BARKS from the Guild January 2020

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BARKS from the Guild Issue 40 / January 2020

TRAINING “Spoiled” or Frustrated? EQUINE Introducing New Horses FELINE The Power of Choice AVIAN The Blind Parrot Who Inspired CANINE Therapy Dogs in Schools

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RESCUE Meeting Social Needs BUSINESS Two-Dog Discounts?

Testament to Targeting: A valuable cross-species foundation skill and a building block towards confidence

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BARKS from the Guild Published by the Pet Professional Guild 9122 Kenton Road, Wesley Chapel, Florida 33545, USA Tel: +1-844-462-6473 Editor-in-Chief Susan Nilson Images © Can Stock Photo: (unless otherwise credited; uncredited images belong to Pet Professional Guild) Pet Professional Guild Steering Committee Daniel Antolec, Kelly Fahey, Paula Garber, Don Hanson, Kelly Lee, Judy Luther, Debra Millikan, Susan Nilson, Mary Richards, Louise StapletonFrappell, Niki Tudge BARKS from the Guild Published bi-monthly, BARKS from the Guild presents a collection of valuable business and technical articles as well as reviews and news stories pertinent to our industry. BARKS is the official publication of the Pet Professional Guild. Submissions BARKS encourages the submission of original written materials. Please contact the Editor-in-Chief for contributor guidelines prior to sending manuscripts or see: Please submit all contributions via our submission form at: Letters to the Editor To comment on an author’s work, or to let PPG know what topics you would like to see more of, contact the Editor-in-Chief via email putting BARKS in the subject line of your email. BARKS reserves the right to edit for length, grammar and clarity. Subscriptions and Distribution BARKS is a digital publication. Print copies are available by monthly subscription. Register at Please contact Rebekah King at for all subscription and distribution-related enquiries. Advertising Please contact Kelly Fahey at to obtain a copy of rates, ad specifications, format requirements and deadlines. Advertising information is also available at Pet Professional Guild does not endorse or guarantee any products, services or vendors mentioned in BARKS, nor can it be responsible for problems with vendors or their products and services. Pet Professional Guild reserves the right to reject, at its discretion, any advertising. To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild, all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild members understand force-free to mean that no pain, force or fear and no shock, choke or prong are ever employed to train or care for a pet. © All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the Pet Professional Guild, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please email:


