When it comes to advocating for the welfare of dogs, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate than best-selling author, dog trainer, and video producer Larry Kay. He, along with President Obama's dog trainer, authored the award-winning book Training the Best Dog Ever—the #1 selling dog training book on Amazon Kindle and winner of two national book awards. While his first book focuses on what we can teach our dogs, his acclaimed second book, Life's A Bark: What Dogs Teach Us About Life and Love shows that our dogs have just as many valuable lessons to teach us! He's also the contributing editor for Dog Fancy Magazine, reports on the Westminster Dog Show for AOL, and last but not least, he manages his popular website, Positively Woof (a.k.a. P-Woof).
As a former senior producer of kids' entertainment for the Disney Internet Group, Larry's now using his video production skills to raise awareness about shelter animals. His latest project for P-Woof is Dog Rescue Stars—a video series starring shelter dogs in Southern California in need of forever homes. Not only do the videos showcase their adorable physical traits, but the dogs also perform impressive tricks, proving that there is no such thing as an "untrainable" dog, no matter their history.
We recently had the chance to speak to Larry Kay about his exciting Dog Rescue Stars video series, as well as get to the heart of his deep devotion and love for his four-legged friends.
Your terrific blog, Positively Woof, celebrates the ages-old bond between humans and dogs. We'd love to know about your own personal bond with dogs. When and how did your deep love and respect for canines develop?
One dog changed my life: Higgins, a rescued Golden Retriever. I adopted him when he was 15 months old and he lived 15 1/2 years. I learned training with him (and years later dedicated my award-winning book, Training the Best Dog Ever, to him). I made films with him (especially the award-winning Animal Wow DVD to teach preschool kids about dog safety and dog care). A month after Higgins crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I began writing a new book, Life's A Bark: What Dogs Teach Us About Life and Love.
Your credo is "when we discover pets, we discover ourselves." How did you discover yourself through your pets?
Higgins impacted every part of my life. In addition to my professional transformation, Higgins and I became avid hikers and walkers. He helped me meet all my neighbors and some still mention him. My irrational fear about having a pet as an adult was a loss of independence. Of course, what little I gave up got replaced with love, connection, play, laughs -- everything that I got to share with my readers in Life's A Bark.
Aside from authoring two acclaimed books and maintaining a highly successful blog, your latest project is producing fun videos starring shelter dogs (from Pet Orphans of Southern California) in search of forever homes! We find them especially awesome because they dispel the myth that shelter dogs are "un-trainable." What impact have these videos been making on adoptions?
We've helped more than 20 dogs get adopted with just the handful of films we've made so far for Positively Woof's new channel on YouTube. I started the project after I learned that the single biggest reason that shelter dogs don't get adopted is TRAINING. I love to take problems and flip them upside-down. In this case, the flip is: What if we train shelter dogs like MOVIE dogs? We'd get homes for the dogs, show how awesome shelter dogs are, and help the shelter I volunteer at: Pet Orphans of Southern California.
We know that many of the adorable shelter dogs in the videos found homes—yay! Can you please share one or two particularly amazing success stories with us?
So many heart-warming stories -- that's what feeds my team and me to invest the time and money to make these films! For example, the star of our Valentine's Day video, Tammy, a terrier mix, got adopted while we were filming! Tammy had the best week of her life getting her "Forever Home" and being among Dog Rescue Stars (that's the name of P-Woof's video series). At the same time we made a film just for Trusty, a Basset Labrador mix with a really fun personality. Trusty had been at the shelter for an entire year without getting adopted. We helped bring out the best in that beast :-) so much that one of the shelter staff adopted him and now he's the resident Pet Orphans Am-Bass-Ador (Basset-Labrador, get it?)
Our newest video for the Fourth of July stars 12 shelter dogs and two of them have gotten homes as of today.
Who helped train the dogs for the videos?
Tricia Casper, CPDT-KA, is our certified trainer. Mostly, she's behind the scenes, but here she is on camera with our new Training Tips videos (if you look closely, you'll also see me and my producer, Jone Bouman, training). Tricia Casper is the perfect trainer to launch the project because in addition to being a great, positive trainer, she is a former Film/TV animal safety monitor for American Humane's "No Animals Were Harmed" program. Producer Jone Bouman is the former National Communications Director for that important program. We've hired American Humane to monitor some of our film productions and we're honored that those films carry the "No Animals Were Harmed" end credit.
Do you have any advice and words of encouragement to offer other shelters and rescue groups across the world?
Please keep in touch with me on Positively Woof's Facebook page. Send me a message and mention this interview. We're in planning stages on a new shelter initiative that highlights the innovative projects that shelters are doing around the country. I'm really excited about this new project that we get to launch because of the success we're having with the Dog Rescue Stars films.
Do you have a pet right now?
Actually, I don't have a pet right now. I'm spending so much time at Pet Orphans with so many dogs and cats. Don't be surprised if I adopt one of them soon!
Finally, if your pets could speak and we asked them to describe you, what do you think they would say?
They'd say I work too hard and don't play enough! But when I play, I bring training and socialization to every moment and make it fun with good treats. But they'd say I'm stingy with the treats (which I'd answer that the tiny morsels keep them wanting more!). They'd say that I'm kind and see the best in them. And I taste good and tolerate total face lickies.