Skip to main content


We’re on a mission to provide resources and practical tips to pet people

How Much Fetch Is Too Much?

How does a pet steward satisfy a dog’s strong desire to play without turning it into an obsession? Most dogs love to play, and some dogs love it so much that it can become an obsessive behavior. When my wife and I adopted Bruno, a chocolate Labrador, the foster family told us that he would play fetch for hours. Uh-oh. When I worked at a dog daycare, among the 200 dogs I knew, there was one who herded plastic balls constantly, all day long, for several days a week, never taking… Continued

Can Acupuncture Help Pets with Painful Conditions?

This article describes how acupuncture treatments helped my dog and horse, each of whom had arthritis. It also describes the calming effect of acupuncture. The end of the article contains links to two acupuncture organizations, to help pet stewards find a certified veterinary acupuncture professional in their area. Long ago we adopted Charlie, a two-year old yellow Labrador. Charlie was athletic and playful, enjoying chasing balls and Frisbees and playing tug with me. By his 10th birthday he began slowing down and we adopted Jake, an adolescent black Labrador. They… Continued

Fallout is Not Good for You…or Your Pet (Part Two)

A dog cannot be in a relaxed and restful state while simultaneously in a state of fear.  The same is true for humans. You are likely familiar with the survival mechanism often referred to as fight-or-flight. Here’s a brief overview of how that response works: The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The PNS is associated with rest and digest processes, while the SNS is associated with fear and anxiety. They work in balance with one another, rather like… Continued

Fallout is Not Good for You…or Your Pet (Part One)

Recently I received an application from a potential client, who I will fictitiously call Jane Doe. Jane reported how she brought a boxer puppy into her life. Her primary concern was that her puppy was excited around new people, jumping on them, and she pulled on the leash. Jane took her pup to a group class, but her puppy was usually put behind a fence and got little help from the trainer. Excitability, jumping on people and pulling on leash sounded like typical puppy behavior and I thought, “Oh good,… Continued

Visiting Public Dog Parks, or Not

  It seems public dog parks are popping up all around the county I live in, and clients frequently ask me “What do you think about dog parks?” to which I reply, “I like the concept, but not like the consequences.” What Is the Concept of a Dog Park? A fenced property is provided for public use where folks may take their dogs to either play by themselves or with other dogs. Some parks have a single fence while others are divided into small dog spaces and large dog spaces.… Continued

Should I Play Tug with My Puppy?

Should I play tug with my puppy? Yes, with only a few simple rules. There are many myths in the world of dog training. One such myth is that playing tug with a dog encourages aggressive behavior. There is no evidence supporting that notion, so you can relax and play tug with your pup. So, why are puppies so mouthy? One common, if not universal, complaint I hear from puppy families is that their pups grab their clothing and tug. Consider that everything in the puppy’s world is a new… Continued

Rocket Man vs Squirrels – What to Do When Dogs Overreact to Things in the Environment

Do you live with a dog who goes bonkers upon seeing squirrels or rabbits during walks?  I often hear that complaint from pet stewards. Five years ago, I taught Rocket basic manners. He learned quickly but his family reported that, true to his terrier nature, he became very excited upon seeing squirrels and rabbits and launched himself toward them, earning the moniker of Rocket Man. The result for the person holding the leash was sore knees and shoulders, as Rocket unexpectedly bolted ahead. It was particularly concerning during winter conditions… Continued

Dear Bruno…I Wish You Would Not Bark at the Deer

Do you live with a dog who enters “barking frenzy” mode when a critter appears?  Perhaps it is a squirrel, a rabbit, another dog, or even the mail delivery person. Maybe your dog even perches by the window waiting for things to come into view so he can bark and “make” them go away. When my wife and I still had Buddha and Gandhi in our lives we spent most of our free time on the porch, enjoying the wildlife that came to our feeding stations. Sometimes they came much… Continued

What is a “Positive” Dog Trainer?

Let’s say you want to find a great trainer for your dog and so you do a web search. The search results in several web links and you check them out, seeking the best result for your beloved pet.  What might you find? Lack of Industry Regulation and Oversight First, understand that among about 50,000 dog “trainers” in the United States, there is no standard, regulation or oversight.  Any single person who wishes to call themselves a “dog trainer” is…voila, a “dog trainer.”  There is no need for qualification or… Continued

Teaching a Fearful Dog Trust and Skills – In That Order

Teaching is a proactive process, rather than a reactive one.  The goal is to prevent unwanted behaviors, rather than wait for them to occur and then try to remedy the situation.  Helping Maizey When a client asked for help with Maizey, a dog with several fear triggers, I resolved to begin with a proactive plan. Maizey had a history of fear of strangers, fear of trucks, fear of other dogs and excessive arousal upon seeing squirrels. Her behavior responses included barking and lunging which made it stressful for her family… Continued

The Giveaway: On the Loss of a Beloved Pet

For the first time, I missed the writing deadline for my monthly PPG blog this month.  Sadly, it was unavoidable, as I could muster neither the energy or the words to do so. We each lose our beloved pets, and in the past couple of years I have read far too many posts from PPG colleagues expressing the loss of their pet, most of whom have been dogs.  I read each post with tears in my eyes, sharing the sorrow with my dear force-free colleagues, remembering my own painful losses.… Continued

Project Trade: Revisited

In March of 2016, the Pet Professional Guild rolled out Project Trade, an international advocacy program promoting the use of force-free pet equipment by asking pet guardians to swap aversive gear for a discount on services.  The aversive gear was identified as shock, prong, and choke collars. I was one of the initial members of Project Trade, who now number about 56 pet professionals in several nations.  Together we have collected many aversive collars and freed pet dogs from the fear, pain, and intimidation that equipment once inflicted.  Just as… Continued

