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Spray Bottles Are for Houseplants, Not Cats

By Beth Adelman, MS It’s piece of bad advice that just won’t die: When your cat is misbehaving, squirt her with some water. Even some veterinarians still say it. What’s wrong with the spray bottle? Well, for starters, it doesn’t work. Yes, when you squirt your cat, she is very likely to stop what she’s doing and run away. But if you squirt her, say, when she jumps on your dinner table, what have you accomplished? You may have taught her to run away at the sight of the bottle;… Continued

“Good Sit!”

Here is a quiz. Let’s say someone says, “Sit,” to a dog, intending the word as a cue. What part of speech is the word, “Sit”? Then, what part of speech is the same word if we say, “Good sit!” afterwards? That was a trick. If we were talking to a human who speaks the same language we do, the first “Sit” could be an imperative or command verb. The second “Sit” would be a noun. But neither of those, while grammatically correct, applies to training a dog. Dogs are not humans. “Sit” is something… Continued

News Flash: Dogs Remember

Science has once again confirmed the obvious: Dogs can remember things. OK, maybe I am being a bit hard on the researchers. They were specifically interested in whether dogs have episodic memory. Well, they call it “episodic-like” memory, since some would argue that only humans can actually have episodic memory. I’ll leave that argument for another day. Episodic memory is remembering things that have happened to you or that you have observed directly — that is, remembering “episodes” from  your own life. It differs from “semantic memory,” which is memory… Continued

Practice? Liszt or Chopsticks

Years ago in another life I was a music teacher. In addition to class music lessons for many years, I also taught the piano and the flute. What’s this got do do with dogs, you might ask. My pupils’ results showed I was quite a good music teacher. Being a piano teacher in the exam system was actually more about motivating my pupils to practice than anything else. I could have been a rubbish piano player myself and created great performers. I could on the other hand have been a concert pianist unable to teach… Continued

Jekyll and Hyde – Social off Leash but Reactive on Leash?

It might be a coincidence but over the last few weeks I have met a lot of dogs who are reactive on leash. They bark, lunge, whine and pull towards other dogs on walks. Some will aggress if given a chance and may even hurt another dog. Leash reactivity presents in at least two forms, dogs who are reactive on leash but fine off leash and dogs who are reactive and do not get on with other dogs off leash either. Despite the behavior looking very similar, the motivation is… Continued

Total Recall

I suspect most dog owners wish their dogs could be off leash and enjoy themselves without restriction, or at least be free of the leash in most situations. In that ideal world a dog could assuredly be called back on cue and no harm would occur if he occasionally strayed afar. My personal dog stewardship is limited to five Labradors. Three of them were very safe off leash, one was pretty reliable and the other was…a bit sketchy. To tell the truth his recall was not sketchy at all. It… Continued

Puppy Biting: Learning the Rules

Anyone who has a puppy will know that they have needle sharp teeth. The current thinking is that this serves a useful purpose. If they hurt their litter mates when play biting them, (which most puppies do most of the time!) the other pups will squeal and not want to play and so each pup quickly learns how hard they can get away with biting. It is important that pups learn rules about biting us too. We can teach them that ‘those humans are sensitive creatures’ and that, although we… Continued

But Every Dog is Different!

But every dog is different! This is another common argument against trainers who train without force. It usually goes like this: But every dog is different! You can’t just use a cookie cutter! But every dog is different! Why limit yourself to only one method? But every dog is different! Some tools just don’t work with some dogs! The implication is clear: Trainers who use primarily positive reinforcement are slaves to one method, which we apply to all dogs. We deliberately limit ourselves, despite the wealth of methods available to us.… Continued

Setting Judgment Aside

Professional dog trainers and behavior consultants who use force-free methods are some of the most compassionate people I know. We couldn’t do this work if we didn’t care deeply and want the absolute best outcome in every situation. So it pains me to think about these same individuals judging their clients for the choices they make. When I decided to become a professional dog trainer, I didn’t realize that counseling people would be such a large part of my job. But I find myself doing it on a daily basis.… Continued

Toads, Snakes, Spiders and Chocolate!

Did you know that an encounter with a toad could have devastating consequences? During a recent class I was teaching, one of the students said that her training buddy and his friends had found a large toad in their yard.  They were very fortunate as none of them made actual contact with the toad.  Two years ago, I posted a blog, How Force-Free Training Helped Save My Dog’s Life! in which I told the story of my Staffordshire bull terrier, Jambo’s encounter with a toad in the middle of the night and… Continued

Why Do Cats Purr?

By Diana Hutchinson When you hear your cat purr, the common assumption is that your favorite fur ball is feeling quite happy and contented. However, there’s more to purring than just pleasure. One might view purring as similar to a baby’s cry – the sound may be the same but it could indicate anything from hunger to pain to fear. Even today, the purr remains quite a mystery to cat owners and researchers alike. Purring is the sound produced when cats inhale and exhale in a consistent pattern. Scientists know… Continued

Sticks and Stones…

..may break my bones, but words will never harm me” This, or one of its variations, is a childhood phrase that most of us are familiar with. We know that physical violence hurts and, as is suggested by the rhyme, words cannot cause harm. Or can they? As a dog behaviour counsellor and trainer, there are several words which, when used in connection with dog training and behaviour, I think harm our relationship with and understanding of our dogs. Our world is filled with words – be it online, through… Continued