t’s already less than 10 months till the next PPG Summit, which takes place later this year on September 18­22 in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix 2020 will offer a range of mixed species workshops, including the opportu­ nity to work with dogs, cats and rabbits, at the Arizona Humane Society alongside a compelling mix of lectures and labs at the event venue, the Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe. Working with multiple species is certainly an excellent way for trainers to hone their mechanical skills, as well as encourage them to be creative and come up with imaginative solutions when things don’t necessarily go as planned. Our cover feature* this month, Testament to Targeting, draws on this somewhat, focusing specifically on the many uses of target training, highlighting examples of its application not only in dogs, but also parrots, ferrets, elephants and a grizzly bear. States author Terrie Hayward: “Via tar­ geting, you can teach an animal to have more control over his surround­ ings, interactions, and consequences. In turn this will help you with better enriched cooperation via a dialogue that helps to enhance your relation­ ship and create a smoother exchange. Whether you work with ferrets, bears, parrots, elephants, or dogs you can have a safer, more relaxed com­ munication system in place when incorporating targeting.” Which all brings me neatly back to Phoenix 2020, the theme of which is Collaborative Care and Enrichment – Creating Partnerships for Positive Results! (To find out more about the event, see our News story on page 6 and the back cover ad.) In the 21st century, training animals is evolving (and not before time you might say) into more of a dialogue. En­ gaging in a conversation that involves choice and communication allows animals to make their own decisions regarding participation in their own husbandry and care, as well as their training, including at what level and duration to train. Another of our authors this month, Suzanne Clothier, who also hap­ pens to be presenting at Phoenix 2020, continues this theme in her article, A “Spoiled” Dog or a Frustrated Dog?, that discusses volitional behavior. “As anyone who has watched me train knows, I am a huge proponent of letting the animal find the answer for himself,” writes Clothier. “However, it's my responsibility as a trainer to set up the situation where the dog can find the answer, and then rapidly build on that success.” The topic of choice comes up again in the aptly titled, The Right to Choose, which looks into how, by providing a variety of resources throughout the home, cat guardians can allow their charges more op­ tions as to where they carry out their essential routines of eating, drink­ ing, toileting and sleeping, as well as when they access their catio, if they have one, or different parts of the home. Explains author Andrea Carne: “If they share their home with other cats, choice of resources becomes even more important so competition is reduced and antagonistic behav­ iors such as resource guarding are unable to be carried out effectively.” Volitional behavior is also the focus of a fascinating case study featur­ ing Lady the Haflinger horse whose carers trained to stand for voluntary nebulizer treatments. As authors Alex Walker and Jayme Lee point out, “the misconception about a species­specific style of training remains strong and one of the species that is often on the receiving end of this is the horse...their size and strength can result in a ‘heavy­handed’ ap­ proach being taken to physically manipulate and coerce them into a spe­ cific behavior or position.” Yet Walker and Lee, by using some of the imagination and creativity I mentioned earlier, trained a complex and in­ tricate behavior with a large and powerful animal using exclusively posi­ tive reinforcement. “Proving once again that learning really isn’t ‘species specific’ at all,” they conclude. And so, as we enter this new year, we con­ tinue with PPG’s core message that aversive training tools and tech­ niques are simply not needed for any of us who work and share our lives with animals, no matter what the species. As always, thank you to our contributors and readers for all their sup­ port. Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2020!

n Susan Nilso

*A special shout out to our cover dog, Trick Dog Champion Jambo and his guardian, PPG steering committee member Louise Stapleton‐Frappell, for sharing this great shot of Jambo demonstrating a textbook chin rest.

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


contents 6

12 14 18


28 30 32 34 36 39 40 41

44 47


52 56 58


N EWS PPG Summit 2020, Steering Committee appointments, corporate partner update, free PPGBI credential transfer, position statement on declawing, events, and more




Beth Napolitano reports on PPG’s October workshop with Craig Ogilvie




Niki Tudge reports from PPG’s November scent workshops with presenters Dr. Robert and Karen Hewings




Terrie Hayward explains why targeting is a valuable foundation skill to teach all learners and a building block towards a repertoire of confident behaviors




Suzanne Clothier explains the power of volitional behavior and why it is the trainer’s job to set up situations so dogs can find the answers



Gail Radtke discusses the importance of limiting puppy activity during the crucial early stages of development








Anna Bradley discusses how dogs are increasingly being used for therapy placements in educational establishments






Diane Garrod continues her examination of why and how stress applies to a successful behavior modification process




K. Holden Svirsky explains why ending the practice of isolation is overdue




Andrea Carne discusses how a little creativity in giving cats the power of choice can enhance their quality of life


The PPG Cat Committee explains how to set up for a successful claw trim with a focus on taking it slowly







Dr. Liz Bales discusses the intricacies of cat vomit, a phenomenon feline guardians are often all too familiar with


Lara Joseph relates the inspiring tale of Sam, the blind bluefronted Amazon parrot, cautioning us not to underestimate special needs animals





Alex Walker and Jayme Lee explain how they trained a Haflinger horse to stand for voluntary nebulizer treatments




Kathie Gregory relates how two horses, one who had lost his long-term companion and the other who had lived alone in a stall for several years, were introduced









Veronica Boutelle of PPG corporate partner dogbiz discusses the parameters for training more than one dog in the same home





Niki Tudge explains why licensing alone is not the solution to raise the standard of dog training and behavior consulting




Featuring Rose Lesniak of Rose Lesniak Dog Trainer, LLC in Miami, Florida





Louise Stapleton-Frappell reviews Confessions of a Veterinary Nurse - Paws, Claws, and Puppy Dog Tails by Tracey Ison




