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The Shock-Free Coalition: What’s Next?

By Don Hanson  I have been waiting for an organization of pet professionals to take a stand against the use of shock collars since 2002, so when Pet Professional Guild launched the Shock-Free Coalition on September 25, 2017 I was more than ready to sign the pledge to eliminate shock devices from the supply and demand chain. However, I also knew that signing the pledge, while an important step, was not going to be sufficient to stop the use of shock collars. Signing the pledge is just the beginning of what… Continued

Making Room for the Little Guys

By Emily Cassell Fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rabbits, and the like are not known for their high intelligence, and bear the undeserved reputation of “untrainable.” It is ironic that in a world of coercive training, the tiniest, fluffiest, and most relatively defenseless animals we work with are the most resistant to aversive training techniques…Prey animals view the world in a completely different way than dogs and cats do. Small prey animals are not as inclined to explore or be open to new things. The simple reason is that, in the… Continued

A Cry for Attention

By Lara Joseph In the wild, it has been noted that parrots can spend up to 60 percent of their day foraging for food. They travel up to 40 mile circumferences in their search for food (Meehan & Mench, 2007). So how does this relate to the behavior of the birds we care for? Their minds and bodies have evolved and developed to incorporate this activity in their daily lives. We, as parrot caregivers, often work with parrots in cages. How we feed them impacts behavior. If we feed in… Continued

Why Do They Bark?

By Morag Heirs Barking is a form of communication for all dogs so it is important that we spend some time thinking about why our dogs might be barking. Are they anxious, over-excited, upset, fearful, thrilled, frustrated? Something else? Avoid concentrating on stopping the barking (particularly through the use of ‘aversives,’ e.g. telling off, harsh signals, water spray or air sprays, exclusion from the room or crating on a regular basis) as this gets in the way of understanding why the barking is happening. Without understanding why our dog is barking,… Continued

Marketing for Service Practitioners

By Niki Tudge You are in the business of solving problems. You help your clients with what matters to them. You are marketing all your products and services to people who need and desire them. In the service industry, however, recognize that this is based on the trust and confidence your clients have granted you. You are marketing both the “sizzle” and the “steak,” or the “peace of mind” that comes from having a qualified, insured, bonded, certified pet sitter or dog trainer, as well as the actual pet sitting or… Continued

Are ‘Free-Shaped’ Dogs Better Problem Solvers?

By Carmen LeBlanc Most professional dog trainers have heard about criticisms of lure-reward training in recent years. These criticisms have been made along with enthusiastic claims about the superiority of free-shaped (unprompted, trial-and-error) clicker training. Those of us who use free-shaping understand the enthusiasm. It is challenging and exciting to communicate with dogs in such a free-form way, developing a new behavior one small increment at a time. As technicians of scientific procedures, however, it is important that we take a collective, critical look at what is being said. Read more.

Target Practice

By Lara Joseph Training animals to target makes husbandry a lot less stressful and much safer. It is also a useful tool to have at your disposal in an emergency situation…There are so many instances where targeting and stationing are beneficial to our animals that we should be training these behaviors consciously. Doing so will make their lives less stressful by giving them an attractive choice of what to do and how to behave in countless situations… I train the mammals to target and station to either the tops of buckets… Continued

August 12, 2018: New Study of Red Fox Genome Assembly Finds Candidate Gene for Tame Behaviour

The study, Red fox genome assembly identifies genomic regions associated with tame and aggressive behaviours, finds a “strong positional candidate gene for tame behaviour” in the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), noting that the fox represents “a powerful model for the genetic analysis of affiliative and aggressive behaviours that can benefit genetic studies of behaviour in dogs and other mammals, including humans.” Read study.

Of Piglets and Puppies

By Lara Joseph Pigs give a squeal that can send a dog over threshold. If it does not, this same squeal, paired with their jerky movements and fast running, is a trigger for many dogs to chase. The squeal can mean many things but when I hear it, I ask my dogs for a station immediately while I try to remove the reinforcer for the squeal…I see many households living with prey and predator, and my training facility is also full of prey and predator. I train and prepare for… Continued

Focus and a Visual Connection

By Morag Heirs I became interested in obedience and rally after adopting my first deaf dog, Farah, a border collie. She was a bright dog who would have been an excellent working dog if only she could hear, and clearly we needed something to focus on. At the time it was difficult to get into competitive obedience training in my area if you wanted to use reward-based methods, and my deaf dog was met with a great deal of skepticism…Platform training (where the dog learns to stand or sit, or… Continued

Helping Dogs, Helping Families

By Daniel Antolec Years ago, puppy Samantha had come to me at eight weeks of age and, in a move that I thought would help both of us, I bought the best-selling dog training book of the time. The author explained many ways to punish your dog, and I tried them all. It is a choice I have regretted ever since, because even then I saw that it was damaging our relationship. I set the book aside and simply stopped using the aversive methods it expounded. Suddenly my relationship with… Continued

The Need for Self-Care

By Sheelah Gullion As pet professionals, many of us have pets with issues, be they behavioral or medical. Some of us got into the business because of a pet with issues. We wanted to learn how to succeed with that pet and then we wanted to share what we learned. But our industry seems to be unique in that we work largely alone, with little or no support to speak of, using our skills and our emotions, and though the focus is almost always on the pet (dog trainer, dog… Continued

