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“Bad” Dogs Make Good Teachers

OK, I’ll admit it, I’m having a tiny bit of puppy envy. I’m working with a private client and his 13 week old springer spaniel. This wide-eyed cutie pie has already met everyone and everything on the ASPCA socialization list except the hot air balloon (and since we’re not in Albuquerque, we can probably skip this one). He’s game for anything and well on his way to being practically bomb-proof. He’s had very few chances to develop exasperating habits. He started learning basic manners the moment he stepped through the… Continued

The Many Faces of Behavior Myopia: Recognizing the Subtle Signs

By Angelica Steinker and Eileen Anderson with additional contributions by Jan Casey and Niki Tudge. Originally published in BARKS from the Guild, October 2014. The fundamental goal of any behavior modification program should be to improve the dog’s (1) and owner’s emotional states, both during and after the process. If emotional, genetic or medical information is omitted from the functional assessment process however, the ensuing behavior modification plan will be incomplete, which not only runs the risk of recommended interventions being inappropriate and misdirected, but may also have disastrous consequences. Unfortunately,… Continued

LEFT FOOT OR RIGHT FOOT – What is the best foot to start forward when heeling?

LEFT FOOT OR RIGHT FOOT – What is the best foot to start forward when heeling? by Barb Levenson For years most obedience people, except yours truly, have been taught to start heeling with their left foot, the foot closest to the dog. I started my obedience training in Dallas with two individuals who were teaching a beginner obedience class at a local high school. I didn’t know at the time they had multiple OTCH’s (Obedience Trial Champion) on their dogs and were well known in Dallas obedience circles. They… Continued

Get Your Paws Off My Plate!

It was my first day on the job and I was sitting in the cafeteria at a table with other new employees. This was an exciting time, not only beginning a new job, but also the opportunity to get to know more people. As I was attentively listening to the woman’s conversation on my left, I couldn’t help notice that the gal on my right was taking food off my plate and eating it. As I whipped my head around in her direction, she smiled at me, like there was… Continued

A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is in the past, our focus turns to Christmas. Finding the perfect gift for a loved one can be a daunting task. If you are considering giving or getting a pet as a present, please do some research. First, be sure the intended recipient wants an animal.  A client once confided in me she didn’t really want the dog her children gave her. The children thought the woman was lonely after the death of her spouse. The woman had been looking forward to traveling and living a… Continued

Can You “Baby-Proof” Your Dog?

The dog training school where I teach has a exciting new partnership with Babies-R-Us: We’re about to start monthly seminars for expecting and new parents on finding your “new normal” with a baby plus a dog. I’m using today’s post to organize my thoughts and brainstorm a bit. I’ll lay out the best advice I’ve gathered from my research and toss out some insights from personal experience. I’m also inviting readers–other trainers, dog lovers, parents–to share their knowledge, success stories, and cautionary tales. I’m a mom myself. In addition to… Continued

Humans Have Feelings Too

Most extreme behavior issues will take considerable time and work to resolve. The case of two of little dogs I went to a few weeks ago, was very unusual in that the dramatic change was virtually instant. It was all about the humans and not about the dogs at all. Seldom have I been to dogs that so extremely reflected the state of mind of one particular person as these two did. People like myself are called out to help with the dogs’ behavior but we also are well aware that… Continued

Captivating Clever Trevor

More than a month has passed since my wire fox terrier Trevor died suddenly of acute right-sided congestive heart failure at the age of 14. I picked up his ashes and paw print from the vet clinic two weeks ago when I took Zip in for an EKG following a weekend of accelerated heart rate. Life goes on in spite of loss. As I carried the vellum “gift” bag containing Trevor’s cremains, the pouring rain made me think of my unshed tears and pain too difficult to express as I… Continued

Ten Ways To Use Problem-Solving Games in Behavior Modification

Mental, intelligence games and problem solving activities can be used in a behavior modification program.  We use games in environmental enrichment, but why couldn’t we use them, like we use toys in behavior modification? How would you do that, you ask? And, you might not know that this can be done? So let’s explore the 10 ways physical-type purchased intelligence games (like Nina Ottoson, and Dog Kingdom Pet Supply) can be used, as well as homemade games (1) and problem solving activities (2) that uses the dog’s brain to mentally… Continued

Watch Your Language

By Bob McMillan It was an electric moment. After having Oona for seven weeks, something clicked. Our Irish wolfhound puppy realized that the sounds I was making with my mouth meant something to her. She looked me directly and unflinchingly in the eye and — wham —a gap had been spanned. Clear communication was suddenly happening. A lifelong connection had begun. After that subtle but memorable moment,  our rowdy puppy was changed. She was interacting with my wife and I with more purpose in a more mature way. She was… Continued

The Many, Many Problems with BSL

I recently had the pleasure of both attending and speaking at the Coast to Coast Bully Walk in Chesterton, IN. The walk is held every year, in various locations across the USA to celebrate Pit Bull Awareness Month. Both Jambo and I were kindly invited by Piper’s Page of Life but, unfortunately, Jambo could not attend. In my speech there, I focused on the importance of training your dog without force; improving the image of the “bullies”; why it is important to spay/neuter dogs; and why we should all fight… Continued

Eight Common Dog Training Errors: Cautionary Tales

As the great trainer Bob Bailey says, training is simple but not easy. The principles are very simple and straightforward, but actually applying them in practice can be very difficult. I’ve mentioned many times that I am not a professional trainer. But I hang out with some phenomenal ones. Plus, I am a student of life and tend to do lots of observation of myself and others. (What, you had noticed?)  And I don’t mind sharing my own errors if it can help somebody along. Here are eight of the… Continued

