Hi, I’m Nemo! A 2-year-old male Pitbull Mix, ID#A064452. I am by definition, “a happy-go-lucky” dog! While my exuberance in my kennel can seem excessive, beyond its walls, I’m high-spirited and carefree! Tail wagging and with a radiating smile, I’m bursting with joy to socialize with people, and there’s always a pep in my step on walks. Since toys are my poison, and I’m always “on your mark, get set, GO” for playtime, prepare to unleash a kind of fun that you’ll never want to end! Admittedly, cues in “sit” and “stay” are foreign to me, and my manners can be inconsistent. The source of my limitations is due to never being afforded any training. Which I believe, if given the opportunity, I would soar! So, if you are an adopter that lives an active lifestyle — hikers, avid walkers, and runners strongly encouraged to apply — and you can provide me with a high level of regular enrichment and some training, every day will surely be an epic adventure with me!

The Santa Monica Animal Shelter is located at 1640 9th Street in Santa Monica. Walk-in adoptions may be accommodated, but appointments are preferred and can be made by calling (310) 458-8595, Tuesday through Saturday, between 8 pm and 5 pm. For a full list of their adoptables, and more information about the shelter and animal control, visit santamonica.gov, and go to Animal Services. To learn about ways to donate, visit the Santa Monica Animal Shelter Foundation at smasf.org.


As a dog behaviorist and trainer, the #1 inquiry I receive for behavior modification is leash reactivity. The common denominator in all leash behavior is that regardless of age, breed, how or where a dog is acquired or adopted, walking is instinctual for dogs, but being on leash while meeting our expectations is not! Consequently, leash training is required. From rewards, dog walking equipment, obedience cues, socialization, counter conditioning, and your relationship. To understanding your dog’s learning threshold, body language, and managing and preventing undesirable behaviors. Leash training is comprehensive, takes time, and even more patience. Regardless of whether your dog is trained, being proactive on walks now can help manage their behavior, encourage their strengths, and even create an engaging stroll with them!

Choose force free dog walking equipment that is appropriate to your dog’s needs on leash to help guide and encourage them in a positive way.

Keep your dog motivated to respond to you by using their preferred high value rewards. Limit them to dog walking so that they may hold their value.

Be aware of the environment by sticking to areas that offer the least number of distractions.

Have your dog walk beside you more often than ahead, or behind you so that it is easier for you and your dog to engage with each other.

Check in with your dog frequently by calling their name and offering praise and rewards for looking at you.

Make it fun by offering games such as “find it” with treats, and targeting play with the “touch” cue so that you are more interesting than what may distract them.

Use the obedience cues that your dog is familiar with throughout their walks. By doing so, your dog has the practice to respond to your management when you need it the most.

Dogs have peripheral hearing, and they can smell up to 100,000 times better than we can. They will be able to detect a trigger that you may not notice until they are reacting. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language for any nuanced and overt flags that they are becoming increasingly distracted, which can be a precursor to a reaction. Some include pinned back ears, panting, licking lips, targeted stares, stiff body language, freezing, pulling, not being able to look at you, or take rewards.

Address flags at that time. Call your dog’s name. When your dog looks at you, give praise, rewards, and use a verbal cue like “let’s go” to keep them walking so that they may disengage with the distraction, resetting them back to you.

Inevitably there will be times when you are not able to address flags. Once your dog reacts, they will likely not be able to respond to you at all. At that point, distance yourself from the trigger, and if necessary, leave the environment to prevent their reaction from escalating.

While there is no replacement for behavior modification training — especially if your dog struggles to respond to these tips — being proactive on walks gives you tools to manage their behavior to help prevent reactivity, building on your dog’s leash skills, and paving the way for an enjoyable walk for the two of you!

Pet of the Week is provided by Carmen Molinari. A longtime volunteer at the Santa Monica Animal Shelter and founder and CEO of Love At First Sit®, a pet care and dog behavior & training company in Santa Monica. Learn more at loveatfirstsit.net and Instagram.com/loveatfirstsit.