Stimulation for Psittacines

By Amy Martin Imagine yourself sitting on a wooden chair in a room that is no more than 6 feet by 6 feet. There are no windows. You cannot leave and no one ever visits you. You have no radio, television, phone or internet. Someone offers you the same food in the same bowl every morning and evening. Your physical exercise consist only of shifting your weight in the chair. What do you think would eventually happen to your mind and body after a day, a week, a month and,… Continued

Scratch Here, Not There

By Patience Fisher Cats are almost as easy to train to use a scratching post as they are to use a litter box…Cats need to scratch for physical, mental, and social reasons. Scratching enables cats to shed the outer sheath of their claws, to maintain claw health. Sinking the claws in and stretching is also beneficial for the cat’s muscles. Scratching is a natural way for a cat to maintain mental health, especially during stressful times and is a way for a cat to help herself relax. As already mentioned,… Continued

Human vs. Canine Behavior: A Brief Comparison

By Joanne Ometz “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” – Mark Twain This quote has become ubiquitous. It is on coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. But why do so many people feel this way about members of our own species? And why do we attribute such high standards of behavior to our canine companions? Some say dogs are more pure; they love unconditionally and are always there for us. But when it comes to each other, are they really any “better” than us? As a… Continued

The Elephant on the Stairs

By Bob McMillan For the dog owner, the experiences of James Howard Williams are an inspiration not only to train their dogs without force, but to learn and respect the ways of their animal friends…Williams tried something never before done with elephants. He and his workers carved a series of crude “steps” up the face of the soft, limestone cliffs. Then he had to convince the elephants to use them. The way up was barely wide enough for an elephant. It would have to be taken one precarious step at… Continued

BARKS Podcast with David Shade – August 1, 2018

Guest: David Shade of At Attention Dog Training; United States military veteran. Topics: Shade’s articles in BARKS, The Best I Can Be and Lulu’s Lottery: Life Lessons from a Boxer, that detail his journey, which started out using aversive methods, to becoming the force-free trainer he is today; and how his boxer, Lulu, saved his life – twice. Listen here.    

Pain Underlying

By Dr. Lynn Bahr Pain is not a symptom that exists alone. Other problems associated with pain can include fatigue, withdrawal from activity and increased need to rest, and changes in mood, including fear, depression, anxiety, irritability and stress. In humans, we know that long-term pain has a profound effect on quality of life and we might assume the same holds true for animals. Aside from the physical suffering that it causes, there are also psychological and personality effects associated with chronic pain. Read more.

The Power of Water

By Charlotte Pimm In conjunction with veterinary treatment, hydrotherapy can improve the quality and rate of healing following surgery and traumatic injury while also helping with the treatment of medical conditions by reducing pain and swelling…Warm water increases the circulation of the blood to the muscles, which increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients and flushes away waste products. This leads to muscle relaxation and a reduction in pain and stiffness. Improved circulation reduces swelling around the injured area and enhances healing. Read more.

August 2, 2018: Netherlands Prohibits Use of Prong Collars

According to the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations, Netherlands law on animal welfare now considers it an “act of animal cruelty” to “use or tether an animal with an object with sharp spikes or prongs that can cause pain.” Read article. See also Why Prong Is Wrong – Physically and Psychologically

Ask Your Dog Questions – Overshadowing 2

By Yvette Van Veen How to ask your dog questions…overshadowing part two. My last blog introduced the concept of overshadowing by offering a simple example to illustrate the point. For an explanation of the concept, you can read that blog here. But that basic understanding doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. Many unusual variations exist and can interfere with training. To recap, animals are more likely to attach meaning to information that is more important and noticeable – the more “salient.” Abstract variations can be hard to spot. It’s… Continued

Teaching Trailer Loading

By Kathie Gregory Not all horses automatically enjoy the process of going into a trailer, yet in an emergency it may be essential for them to do so…Think of fun ways to teach these things. You may be interested in agility, tricks, or creating a routine to a piece of music. We do all these things with dogs to interest and engage them, so think about how to apply that to your horse. If your horse likes movement, you may look at agility or hoofwork to music as a starting… Continued

A Safe Escape

By Dr. Lisel O’Dwyer Entering and standing in a small, often dark, enclosed space is completely against the average horse’s instincts which is why we need to actually spend time training them to load. Much of trailer training does not involve the actual trailer–the horse should be confident about stepping onto wooden boards and tarps, entering narrow or dark spaces, and moving forward away from light pressure on the halter or on his rump or tail. Target training is a highly useful skill in these situations, and either a nose target… Continued

Get A Successful Start—Today and Every Day

By Veronica Boutelle As small business owners we live with never-ending to-do lists and a constant frustration that there aren’t more hours in the day. While we can’t do anything about that last complaint, it turns out that how we use the first hour of each day can significantly improve the productivity of the rest. Many successful people and “success gurus” have weighed in on how to use that first hour. While there’s no consensus about the one best way to start the workday, there are several strategies to experiment… Continued

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