slide the minute they walk into the exam room, it's for the veterinarian and the technicians to meet the cat where the cat is and dogs too to a great degree. So if the cat's still in the carrier, you can actually begin an exam with the cat in the carrier without believe it or not. You can go to YouTube for proof of this. There are still veterinarians that turn the carrier upside down and drop the cat onto the floor. No wonder why the cat is screaming afterwards. You know, I mean, think about it from the calf perspective, it is using pheromone products, a Feel Away and Adaptable to help the pets feel more comfortable in their own environments and, and strategically using those products it's using calming music. It's even doing things in the surgery suite to help these pets recover coming out of a dental or out of more serious surgeries. I mean, the list goes on and on and on, and it's just thinking really about what is best for the pets. Now, veterinarians will say, and rightly so, I've always thought about what's best for the pets. Of course. I have no doubt about that, but it is also thinking about the emotional health in a new way and in a different way. And we know that our dogs in particular, but cats as well are wired similar to how we are. We also know that any animal pretty much is an emotional being. They may not have the same emotions that we do, but anyone who is a pet parent for example, can tell me or a pet rabbit can tell me, of course they have emotions, but yet veterinarians 25 years ago. 35 years ago, we're taught that they really don't. And, and even as recently as any time before fear-free, we're taught, just get it done, get it done as soon as you can. So do what is medically necessary. And I agree. And certainly if a dog is hit by a car, you may not have time to deal with pheromones or whatever, whatever you need to do, 

James: [00:23:14] Light the candles and get the pheromones. Yeah. 

Steve: [00:23:16] But, but even, even emergency veterinarians now have found ways to utilize fear free and not only in America, by the way it's being utilized all over the, all over the world, 

James: [00:23:29] Are there suggestions you have for the pre vet visit. In other words, when you trying to round up your dog, cause we're a dog podcast , when you're trying to round up your dog to go to the vet so that what are the things that, that one might do to make it a little less stressful? Because like my dog kind of knows that when you go, you go right, we're going to the beach when we are left, we're maybe going to the veterinarian. 

Steve: [00:23:52] I want to live where you live, at least you'd have a choice about going to the beach. At least there's a 50 50 shot for your dog. 

James: [00:24:00] Usually it's usually the beach, but she's very, she's very trepidatious when we go left, because that doesn't always result in a fun experience.

Steve: [00:24:10] So whichever the wrong way turn is, I would make that turn. I would go a block and then go around the block, back to the good place. Then I would go two blocks out of the way and go back to the good place. It's about behavior modification. It's about then going to the veterinary clinic, going to the parking lot of the clinic and feeding your dog, not even going indoors then going inside the clinic and fear-free veterinary clinics, pre COVID, we're able to do this. You, you could go in and call them in advance and say, I just want a room to go into, I want a veterinary technician to come out. Maybe my veterinarian feed my dog and I go home. Veterinarians will gladly do that. Veterinarians want to make things better for your pets. That's why they do what they do. You know, 

James: [00:24:57] now I have goosebumps. That is so brilliant and so simplistic, but so profound. 

Steve: [00:25:04] You know, and, you know, I understand it's difficult to do that right now because of COVID, but the part about driving you can do and to the parking lot, you know, I, I, I can't tell you how many dogs will you arrive at the parking lot, they look up, they know where they are. I have videos of this, uh, and they're screaming, literally screaming. And then we laugh either because we're embarrassed or we laugh because, oh, that's kind of funny. Well, it's not funny. They're horrified. 

James: [00:25:33] Okay. Now let's talk about how brilliant Dr. Bakker was at marketing this positioning this, because it is for the benefit of the, of the pets, but it's also for the benefit of the veterinarians who you say are now getting, and this is being expanded well beyond the United States is going all over the world.

