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Not All “Choices” Are Equal

Shout-outs to Companion Animal Psychology for the post, The Right to Walk Away” which covers the effects of offering that particular choice in animal experiments, and encourages us to apply the concept to our animals’ lives. Also to Yvette Van Veen for her piece,  “A” Sucks “B” Stinks What Kind of Choice is That? , which definitely has some “rant” commonalities with this post of mine. We positive reinforcement-based trainers often point out that our dogs have the choice not to participate in a training session. I think giving the animal “the right to… Continued

Let Rats Decide

I generally write a lot about dog body language in my blog.  I discuss letting animals have a say in how and when they are handled and touched. I talk some about how to perceive their answers through observation. And I have shown, in my most popular post of all time, dogs communicating “yes” and “no” about whether they want to be touched. It’s a mini lesson about body language as well as a proposal that we let the dogs decide whether they want to be petted. So you can imagine I was delighted… Continued

Distinguishing Ourselves as Force-Free Professionals

Some time ago I engaged in an online conversation with a dozen or more force-free trainers and the subject of professional certification came up. Most of the trainers had CPDT-KA credentials and some were considering letting them lapse because they saw little value in it. Others were new to the business and planned on testing for certification. One very experienced trainer rejected the need for certification and declared dog owners did not care about credentials. In my experience only two or three owners ever asked basic questions to determine whether… Continued

Dog Bites and the Importance of Education

I was very fortunate to be able to attend PPG Special Council member Victoria Stilwell​’s second Annual Dog Bite Prevention and Behaviour Conference, held earlier this month at the University of Lincoln in England. The conference is a national event dedicated to finding practical and workable solutions to the issue of dog bites through education and heightened awareness. It began with a welcome introduction by Victoria Stilwell, which had us all eagerly awaiting the presentations that were to follow. Three of the presenters hailed from the University of Lincoln itself.… Continued

Use of Reiki in Pets

Reiki is a Japanese technique, based on the teaching of Mikao Usui in 1922, for stress reduction and relaxation that is also stated to promote healing 1. Practitioners believe that the human body is made up of energy and Reiki balances the human energy fields known as Auras, and energy centers known as Chakras 1. Although some practitioners swear by the benefits of Reiki, there are still limited research studies to provide evidenced-based practice guidelines and recognized results to prove its reliability and its use should not be substituted for… Continued

Murphy the Hero Dog

by Beth Napolitano Dogs have an intense ability to smell. Around 60 percent of a dog’s brain is dedicated to being able to identify, sort and locate smells. All dogs have the ability to smell and track multiple odors simultaneously, but many times pet dogs don’t know how to make use of their noses. However, many dogs also figure out how to use their gift.  Murphy, a beagle who has had no training in scent whatsoever, has managed to do this. When Murphy was about six months old he suddenly started… Continued

Non-Aggressive Behaviors as a Precursor to Outright Aggression

Certain non-aggressive behaviors are often overlooked, yet can be a precursor to outright aggression if the dog is pushed to the point of no return. Colleen Pelar investigates the issues of escape and avoidance in the child-dog relationship. Originally published in BARKS from the Guild as Less Is More, May 2015, page 27. Is Avoidance Okay? Many people divide dog behavior into two categories: aggressive and non-aggressive. That is logical enough, but there are plenty of non-aggressive behaviors that indicate that a dog could still do with some help. If… Continued

Before You Share That “Cute” Dog and Baby Picture…

First things first. I didn’t write this with you in mind. Let’s not make this about your dog or your parental decisions. But there’s a problem with sharing that “cute” dog and baby picture. The problem is bigger than your individual situation, your family. The problem is that posting a picture such as the one above sets an example and feeds a dangerous myth. A myth so dangerous that people die because of it. Children, especially, are hurt, and sometimes die because of it. The myth is that good dogs, family dogs, your dogs–don’t bite. The myth… Continued

Lots Of Fine Dogs!

I have a friend who, no matter what crisis he’s going through, will tell you he’s fine. While shopping one day I came across a t-shirt that reminded me of my friend. The shirt had a picture of a cow lying in a field with her legs straight up in the air, like a dead insect; the caption read, “I’m fine”. Because we’re of the same species, we can usually tell when people close to us are not fine by their signs. Maybe it’s the way they talk or their… Continued

Remedial Socialization

  I’m embarking on a new adventure in remedial socialization. I have a foster dog who is wonderful with other dogs, but totally avoids humans whenever possible. Sally is playful and sweet once you get to know her, but her first impression leaves a lot to be desired. Since she is reluctant to approach new people, Sally, and dogs like her, linger in shelters due to their inability to connect with potential adopters. I have coached quite a few clients through similar issues and have helped two of my other… Continued

An Open Letter to Canine Research Scientists

PPG Member Linda Michaels MA PCT-A calls on canine research scientists to lead the way on the ethical treatment of companion animals and take a stand against shock collars. It would require a long list to delineate the benefits of companion animal canine research conferences and live streams. Admirably, these conference bring canine researchers into the mainstream of the canine applied practices fields, i.e., dog training. Many pet parents and trainers take careful note of scientific positions and plan to incorporate the lessons-learned into their practice. The researchers benefit in… Continued

The Nose Knows

A well-known test devised in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. is used to determine whether an animal recognizes himself in a mirror. This “mirror test” is widely regarded as the “gold standard” for determining whether an animal is self-aware, that is, recognizes himself as a distinct individual and has a concept of self. This test may very well do that — sometimes, for some animals. Chimpanzees and some other primates pass easily; elephants and dolphins also pass. Most dogs do not, and, for many scientists, this is held up… Continued