Preventing Resource Guarding in Dogs

Resource guarding is a dog’s natural tendency to protect valued possessions such as food, toys or resting locations. From a dog’s perspective, the approach of a person or animal is a potential threat to losing the valued possession. The behavior reflects a lack of trust and a fear of loss. Dogs in the wild must guard their food, water and shelter or they cannot survive. Domestic dogs will of course survive if someone takes their chew bone away, but their behavior is influenced by 32,000 years of evolution. If a… Continued

Stumbling through Puppy Socialization

In 1983 my wife and I moved into our first home on a ¾ acre lot in a small city and could finally have a puppy.  She was a black Labrador Retriever whose AKC registration name was Monona Midnight Melody, but we called her Samantha. We knew nothing about raising a puppy and there were not abundant dog trainers to work with, nor could we have afforded them at the time. I bought the best-selling dog training book available and tried to teach Samantha according to the instructions of the… Continued

Living with a Dog Who’s Going Deaf

Buddha, my black Labrador, has always had a sharp sense of hearing.  Teaching him to respond to word cues was easy, and I also taught him several hand cues.  Doing so probably saved his life on one occasion. About eight years ago a solar panel system was installed on our barn roof.  That required a crew of workers to have access in, out and on top of our barn for three days straight.  I put our horse and sheep in their paddock and let my three Labradors play in their… Continued

Reinforce the Behavior You Prefer

Last night I was relaxing on the screened porch with my Labradors, Buddha and Gandhi. The porch faces the backyard and leads to a deck. It is a comfortable and quiet spot where we spend a lot of time and enjoy watching the wildlife. Living in the countryside means the variety of wildlife ranges from mice to deer and coyote, and everything in between. It started as a hot and muggy day, but by afternoon a cold front swept across the state with drenching rains and cooling temperatures. By the… Continued

Finding the Upside of a Pandemic

In what seems like the blink of an eye the COVID-19 pandemic changed the whole world, and has hit the dog service industry particularly hard. There certainly are a lot of things on the downside, but I am finding some very nice things on the upside too. They just require some searching and creativity. Like so many pet service providers, clients have cancelled my pet sitting appointments since they are sequestered at home and not traveling, and my in-home training and behavior services had to stop in order to prevent… Continued

Tips to Help Your Reactive Dog

As a certified canine behavior consultant I enjoy working with “reactive” dogs. Yes, I said enjoy. Helping a dog and their guardian overcome this common behavioral issue is truly joyful for everyone involved. This is a long post…entire books have been written on this topic after all. I want to give you some virtual help during the global pandemic which has us sheltering at home. So feel free to get a cup of coffee or tea and then continue reading. What “reactive” means This refers to canine behavior in which a… Continued

COVID-19 and Pet Dogs

(Updated 3-16-20) Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread rapidly around the world, and on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global pandemic, issuing daily situation reports as this is a very fluid health crisis. WHO identified 90% of cases of human infection to be in China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. The origin of this new Coronavirus strain has been identified as Wuhan city (China) and was thought to have made the jump from animals in a live-animal market to humans. The exact origin of COVID-19 is… Continued

The Five Freedoms and Shirley

I had planned to write about a different topic today, but life often gets in the way of our plans — such as having to euthanize one of my pets yesterday. She was just shy of 15 years and that is very old, for sheep. Her name was Shirley and she has a story to tell. My wife and I first met Shirley in the spring of 2006 at a lambing event on a nearby farm. There must have been 100 sheep with scores of their babies, all available for… Continued

Icy Conditions Put People and Pets at Risk

My childhood winters were cold and snowy and I do not remember any freezing rain when I walked to school or played outside. Climate change has since warmed our region and I now find myself having to deal with winter rain, often creating unsafe icy conditions. That makes daily animal care far riskier. For one month last winter in southern Wisconsin (USA) we had intermittent light snow and freezing rain. My barnyard, driveway and the trails upon which I walked my dogs became dangerously slick.  Just walking 100 yards up… Continued

Opinion: Puppies Are Poor Christmas Gifts

It may be tempting for parents to get a puppy for their kids as a special Christmas gift. We have probably all seen TV programs and holiday movies where that scene played out joyfully on screen. And there was always a happy ending. But Christmas puppies do not always have happy endings. Modern families seem busier than ever. Often, both parents work full time, the kids are away at school during the day and are being transported to and from athletic and social activities on weeknights and weekends. That leaves… Continued

They Call Him Rocket Man

Dog trainers enjoy the privileged opportunity of influencing the life and welfare of other people’s pets. With that comes great responsibility to only use methods and equipment which are modern and effective, while promoting a positive relationship as the dog becomes a full member of the family. In short, we must do everything which is in the best interest of the welfare of the pet and their family. On February 7th of 2016 I began a journey with a Welsh Terrier named Rocket, but everyone calls him Rocket Man. Rocket… Continued

Pushing and Pulling are for Luggage, Not for Dogs

One of my recent puppy clients was a precocious fellow named Colt. He was hardly bigger than the family cat, and it was the first puppy the family ever had. From day one we covered all the basics of raising a puppy, with an emphasis on keeping things safe and fun, and applying the training skills in everyday life. Each time I work with a “first time puppy” family I am reminded of the enormous amount of work which is required of them, and how easily they forget what I… Continued

1 2 3 4