Project Trade: Economics 101

In the spring of 2016 The Pet Professional Guild rolled out Project Trade, an “international educational advocacy program promoting the use of force-free pet equipment by asking pet guardians to swap choke, prong and shock collars” (1). In return for swapping their aversive gear, pet guardians are given a discount of up to 15% by participating Project Trade members. My goals include educating pet owners and eliminating aversive gear from the marketplace so I immediately charged out of the gate like a crazed terrier chasing a squirrel and joined Project… Continued

That Loving Gaze

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a role in social bonding, as implied by some of its nicknames: the love hormone, cuddle chemical, or bliss hormone. It’s also something that dogs and humans share. Studies published in 2009 found that, when dogs gazed at their owners — you know, that adoring gaze that says, “feed me; I’m yours,” owners had more oxytocin in their urine. This correlates with feeling affection and social connection. What about the dogs? There’s more to this story. A later study looked at more variables. For… Continued

Halloween Candy Can Be Hazardous to Pets

Guest blog by the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Halloween can be a fun, family time, but please remember to watch out for your four-legged family members. A number of items related to Halloween can be hazardous to your pets: Chocolate is popular with people, but your dog is attracted to it as well. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. If you think your dog may have ingested chocolate, signs to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an elevated… Continued

Making It Fun for Performance Dogs

I got told a couple of times lately: Shellbe (my German Shorthaired Pointer who I compete with in Agility) really covered you there! It was in competition or training when I made a mistake and Shellbe did everything she possibly could to make up for it. And she did! Isn’t that what friends are for? I hear it more often in Agility circles but it probably happens in other competitive sports as well: I am getting my next performance dog! I have to say this makes me cringe. What does… Continued

Pet Professional Guild Lines Up Canine Behavior Specialists for Podcasts on Breed Specific Legislation

In light of ongoing events in Montreal, PPG podcasts will feature a host of dog training and behavior experts to explain why breed bans are ineffective in reducing frequency of dog bites Starting next month, Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is to host a number of canine behavior experts in a series of podcasts to discuss why Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is ineffective and potentially misleading. The move is part of PPG’s ongoing mission to deliver quality, up-to-date education on dog bite safety and force-free training and pet care to both… Continued

A Bit on the Nose

When you’re teaching people to use luring, it can be hard for them to actually find their dog’s nose. And then it can be hard for them to put that tasty treat that they’re using to lure the behaviour right up close to the dog’s nose. I’ve tried all sorts of things. In my dog free lesson at the beginning of my courses, I take a model dog to class. On the Nose 101 – find the dog’s nose. I demonstrate what I mean by ‘close’. I then get each participant to give the… Continued

Laughter and Learning at the PPGBI Mini-Summit

The PPGBI Mini Educational Summit, which took place in early September at the Leeds Mercure Parkway hotel in Yorkshire, England, was a roaring success. Much fun was had on the first night as the attendees started to gather, register and receive some PPG Swag.  Everyone then got to know each other over a welcome drink in the bar. This was followed by a weekend packed full of fun, educational learning and networking. PPG President, Niki Tudge, opened the Summit with a welcome address to the attendees and also presented several,… Continued

… But He’s a Working Dog…

When the lady called me she explained the situation: the dog actually belonged to her son but as he was away at university 3, 4 or even 5 days a week, she looked after the dog during the week. He was 9 months old and needed a “bit of training”. (I quake at these words!) He wasn’t a “bad” dog – he was just making a mess of the yard, destroying his toys (how sad it would be to have a dog that didn’t destroy his toys) and didn’t want to… Continued

Meet Your Cat Where He Is

By Beth Adelman, MS “The problem many people have with their pets is simply that it’s not the pet they want,” said the veterinary behaviorist at a lecture I was attending. And an explosion of insight went off in my head. Sometimes, accurately naming a problem really does help you understand it. What did she mean? Sometimes we want a lap cat, and end up with a cat who likes to be in the same room (or even on the same piece of furniture) but not touching us. Sometimes we… Continued

Battling the Stereotype

This article was first published in BARKS from the Guild, April 2014, pages 37-39 Jambo the Staffie has won countless awards and accolades, yet is officially classified as a potentially dangerous dog. Louise Stapleton-Frappell explains why Breed Specific Legislation completely misses the point. Jambo is our second Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Our first beautiful Staffie, Samson, was the most loveable boy ever. Calm, good natured and playful, Samson died at the age of 11 having lived a life of freedom and without the restrictions of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). His best… Continued

What Most People Don’t Know About Dogs

It’s easy to forget that most people don’t know things that we might consider obvious about dogs. A friend was recently chatting with an experienced service dog trainer. The trainer, who will remain anonymous to reduce the potential humiliation, commented that “dogs don’t generalize.” This trainer should know better. A week or so ago, I heard an interview with author Tom Wolfe on NPR. In the interview, Wolfe said that no evidence of anything resembling a language has ever been seen in a non-human, and that therefore only humans can… Continued

Beware of the Behavior Chain

Isn’t it frustrating, we try to train our dog to not jump up but it gets worse? It is the ‘behavior chain syndrome’. We train behavior chains all the time, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by mistake. Behaviour chains can be great and useful or useless, ineffective or even dangerous. There are lot of behavior chains that are useful, like a ‘go to mat’ cue, ‘come when called and let me touch your collar’, a formal recall or retrieve in obedience. We often train these using back chaining. This simply… Continued

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