David Egan discusses expectations vs. reality and the ongoing risk of dog owners being exposed to outdated information about training

50 4

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

n e w s PPG Announces New September Summit Location


PG is heading to Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, September 18 – Tues­ day, September 22, 2020 for its sixth annual summit. There are two programs available to choose from: Friday September 18: Registration Day ‐ Your Evening Welcome Reception & PPG President’s Open Address Program One: Day One ‐ Saturday September 19 through Day Four, Tuesday September 22, will be 4 full days of General Sessions, Presentations and Lecture/Labs. Program Two: Day One, Saturday September 19 through Day Four, Tuesday September 22 will be 4 full days of General Sessions, Presentations and Lecture/LABS. Daily 1.5 Hour Off‐Site Workshops at the Arizona Humane Society ( To register, choose your program, then select one of these registra­ tion options: a) Purchase your summit ticket only. b) Purchase your summit ticket and choose to package your five hotel room nights for September 18­22, 2020. c) Purchase your summit ticket and choose to package your five hotel room nights for September 18­22, 2020, breakfast and lunch on 19, 20, 21 and 22 plus the Sunday evening group dinner. You will find a PPG Summit room reservation form on the event website. Feel free to call the hotel and make your own room reservation using the PPG negotiated group room rate. Details of sessions, presenters and the schedule are all available at­2020­Summit­&­Workshops.

Early bird discount if you register before January 31, 2020!

PPG Expands Steering Committee

Become a Proud Accredited Professional

The ONLY psychometrically developed certification for professionals who believe there is no place for shock, choke, prong, fear or intimidation in canine training and behavior practices.

Pet Profe s sional Accreditation Board


PG has appointed Judy Luther, chairwoman of PPG's Canine Commit­ tee (above, center), Daniel H. Antolec (above, left) and Don Hanson (above, right), co­chairmen of PPG's Advocacy Committee to its Steering Committee with immediate effect. PPG's Steering Committee is tasked with driving new projects, building awareness of scientifically sound, nonaversive training methods for animals, educating both pet profes­ sionals and the pet owning public in all matters related to training, be­ havior consulting and pet care, and expanding core membership worldwide. "As PPG continues to grow, it is essential that the Canine and Advo­ cacy Committees also have a voice in the advancement of the organiza­ tion, so I am especially thrilled to welcome our latest members to the Steering Committee," said PPG president Niki Tudge. "All three are long­ standing, respected members of their local communities as well as the industry at large.” Read the full press release at 6

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (Accredited) Name: Alicia Foster Issued:06/01/2015 Expires:05/31/2017 Alicia Foster PCBC-A

Accreditation Number

PPAB - 00000001

Pet Profe s sional Accreditation Board Professional Canine Trainer (Accredited) Name: Jason Foster Issued:06/01/2015 Expires:05/31/2017 Jas�� Fos���


Accreditation Number

PPAB - 00000001

Pet Profe s sional Accreditation Board

LAUNCH YOUR FUTURE TODAY! Transfer Your Existing Credential and/or Gain a New One!

Canine Training Technician (Accredited)

Name: Vicki Foster Issued:06/01/2015 Expires:05/31/2017 Vicki Foster CTT-A

Accreditation Number

PPAB - 00000001

Pet Loss & Grief Companioning Certification 2 Day Workshop Join us for two robust days of diving deep into the emotional journey of the end-of-life walk with a beloved pet.

Certification program includes a two day workshop and two post workshop webinars: 1. The Finer Points of Marketing Pet Loss Services. 2. How to Conduct a Successful Pet Loss Support Group.

Presented by Coleen Ellis from the Two Hearts Pet Loss Center Certified Pet Loss Professional and Author of Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief.

Saturday and Sunday, February 22 - 23, 2020 Tampa, Florida

Learn more about how to walk with those needing a companion, understanding what pet parents need during this time, the benefits of rituals, compassion fatigue, and so much more! Not only will this program bring you the learning needed to help pet lovers, it’s also a beautiful self-care workshop on understanding our own journeys and experiences with loss, grief, and our own authentic selves.