Letting Go of Restraint for a Force-Free Blood Draw

A number of years ago I saw Dr. Karen Overall, the Veterinary Behaviorist, speak for a two-day workshop. If you have a chance to see her, GO! She has an amazing way of making the complicated seem simple. One quote that she said during the weekend was, “We must let go of the idea of restraint!” She was referring to vets and how they restrain dogs and cats for everything. She was also talking about grooming and regular pet care. This concept has stuck with me ever since, mainly because… Continued

Spending Time with Dogs Brings Joy to Our Lives

When I add a dog to my life, I consider our relationship the beginning of a voyage. I look forward to creating a bond based on understanding and trust. There isn’t a timetable for these events to occur. The bond takes time to happen. My idea is to enjoy the journey. In these days of cell phones, texting and reality TV, many of us expect instant gratification.  In human and canine relationships, taking the time to establish communication is critical. I like to prioritize the behaviors I want my dog… Continued

Pet Professional Guild Announces Second Virtual Force-Free Training Competition

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) has rolled out the guidelines for its second international virtual community event, The International Day of Celebration for Force-Free Training and Pet Care (ICFF). Taking place on 17 February each year to honor one of PPG’s founding members, the late Leah Roberts, the event was created to recognize Roberts’ lifelong crusade for force-free training and better treatment for all pet dogs. Like its predecessor in 2014, ICFF 2015 will entail a photo and video competition where members are invited to make their submissions under a… Continued

When is Dog Training Like a Video Game?

  My kids and I have been playing a game called Botanicula on my iPad. It’s one of those intuitive, trial and error games with no instructions. In each scene of this weird world, you just tap and swipe till something happens. Then you have to deduce what actions made it happen, so you can repeat or avoid that outcome in the future. And it dawned on me: I bet dogs in training classes feel like I do playing Botanicula: It’s all a crap shoot, a guessing game, until they… Continued


I am just back from ClickerExpo here in the UK and found the whole thing incredibly reinforcing. I gained a deeper understanding of things I thought I already knew. Having been immersed in so much positivity for three days, back home I am seeing things around me through different eyes. At lunch in a café yesterday I watched a mother scolding her little girl and found it hard not to intervene. Today I visited for the third time a struggling client.  She was still finding it impossible to avoid ‘No’… Continued

Growl versus Scowl

Growling is often punished. If we understand that growling is communication and that there are many different types of growls, then we would respond as if a human was scowling at us.  or  Scowling says a lot without sound. Imagine adding a growl to the above looks. The definition of a scowl is to frown in an angry or bad-tempered way or an angry or bad-tempered expression. We would listen to the implications directed toward us and give this human space, take it as a warning.  Dogs do everything with… Continued

Sudden Death

The original title of this post was “I’m Broke, But My Dogs Are Fixed!” Sadly, that is no longer the case. I still am broke, only like all good short stories we read in school, this one took a surprising turn that I would not have predicted.  September was a busy month! Busy at work and then busy transporting  three senior dogs to and from the vet clinic that is 20 miles from my house. But the good news was that  everybody was doing great or on the road to… Continued

Socialization — Rolling with the Punches

By Bob McMillan Oona, my Irish wolfhound puppy, is about to turn 15 weeks old. Depending on which studies you follow, her developmental window for socialization is now closed or is closing fast. Adolescence is upon us — the wild child phase. We’ll see if I got it right this time. I had a year to plan extensive details for her socialization while waiting on my breeder’s list for Oona’s litter to be born. I’m certainly no pro at it. It wasn’t until I got my first wolfhound, Finn, that it… Continued

In Defense Of Treats–And The Dogs Who Love Them

“My dog will do anything as long as there are treats.” Don’t dog owners say this all the time? Often the tone is light, with a grin and a “that’s a dog for you” wink. But sometimes it’s got an undertone, an edge. Some owners wonder why their dog won’t act a certain way or do a specific behavior just because they said so, or just to please them. They may chafe at “paying” for behavior they think they deserve for free. What I call food-motivated, an asset in training, they… Continued

Is It Worth It?

Working in the industry of companion animal behavior and training, we all do things that are not financially lucrative and maybe take up a lot of our free time. Whether it is writing training articles and blogs; helping to raise money for animal shelters; running a Facebook page to help educate people; taking the time to talk to somebody who has concerns about their dog or maybe just taking the time to let somebody who is scared of a certain breed – or perhaps even scared of dogs in general… Continued

Seven Effects of Punishment

Here are seven documented possible side effects of the use of punishment, negative reinforcement, and of aversives in general. Escape/Avoidance: If you hurt or scare your dog, he will likely try to avoid you, the places you frequent, and whatever else it associates with the hurt. Operant Aggression: If you hurt or scare your dog, it may hurt you back. Elicited Aggression: If you hurt or scare your dog, it may hurt your other dog or your kid. Apathy: If you hurt or scare your dog a lot, he may become apathetic and not do much of anything. Conditioned Suppression/Learned Helplessness: If… Continued

Pet Professional Guild Launches Force-Free Dog Training Program at New Educational Facility

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) has launched the first in a series of practical force-free dog training workshops and educational seminars at the new Canine Behavior Center on King Lake in Wesley Chapel, FL. The first workshop took place 27 – 28 September, 2014 at the state-of-the-art dog training and educational facility, which is set on 23 fully-fenced acres against the backdrop of the lake, a 500-acre inland water feature hosting some of the state’s richest bird species. Sponsored by The DogSmith, the inaugural two-day workshop “Refining Your Training Skills”… Continued

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