Steve: [00:25:52] Oh, from the veterinarian's perspective. I mean, if we go into the veterinarian more often businesses up, but if we go into the veterinarian more often than the veterinarian can do things, like say, oh, I'm discovering, fill in the blank early. So therefore I can treat it before you even see symptoms, you know? And then we're, there are people who say, and I'm, I'm passionate about preventative care. There are people who say, well, I know my dog is. You don't want to talk cats, but I will, uh, or cat is sick. Well, how the heck do you know? Do you do blood work out of your kitchen? Do you have a stethoscope at home? How do you know? I don't understand that. And yes, dogs will often tell us that they're not feeling well. Cats, in fact, rarely tell us they're not feeling well and other animals similar. If you have a pet lizard, they're not going to tell you a pet bird. Isn't going to tell you, uh, but even dogs oftentimes just don't. There is no way to know there's a heart murmur unless you have that stethoscope. There's no way to know that sadly, it may be a cancer diagnosis unless you do blood work and some types of cancers, just like in people, the earlier you discover it, the more likely you are with a successful outcome. Preventive medicine is used huge, but veterinarians. I don't care how good that veterinarian is. I have told Dr. Becker this, and he knows this. I said, you're a great veterinarian, but as great as you are, you cannot help pets. You're not seeing. You know, so, so we've got to do a better job on both ends Fear Free does that, it makes it more comfortable for the pets to come in, which makes it more comfortable for pet parents to bring their pets in that is beneficial for the veterinarians, because they're able to treat more successfully and yes, that's a business. So yes, they are going to do better. That way. It is safer for veterinary professionals that the pet isn't terrified and there's now data to show all of this, it's a happier workplace. I mean, it's tough to day in and day out, deal with animals who don't want to be there. It's much easier to deal with animals who are content to be there. They're kind of neutral, which is a lot of cats, or they're really happy to be there, which are some cats and a whole lot of dogs. I mean, this can be, and it's in the, it's being fixed. I mean, Dr. Becker now, and Fear Free not only Dr. Becker, because Fear Free is much more than Dr. Becker. There are so many individual veterinarians that are certified so many technicians for that matter dog trainers, by the way, dog groomers that are all certified in Fear Free, uh, entire practices that are certified. So it's, it's sweeping really the United States. And I've been, as you sadly point out around for some number of years, I have never seen an initiative takeoff. I was a part of one had to do with cats called Catalyst. Uh, there's still veterinary professionals who have no idea that organization exists. Fear Free. I, I can't imagine a veterinary professional, not having heard that term and the public because of a website. Oh, I've got to tell you about this. There's a website called And you know, the, Internet's not, I said some really great things earlier about social media, about the internet, lots of great information about our pets, but there is so much misinformation as well. Fear Free Happy Homes one of those places on the internet to tell us how to do it the right way, because everything, and I mean, everything written on this website has been reviewed by at least one veterinary behaviorist and a technician certified in behavior. Even my stories are reviewed by these absolute experts. Now, of course it's edited by an editor and that editor happens to be one of the top editors, Kim Thorton in the pet community. She's written and edited dozens, I think of books having to do with companion animals. So she's the editor, and then you have, it's like a peer review journal for pet parents. It's wonderful. But there's nothing. That they want for, there's nothing this website wants from you. Right. You know, it's a, it's all free. It's just information with some videos, some entertainment as well. Uh, some of what's on there as for kids having to do a dog bite prevention and all these other things. Uh, lots and lots about enrichment. 

James: [00:30:34] Okay. So I want to shift gears here a bit, Steve, but first we are going to take a quick break and we'll hear from our sponsors, we will be right back. 

James: [00:30:45] We are back with Steve Dale, Steve, let's talk about everyone's least favorite topic, which is the death of a pet. I've been wondering, how can you tell if a dog is depressed or grieving after another pet that they live with passes away?

Steve: [00:31:03] Did you go to a funeral today or something? I mean, all right. I can answer that. Um, uh, you know, so it's interesting because dogs respond very, very differently when another member of the household, that, that dog has had a relationship with passes away. Whether it be a human being, whether it be another dog or a cat. Some dogs seem absolutely impervious and they just go about their business the way they always did. Are they grieving in some way? We don't understand. I don't know the answer to that other dogs are clearly grieving. I mean, I don't know what else to call it. Uh, there's a change in behavior. They seem sad. It's probably because they are sad. Uh, so how do you know? Well, you know, your own dog, you know, the dog doesn't seem to, it isn't too different than our own grieving in some ways the dog wants to sleep longer. The dog doesn't want to get up and go with the dog seems uninterested in play. When the dog is playing, the dog wants to end the place sooner. The dog doesn't have the vigor about himself or herself. And if we're talking about an older dog, who's had a relationship with a dog for many, many years, and that older dog passes away and that 15 or 16 or 17 year old dog is the dog left. Just like with people that dog can begin to medically go downhill. You know, it's, it's not too different potentially. So, so, uh, yes, they have emotional relationships that in many ways that are not too different than our own, the way to deal with that or to help the animal get out of that funk? Well, the number one way time. Like with people 

James: [00:32:56] Time, let time pass.