Register Today!

n e w s PPG Releases Position Statement on Declawing Cats

PPG Welcomes New Corporate Partner, Smart Dog


PG has released a statement on the practice of declawing cats that acknowledges scratching as a “natural feline behavior” and takes the position that declawing cats “for owner convenience or in an attempt to protect property, people, and other pets is both inhumane and unnec­ essary given that there are highly effective alternatives available to manage the behavior more appropriately and less intrusively.” Read the full statement/download pdf from‐ Cats.


PG is delighted to welcome Smart Dog Training and Behavior, LLC ( as its new corporate partner. Smart Dog’s owner Dr. Kristina Spaulding is a certified applied animal be­ haviorist with19 years’ experience in the dog training and dog behavior fields. She offers dog training classes, private dog training and behavior modification, and online services. The latter comprise a variety of profes­ sional courses aimed at pet professionals and interested pet owners and go beyond the basics of methodology and learning theory to get in­depth information on the current science of dog training and behavior.

PPG Corporate Partner Blogs

D There Is No Excuse


It’s time to ban shock collars I would say that, as with any helping professional, your first and primary obligation is to do no harm, and we have compelling evidence that applying shock, either systematically or randomly, to domestic dogs increases their general level of stress and discomfort. So given that knowledge, there simply is no ethical rationale for using it.

Janis Bradley,

Director of Communications and Publications, National Canine Research Council

If there’s a tool which causes pain or discomfort, it has the potential of creating other problems. As animal care professionals, I feel that if we...can’t find kinder, gentler ways of doing something, then maybe we are in the wrong profession. Ken Ramirez, Executive VP and CTO, Karen Pryor Clicker Training

“Until these devices are illegal, consumers must protect themselves and their dogs by looking beyond the marketing messages of those who profit from their sale and use. It is not necessary to use electric shock to change behavior. It is not necessary in humans, in zoo species, in marine mammals or in dogs.” Jean Donaldson, Author, Train Your Dog Like a Pro


BARKS BARKSfrom fromthe theGuild/January Guild/January2020 2018

id you know that some of PPG’s corporate partners are also occa­ sional contributors to the BARKS Blog? Dr. Karolina Westlund of Illis Animal Behaviour Consulting ( runs a variety of online courses focusing on animal emotions and the foundations of successful animal training (see ad on p.35). Check out her blogs here: • On the Danger of Dog Collars ( • 7 Ways to Get Behaviour ( • Animal Trainers: Take Animal Emotions into Consideration! ( • Does Your Animal Have Control? ( Meanwhile, Veronica Sanchez is the founder of Cooperative Paws Service Dog Coach™ (, an educational certifica­ tion program for professional trainers in service dog training (see ad on p.63). Read her most recent blog: • Tips for Working with Clients with Mobility Impairments ( And, finally, Veronica Boutelle is the founder of dogbiz (, the pet industry’s leading business support com­ pany (see ad on p.5). See her posts: • Get A Successful Start—Today and Every Day ( • How to Make the Transition to Full‐Time Dog Pro ( Subscribe to the BARKS Blog:

Listen to the Latest BARKS Podcast Tuesday, November 19, 2019: Sally Williams, cat behavior consultant, owner of The Contented Cat (, founding director of The Brodie Fund (the­ and founder of The Feline Fine Project ( /thefelinefineproject) discusses pet cancer and its impact on family members; the Brodie Fund can provide financial support and also offers counseling and a safe space so that those coping with the cancer of their pets know they are not alone: Full podcast schedule:‐schedule. Find and listen to all earlier BARKS Podcasts:

Today’s PPG Junior Members are Tomorrow’s Pet Industry Leaders

The Journey Starts Here - Join the PPG Junior Membership Program Loads of Benefits Including: Individual level member badge Membership Certificate A moderated chat group on PPG’s website FREE Participation in the Pet Dog Ambassador Program FREE Junior Member PPAB credentialing Listing in Junior Membership Directory on PPG’s website A FREE e-book – A Kid’s Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog Participation in the Annual Training Deed Challenge