Why Self-Control is Better than “Discipline”

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘discipline’ as: ‘The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.’ The word ‘discipline’ not only carries with it the baggage of “force” and “dominance,” but also a hint of worthiness. And yet, ‘that dog needs discipline’ is a phrase we may still hear on a regular basis. ‘That dog needs to be taught some self-discipline’ is a lot more appropriate because it drops the implications of punishment. The definition of ‘self-discipline’ is: ‘The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.’ Discipline… Continued

The Psychological Contract – A System of Beliefs That Needs to Be Articulated to Your Client

Written by Niki Tudge Copyright 2015 When you embark on a consulting or training relationship you should first ensure you have a professional consulting contract with your client. As a professional working with animals there are multiple liability risks open to you. Most of these liabilities will stem from one of three areas. If, as a trainer, you are negligent and do not take reasonable measures to prevent a foreseeable injury from occurring during your contract period, then you are liable. You can also be found liable if you violate… Continued

Tired Dogs, Good Dogs, Dogs Being Dogs

“How much exercise does my dog need?” This question sounds straightforward enough, but peel it apart and you’ll find it has several layers. Inquiring dog owners crave reassurance that they’re doing right by their dogs, meeting their needs. Also embedded in the query may be “I love my dog but…how can I get her to leave me alone when I’m trying to relax?” And sometimes, let’s be honest because we’ve all been there, it’s a plea for a manageable minimum investment of time: “Life is crazy busy, and I don’t want… Continued

Six Myths about Positive Reinforcement-Based Training

Positive reinforcement-based training is subject to a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Many people genuinely don’t understand how it works, and others seem to deliberately misrepresent it. Some of these misunderstandings and misrepresentations are very “sticky.”  Misunderstandings, straw men, myths–call them what you will, but they are out there and they are potent. Here are six that are quite common. There are many more out there. For example, I didn’t even hit on “dogs trained with R+ are obese” or “R+ training only works for tricks and easy dogs” or “R+… Continued

Sheepherding, from the Lamb’s Perspective (Part Two)

Following my first interview with the lambs I was intrigued and felt even more determined to understand the experience of sheepherding from their perspective, so the next time Renee brought Chris and Rue to practice I went into covert “sheep mode” and joined the flock. Oh, I did not don a silly lamb outfit. It was much too hot for that. I maintained a low profile and did my best to blend among the lambs wearing a white t-shirt to match their fleece, and khaki shorts to match the sunburned… Continued

Laying the Foundations

This article was written by Barb Levenson and first published in BARKS from the Guild, July 2014, pp. 24-26. I was attending an agility trial recently and was sitting by the crating area massaging my dog. A couple sitting behind me had two Labradors, the older one their agility competition dog. This dog was allowed to be loose on his mat, unleashed and uncrated. I turned around to see him with his back to his owner and his nose in the rear of a nearby dog. The man called the… Continued

BARKS Podcasts – Teach Me Force-Free

Teach Me Force-Free  If you’re gonna teach me, teach me force-free  People can be good and kind and that’s a great philosophy  I can flourish, I can learn if you’ll just help me  Show me, guide me, be my friend and train me happy  I can be the best dog I can be if you believe in me  And if you’re gonna teach me, teach me force-free  If you’re gonna teach me, teach me force-free. © Maria Daines/Paul Killington  Written and recorded for The Pet Professional Guild

Can you FIX my dog?

When clients contact me, they often ask, “Can you fix my dog?” It has become something I smile about now, but nonetheless a pet peeve.  There’s nothing wrong with the word itself, but let’s take a look at it applied to a living, breathing animal. Used as a verb to FIX something by definition is to fasten (something) securely in a particular place or position and that is not something to do with dogs, although I am sure your imagination can give a quick picture of what that might look… Continued

How Best Not to Catch a Loose Dog

Stolen dogs are constantly in the news at the moment. Losing a dog is not always because someone has taken him, however. He may have simply run off and become lost or have been stolen then dumped. He may have escaped from the yard, something may have spooked him on a walk or he may simply have been on a chase and ignored all your shouts for him to come back. Remember the Fenton YouTube clip that went viral? People laughed, but it wasn’t really funny. What is the best thing… Continued

What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  William Shakespeare was right when he penned those words to his classic play over 400 years ago because regardless of what you call a rose, it won’t change its intoxicating scent. But what about other labels? Unfortunately when it comes to our dogs, cats and other domestic animals, what we call them may very well define our relationship with them and quite possible influence laws that need to protect them from abuse.… Continued

Provide for Your Pet’s Care in an Emergency

One of the saddest things I see at the shelter is pets whose owners have passed away and left no provision for them in their wills. These pets are heartbroken and confused. I’m sure their owners would be devastated to know their beloved friend is pining in the animal shelter. If you love your pet, it is well worth your time to be sure your companion will be cared for in the event of illness or death. It is a good idea to have plans for an emergency as well… Continued

Very Clear on the Concept

Jana started learning concepts and putting things into categories way back when she was a puppy, before Chaser was even born. Chaser is the most famous “categorizing” dog; she has learned the names of well over 1,000 items and can group them into the right categories: toys, balls, Frisbees, etc. In addition, she has demonstrated an understanding of grammar, correctly taking one item to another, for example. She also can watch, remember, and imitate complex strings of behaviors. Chaser’s story is told in Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who… Continued

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