Steve: [00:32:59] Yeah. It's okay. It's okay that they grieve. Having said that, try to follow a regular routine. Uh, if the dog is grieving, the dog is grieving for a reason. So family members probably are too, so good for you to go out and play with a tennis ball or a squeaky toy with the dog, or take walks with your dog. That would probably be as good for you as it is for that dog. Uh, and that can be very, very helpful

James: [00:33:25] A question that one of our listeners has recently posed, and so this is in my mind is if you're going to use a home euthanasia with one of your pets, which of course is increasingly popular and something that I think is sweet if you have the opportunity to do that. Should the other pets in the home be there or be around? 

Steve: [00:33:49] That is a great question. I think so, um, you know, we. Recently, fairly recently, it feels like yesterday in some ways, but it was over a year ago, lost the dog to hemangiosarcoma, which is a kind of blood cancer. And when dogs have that, they often go very quickly. We had no way to know that that was happening with our dog. I knew something was very wrong, but I had no idea that that's what it was and was shocked when that was the diagnosis. So we brought our dog to the veterinarian, not thinking the emergency clinic, not thinking that the diagnosis was going to be something terminal. So we brought our other dog with us. Um, we also didn't know how long we were going to be away. So there was a practical reason for that as well. And, uh, also the other dog would help my wife in particular feel better. Me too. So we brought the other dog along and those dogs were so bonded, our two dogs. The younger dog who was 10 at the time. Uh, the older dog was 13, I believe. Um, she was right there when the dog died. What she knew, what she didn't know. I don't know. You know, I don't think any of us do, um, probably knew something. And, and she was sniffing at her in a very different way than she typically might. Um, she didn't intently sniff at our dog, she lived with her every day. I mean, she, you know, there was no reason, but yet she began to do that as the dog was passing. Um, so did she know something was up? I think so. Did she completely comprehend why we weren't going home with that dog? I, you know, I don't know. What do you think?

James: [00:35:39] I don't know. I think it's a profound question and I think it's one that, uh, probably people grapple with, but don't have a solution to, to go with. And that's why I thought talking to a certified animal behaviorist. Um, 

Steve: [00:35:53] You know, if I, yeah, I, I think if you talk to 10 people, maybe you'd get 10 different opinions. I don't really know, but I do know that I feel it's beneficial to have all the animals there. And the only reason why I hesitate when I say that is because we have a pet lizard, I'm not sure the lizard needed to be there, you know, but, but, uh, we didn't bring the cat. Right. And that was kind of unfortunate. Of course, we didn't know what was going to happen if it were euthanasia in our house, and we've done that all the animals, mom, maybe except the lizard, but all the, all the animals are invited. Um, and would I force them? No. 

James: [00:36:35] Do you find that having these types of conversations is, um, right word is, I don't want to say helpful, but it they're, they're difficult conversations that you now because of social media get to have with your, uh, with your audience, do you, do you embrace that versus you know, being a Chicago Trib journalist and, and basically putting it out to the world. And do you like having more feedback with your following? 

Steve: [00:37:07] You know, there's nothing, I love more than, uh, talking to pet parents. Um, you know, and, and to think that maybe I've made a difference maybe in, in some individual pets lives. And if I have, then I've made a difference in families because pets are members of the family. Uh, so yeah, I, I think that's incredibly important and behavior is the number one reason animals die. It's not. The kind of cancer. I mentioned hemangiosarcoma or any kind of cancer. It's not heart disease or kidney disease. The number one cause of death still in our companion animals is behavior. So if I can help people then, and hopefully before the bond, uh, fractures, then, uh, perhaps I've made a difference. And I like to do it. I, I enjoy talking to people. I just enjoy doing it, but no surprise for a radio talk show host.

James: [00:38:09] So what is next for you once uh, as COVID, uh, hopefully lifts across the United States and the world, what what's next for Steve Dale? 