3 Membership Levels to Grow With as You Learn - Increasing Skills, Increasing Benefits: Provisional Junior Basic (8-12 years) Provisional Junior Advanced (13-17 years) Provisional Apprentice (18-20 years)


uild The Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals

n e w s PPGBI to Offer Credentialing as Free Membership Benefit


he three credentialing levels currently offered by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) have been made available as a free benefit for Pet Professional Guild British Isles (PPGBI) members as of November 1, 2019 and valid for a 12­month period. After a successful integration, the benefit program will become available to PPG members worldwide. PPAB currently offers three levels of credentials: Level 1: Canine Training Technician (CTT‐A) Level 2: Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited (PCT‐A) Level 3: Professional Canine Behavior Consultant – Accredited (PCBC‐A) Approved industry credentials from external parties may be transferred to their PPAB equivalent provided they meet eligibility and ethical criteria. PPAB recently released new study guides to clarify this process. In 2020, PPAB plans to develop Feline and Equine Trainer credentials to its program. "PPAB is working in tandem with PPG, PPGBI and the pet training indus­

try at large towards professionalization worldwide by encouraging pet dog trainers and behavior consultants to demonstrate their competency across both academic knowledge and mechanical skills," said Niki Tudge, president of PPG, which oversees PPAB. "As an industry, we need to be increasingly aware of how important it is to demand a proven level of competency from professionals who wish to practice in this field. This can only be of benefit to both pets and their owners, as well as provide the much needed, and cur­ rently lacking, consumer transparency as to any one individual's training methods and philosophies." Read the full press release at

Earn Your CEUs via PPG’s Webinars, Workshops and Educational Summits! Webinars

Educational Summits

C.A.T. with CATS – from Fearful to Friendly* ­ Presented by Caroline Crevier­Chabot Friday, January 10, 2020 / 1 p.m. ­ 2:30 p.m. (EST)­3551911 * Free Member Webinar

PPG Summit 2020 (Phoenix, Arizona) (see also ad on p.64/back cover) Friday, September 18 ­ Tuesday, September 22, 2020­2020­Summit­&­Workshops

Understand Impulsivity and Become More Skilled at Working with Impulsive Dogs ­ Presented by Alexandra Santos Friday, January 17, 2020 / 1 p.m. (EST)­3622794

Pet Loss and Grief Companioning Certification Course with Coleen Ellis from the Pet Loss Center (Tampa, Florida) (see also ad on p.7) Saturday, February 22, 2020 ­ 8 a.m. (EST) ­ Sunday, February 23, 2020 ­ 3:30 p.m. (EST)­3530303

Nuisance Barkers and Excitable Dogs ­ How Labels Influence Our Training Practices ­ Presented by Linda Case Wednesday, January 22, 2020 / 1 p.m. (EST)­3615157 Emotional Dog Presented by Dr. Robert Falconer­Taylor Wednesday, January 29, 2020 / Noon (EST)­3367539 Defensive Aggressive Behavior ­ Presented by Claudia Estanislau Sunday, February 9, 2020 / 1 p.m. (EST)­3631899 Fish Welfare: Why it Matters and What to Consider ­ Presented by Ása Johannesen Thursday, February 13, 2020 / 1 p.m. (EST)­3494967 To Click or Not to Click ­ The "How to Train" Question ­ Presented by Frania Shelley­Grielen Thursday, February 20, 2020 / 1 p.m. (EST)­3454640 Re­think Trigger Stacking ­ Presented by Sarah Fisher Tuesday, February 25, 2020 / 1 p.m. (EST)­3356880

PPG Webinars On Demand Listen any time! (Scroll down to find all the latest additions):­Webinars

