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The Impact of Canine DNA Testing: Mapping the Future

In May 2016, Embark launched its comprehensive pet genetic test in partnership with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. According to Embark’s website, the test will track “over 200,000 genetic markers, offering ancestry analysis as well as an extensive overview of both genetic disease risk and heritable traits, allowing users to understand their dog’s health, plan for his future and provide the best personalized care possible.” Embark further states that “four out of 10 dogs will suffer from inherited diseases,” and that the test, more than just a breed… Continued

A Beautiful Life with a Visually Impaired Dog

This interview features Lutz, Florida-based trainer Angelica Steinker explaining how she discovered that her new puppy Particle was visually impaired, and outlining the environmental and management adjustments she has made to ensure he can still live his life to the fullest By Susan Nilson Puppy parent, professional dog trainer, and agility and dock diving specialist Angelica Steinker, founder and president of the Courteous Canine in Tampa, Florida, found herself with an unexpected challenge when she realized her newly adopted border collie puppy, Particle, was having issues with his vision. Steinker… Continued

Examining Training Methods

This article delves into the differences of opinion regarding the philosophical approach and structure toward pet training and highlights the need for trainers – and pet owners – to be cognizant of what an animal is communicating, their emotional state, and to understand how and why they are reacting or responding to a specific situation or context By Susan Nilson and Niki Tudge Significantly, there is no consensus across the pet industry with regards to the suitability and appropriateness of the different best practice models. In 2012, the Pet Professional… Continued

A Better Dog-Human Understanding

By Susan Nilson Marco Adda is a freelance dog behavior consultant, independent researcher, dog-human facilitator (or dog trainer if you prefer), animal advocate, and educator who is passionate about all things canine. He describes himself as a “globetrotter who moves through different continents” but is now considering settling in one place to set up his own canine center offering several programs of education, training, research, animal assisted intervention, and community activities around dogs, humans and other animals. In 2012, Adda initiated preliminary observations of Bali street dogs (BSD). The observations… Continued

Punishment in Animal Training

This article examines the growing body of research indicating that reward-based training, and the subsequent absence of stress, anxiety, pain, force, and fear, may improve an animal’s ability to learn; and that aversive training techniques can have adverse effects on a dog’s behavior       By Susan Nilson and Niki Tudge   The United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child (2006), defines corporal or physical punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light…Physical punishment… Continued

How Animals Learn

This article presents an overview of the types of learning, animal emotions vs. animal behaviors, applied behavior analysis, and choice and empowerment in animal training     By Susan Nilson and Niki Tudge   Like humans, animals can learn in a healthy, humane and safe manner, or, conversely, through pain, force and fear. In cases of high emotional arousal (“emotional hijacking”), the emotional brain inhibits the rational brain and an animal will go into fight or flight mode. In biological terms, this means it is difficult, if not impossible, for… Continued

Advocating for Humane Techniques

This article examines the scientific data on aversive dog training methods, and discusses: Potential fallout such as habituation, learned helplessness, pain sensitivity, physical damage, emotional damage, and contact force; The stance on punishment in dog training taken by numerous professional organizations; Understanding basic behavioral science; Alternative, positive reinforcement training protocols for more optimal results.     By Susan Nilson and Niki Tudge The current scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain, have… Continued

Canine Communication and Social Behavior

This article highlights the importance of dog training and behavior professionals being fluent in reading canine communications so they can understand a dog’s emotional state at any given moment in any given context, as well as be able to educate owners when a dog is experiencing a negative emotional state, such as fear, stress, or anxiety. Dogs often feel stressed or anxious in certain situations and will give signs to indicate their discomfort. In such cases, there is a need for awareness and, if appropriate, intervention to prevent pushing a… Continued

#PPGSummit 2015: The Future Is Now

At times, with all the cruelty and destruction in the world, it can seem disheartening for pet professionals who are trying to make a stand for animals, to be their voice and ensure they get the best care possible and are never subjected to pain and suffering along the way. While there is still great resistance from many quarters regarding the power of training via positive reinforcement – scientific study notwithstanding – as everyone in attendance at the PPG Summit already knows, the results speak for themselves. As Ken McCort… Continued

The Best Laid Plans: Adding a New Dog to the Fold

How to introduce a new dog or cat to a home with resident pets has been well-documented by many an expert. Personally, I have done it successfully so many times over the years I rarely bat an eyelid when another creature needs a place to stay. So bringing home dog #5 wasn’t really much cause for concern. I knew our dogs would be okay with her and eventually the cats too, but the dog herself was something of an unknown quantity. No worries I thought, we can handle it. I… Continued

What Does “Aggressive” Look Like Anyway?

I was recently looking for photos of dogs displaying “aggressive behavior” for an article in BARKS from the Guild, the quarterly publication produced by the Pet Professional Guild. There were plenty of them in the image library. Pictures of dogs showing their teeth that is. The only problem was, not a single one of the dogs was actually being aggressive even though they had been tagged as such. All I could find were photos of dogs showing their teeth with soft lips and facial expressions, and pictures of dogs playing,… Continued

Resource Guarding: Knowing the Signs

Daisy was a serial resource guarder. Whether this was genetics, early learning, her experiences living rough or a combination of all three, I found out about it the hard way when I walked past her one day and she was chewing on a bone in a doorway. Of course, I should have thought of it but didn’t. I got too close for her liking so she nipped at my shin. Fortunately she had (and still has) a degree of bite inhibition so it wasn’t deep – but she did draw blood. I… Continued

Understanding Canine Body Language Essential to Preventing Dog Bites

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is promoting education and a better understanding of canine body language as paramount in reducing the number of dog bites this National Dog Bite Prevention Week, taking place 18 – 24 May, 2014. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there is an estimated population of 70 million dogs currently living in U.S. households and about 4.5 million people – most of them children – are bitten by dogs every year. However, the majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable. In spite of… Continued