Steve: [00:38:19] Hopefully traveling more. So I just got back. I was at the airport at the airport. I had nowhere to go. I just showed up. No, I did have somewhere to go. Yeah. I did have, uh, somewhere to go and I went and I never thought I'd say it. Uh, I miss, I miss airports. I miss United Airlines. Um, but, but I did and do, and it was great to be back on the road again. Uh, and, and my hope is that I'll be able to do more and more of that, in 2021. And I certainly believe 2022. I hope so. Uh, I, you know, I enjoy speaking, uh, period, but, but I enjoy speaking virtually, but it's just not the same. It's just not, um, there's not that instant feedback. This is different because I'm actually having a conversation with you. But, but there isn't typically when I'm speaking at a conference, I'm not live I'm recorded. And even if it's live, I don't see the faces of the audience. It's just different. It's okay. But I definitely prefer being in Hawaii. Well, I'd prefer being in Hawaii, no matter what, what I happen to do. And for those who don't know what state are you in? 

James: [00:39:33] I'm in Hawaii. So yeah, basically you would suggest going right as opposed to going left, uh, when we get in the car. 

Steve: [00:39:40] Yeah. Well politically, maybe not, but yes, 

James: [00:39:44] It just happens to be the geography. So, um, I guess final question to wrap up as we talk a little bit about the pandemic, obviously. So many people went out and got pandemic pets, right? Yeah. Like, oh, I'll go. I'll go to the shelters. What do you see is going to happen as people return back to the office and leave these pets at home? 

Steve: [00:40:06] I think we're going to see, I think we're seeing it more separation anxiety, uh, and you know, there's a couple of reasons for that. I mean, people assume it's because shelter, pets more likely have separation distress. That is not necessarily the case. We don't know that that's the case. What we do know is that pets that have been rehomed several times are more likely to have that issue. So if you happen to have one of those pets, yes. We also are. I also believe, I should say because there's no data on what I'm about to say, but a change can be hard for people. It can be hard for dogs and cats. Uh, so in fact cats in particular, I mean, if you ask cat people, they'll say. W if I ask what, what a cat's dislike more than anything else in the world, they say change. And that would be right, but dogs, individual dogs are not necessarily different than that. And individual people are. So as the pandemic hit, a whole lot of people had a very difficult time. I just talked to a psychologist about the pandemic within a pandemic he called it and that is all of the mounting depression in adults and kids and, and anxiety, uh, that they're saying now the, the mental health departments of hospitals are overrun. Well, I'm not equating that with what our dogs are feeling, but definitely there's, there's a problem for many dogs when there's such an extreme change and they don't get an email. .Oh everyone's going to go back to work, kids are going back to school by we're gone.  They're they're not notified in advance, and there's no explanation for them as to what is suddenly in some cases about to happen. Uh, so. I, I believe we're already seeing more separation anxiety in dogs, and I think we're going to see even more of it. Uh, so far the shelters did not report it. At least not to me that they're seeing more people giving up their animals because okay, I had the animal here. I'm going back to work. I don't need them anymore. They're not seeing that. Certainly there are individuals who have done that, but that doesn't seem to be, uh, that, that seems to be by far happily the exception. rather than the rule, 

James: [00:42:19] Steve Dale is many things. A radio host, a journalist an author, but above all else, Steve Dale is an animal lover and I bet you are too. And I'm grateful that you decided to hit the play button and spend some time with us today on this podcast. Did you know that at Dog Podcast Network, we have a whole slate of shows, especially for dog lovers created by dog lovers, and I would like to encourage you to check out all of our shows on our main website at We really do care what you think about our program, and I hope you'll reach out to us and let us know if you have any thoughts or suggestions for people that you would like to hear on future episodes of this show, The Long Leash. We are available on all the social media channels. But the best way is to contact us via our website. The website address for this show is That's a And if you would like to, please click on the blue microphone icon located in the bottom, right of every page on the site and leave us a voicemail message. Just click the blue mic icon on a page on our website. Please follow us in your favorite podcast app. We're also available on YouTube. All the links to that are on  And while I'm asking you for things to do, do us a favor and consider telling one or two or three friends about it the long leash and about Dog Podcast Network, we really will appreciate that because that's how we grow this thing. That is all we have time for today. I'd like to thank you for listening. I'm James Jacobson, and on behalf of all of us here at Dog Podcast Network. I'd like to wish you and your dog a very warm aloha.