Residential Workshops

Reactive to Relaxed: Next Steps in Control Unleashed with Leslie McDevitt (Tampa, Florida) (see also ad on p.25) Saturday, April 18, 2020 ­ 9 a.m. (EDT) Sunday, April 19, 2020 ­ 4:30 p.m. (EDT)­2020­Reactive­to­Relaxed­Next ­Steps­in­Control­Unleashed Canine Scent Instructor Program with Dr. Robert Hewings (Tampa, Florida) Saturday, November 7, 2020 Wednesday, November 11, 2020­Scent­Instructor­Program Canine Scent Advanced Handling Program with Dr. Robert Hewings (Tampa, Florida) Tuesday, November 17, 2020 Saturday, November 21, 2020­2020­Canine­Scent­Advanced ­Handling Learn How to Train Dogs to Detect Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Nightmares with Dr. Robert Hewings (Tampa, Florida) Tuesday, November 24, 2020 Wednesday, November 25, 2020 Details to follow • Details of all upcoming workshops:‐Summits

Note: All dates and times are correct at time of going to press but are subject to change. Please check website for an updated list of all webinars, as well as discounted and on‐demand webinars:


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

The A-Z of Training and Behavior Brought to you by

G is for... Generalization: A scenario where the pet is able to perform the trained operant behavior in a variety of settings. Once a behavior is under stimulus control, trainers should endeavor to practise the behavior in different locations, with appropriate, gradually increasing, levels of ‘distractors’ (competing environmental stimuli). With respondent conditioning the conditioned response generalizes from the conditioned stimuli to other stimuli. Generalized Settings: Any environment outside of the original one where the behavior in question was taught. Ex. If you taught your pet to sit in the kitchen, then any other room in the house or any area outside of the house is a Generalized Setting. Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer: A reinforcer that is supported by many other reinforcers. In human terms, money is an example of a GCR as it can be used to access lots of things. Genotype: The actual genetic make up of the pet.

From: A Lexicon of Practical Terms for Pet Trainers & Behavior Consultants: The language you need to know! by DogNostics Career Center. Available from:

Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People is a newly published book in which the authors present their views on: • •

• • •

The need for a level and model of oversight in the fields of pet training and behavior consulting and for those choosing to practice within them. The prevalence of individuals who hold no credentials, formal education, knowledge or skills, yet who are today working across the nation with full responsibility for the well-being and welfare of their unknowing clients’ treasured pets. The lack of consumer protection and transparency across the marketing and operations platforms of many pet-related businesses. The inherent weakness in how pets are legally classified. How the current lack of reported and enforced animal cruelty laws means there is insufficient protection when it comes to holding pet professionals accountable for their methods, approach and philosophies toward their craft and the pets they serve.

The authors advise on the pertinence of all these issues to the development of an infrastructure for oversight to support the professional evolution of the pet training and behavior industry while providing a complete recommended implementation model from which to do so.

"I would urge anyone interested in the direction of the industry to get a copy. It has been invaluable for a project I am involved in, and identifies and clarifies really important aspects of the industry that desperately need addressing. Even as an individual practitioner it provides a great resource for identifying best practice." - Andrew Hale, chair of association of INTOdogs "Check out this groundbreaking new resource for the pet training and behavior consulting industry written by the best in the business." - Paula Garber, owner of LIFELINE Cat Behavior Solutions and chairwoman of the Pet Professional Guild Feline Committee "Reliable, scientifically accurate behavioral information from experts in the field." - Gallivan Burwell, owner of Upward Dog Training & Counseling

Online: Available in print and ebook format from: Facebook: Twitter: Available in pdf format from:

Brought to you by

e v e n t s

Quality over Quantity Beth Napolitano reports on PPG’s October workshop, Communication, Interaction, Arousal and Problematic Behaviors, hosted by Craig Ogilvie

PPG’s October workshop with Craig Ogilvie (standing, center) focused on how to help dogs make good decisions in distracting environments


ast October, PPG welcomed police dog instructor and handler, and canine trainer and behavior consultant, Craig Ogilvie to conduct a workshop in the U.S. for the first time. The two­day event, Commu‐ nication, Interaction, Arousal and Problematic Behaviors, provided a fasci­ nating insight into ways we can help dogs think in distracting environments and make good decisions. Ogilvie has developed his own system of interactive play aimed at deepening the relationship between human and canine. This system can be used to train dogs to focus on their handlers in distracting environ­ ments or when in an overaroused state. I was particularly impressed with Ogilvie’s skill in tailoring interactive play to each individual dog and his en­ couragement of the human partner of the canine­human team. His style could be described as both cheerleader and motivator as he inspired han­ dlers to “run, now tug, sway side to side, now run again!” And the results were evident in the dogs’ and humans’ increasingly enthusiastic and fo­ cused behavior from one training session to the next. Ogilvie’s defining statement is that “the toy is only a bridge for the expe­ rience that you create” through interactive play. He stated that the results of training a dog to focus on his handler, using his system, will be evident in dis­ tracting environments or when the dog is in an overaroused state, and is able to think for himself and view his human as his “best option.”

Practicing Calm Using the mnemonic I.N.T.E.R.A.C.T.I.V.E., Ogilvie introduced his format for teaching our dogs to play a highly reinforcing game of tug with their hu­ mans. Ogilvie stated that dogs “will do what is most reinforcing to them in


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

the moment. You need to build a reinforcement history for play so they will look to you first” when distractions may cause them to become over­ aroused or anxious. According to Ogilvie, the steps to building a great tug play behavior are to train “chase toy,” “bite on toy,” and then “tug.” We should give our dogs clear cues for when play begins and ends, he said, and play should always end with a calm behavior such as sniffing. Play should last a few seconds, in the beginning, as we slowly build duration to perhaps only a minute at a time, with frequent breaks and calm periods interspersed between play sessions. This type of structured play will pre­ vent overarousal and help our dogs practice calm behaviors which we can then begin to generalize to incrementally more distracting environments. Ogilvie views the quality of our interactions with our dogs to be more im­ portant than quantity of time spent, particularly if our training is not con­ ducive to helping them learn, or if our own behavior is negatively impacting them. Some of those human behaviors that may have a negative impact on dogs, according to Ogilvie, are tone of voice (e.g. loud tones or abrupt cues that can intimidate dogs) and leaning over them or into their space, which can also be intimidating. He recommended using your voice only when needed and limiting cues to those that are actually beneficial. In fact, Ogilvie stated that “no voice” is okay too during play sessions. He ad­ vised owners to document or video training and play sessions to track progress and watch the dog for stress behaviors or signs of overarousal, such as jumping up to grab toys, zoomies out and away from the handler, “digging in” to bite and hold on to a toy, or sudden, out­of­context behav­ iors, such as stopping to suddenly start scratching or sniffing. Ogilvie em­

phasized that we should never want to battle over a resource, such as a favorite toy, instead trading up for a treat and removing the toy only when the dog has voluntarily relinquished its hold on the toy; a dog should always be rewarded for freely giving up a resource. A standout learning moment for me was when Ogilvie was describing simple fixes for problematic be­ haviors or poisoned cues. He stated we should always look for “simple fixes” first. An example was his de­ scription of a previous client’s dog for whom the “drop” cue had become poisoned. This resulted in a dog that did not want to willingly release tug toys. His “simple fix” was to have the dog perform a hand target, which the handler could click and treat, and the dog “spat out the toy.” Problem solved! With practice and reinforcement, the dog began to willingly give up a valuable resource. (See our cover story, Testament to Targeting, on pp.18‐24 for more on target training.) When it comes to problematic behaviors, Ogilvie stated that simply ignoring the behavior was not enough. Rather, alternative behaviors need to be trained with massive reinforcement. Ignoring a behavior can create frustration when a dog cannot access a formerly accessible stimulus. Frustration can then lead to a negative conditioned emotional response which creates reactivity. One dog, during the first workshop session, demonstrated a reluctance to give up the tug toy, biting and holding onto the toy. Ogilvie’s fix was to scatter several treats on the ground. No battle occurred over the toy and, during the next session, the dog willingly gave up the tug toy to chase after the scattered treats. Ogilvie also demonstrated his expertise in reading canine body language over the course of the two days. No two play sessions were alike and all the dogs responded with enhanced interest in chasing and playing tug with their handlers. The handlers also showed great success in adapting their play style to Ogilvie’s interactive system. His theory that “the toy is only a bridge…” gives handlers a tool for helping their dogs learn calm behaviors and avoid overarousal while having a great game of tug. Dogs who can think in distracting environments no longer have to overreact to stimuli, but, rather, can focus on their han­ dlers and make better choices. n About Craig Ogilvie Internationally renowned seminar leader and author Craig Ogilvie is a highly experienced Certified Canine Behaviorist and Trainer, Police Dog Training Instructor and Mondioring Decoy (licensed in France). Having spent a great deal of time training and testing working dogs in locations all over Europe, he very quickly went on to achieve unique accreditation. He is the first person from the United Kingdom to be licensed to test and train dogs internationally in the working dog sport called Mondioring: which consists of Obedi‐ ence, Agility and Criminal Apprehension.

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Getting Hooked on Canine Scenting Niki Tudge reports from PPG’s November canine scent workshops hosted by presenters Dr. Robert and Karen Hewings


n November, I had the privilege of host­ ing two canine scent workshops at PPG’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, led by Dr. Robert Hewings and his partner, Karen Hewings. Robert and Karen Hewings hail from the United Kingdom College of Scent Dogs and, as a team, are possibly the most experienced individuals available to teach on the topic of canine scent. Collectively, they have over 50 years of military and po­ lice officer dog handling experience span­ ning narcotics, people tracking and explosive detection, all experienced at the highest level in the Greater London Metro­ politan Police Force. I am sure that anyone can appreciate that a mistake in narcotics detection may bring forth some embarrass­ ment, but mistakes in the detection of ex­ plosives can cost significant lives. Both Robert and Karen have an innate ability to teach the science and skills of ca­ nine scent detection by implementing strategic classroom planning, humor, indi­ Dr. Robert and Karen Hewings (front center, in white shirts), pictured with Canine Scent Instructor Program participants, presented two workshops on canine scent at PPG headquarters last November vidual anecdotes and pertinent, tacit knowl­ edge to ensure that both two legged and four all, it was an instructor program. As such, there was significant focus on legged students are wonderfully engaged, motivated and learning. the required instructor skills, the art of communication, lesson planning, curriculum development and individual coaching, creating safe and ef­ Scent Instructor Program fective learning environments and much more. Most of these compo­ The first workshop was the five­day Accredited Scent Instructor Pro‐ nents were demonstrated and assessed in the final day exercise where gram, followed shortly afterwards by the two­day Learn How to Train each attendee had to coach another person with their dog to search, Dogs to Detect Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Nightmares event. scent and indicate, in a strategic manner, in an outdoor search area. I was particularly excited to host the first program as I fully intended I was particularly happy to see that, in our first working exercise, we on participating in the program with my teenage Australian shepherd introduced the dogs to the scent equipment and allowed them to ex­ dog Ms. McDougal, also affectionately known as Doogie. Having already plore their area in a safe and hugely reinforcing way. Food was scattered hosted Dr. Hewings in 2018 for a two­day scent workshop, I knew that around the equipment motivating them to explore. This was the ‘Scent everything he imparted would be evidence­based dog training. In other Gym’ where the dogs would begin their training, learn to search and words, everything would be reliant on scientific data for guidance and scent, and to move through the behavior criteria as they developed decision­making as opposed to traditional, intuitional, or other un­ search stamina, scenting ability and, in some cases, naturally captured proven methods. Part One of the workshop encompassed ‘The How’ indication behaviors. and examined the canine olfactory system, the enrichment benefits of scent work, the ‘emotional’ benefits of scent work for dogs, and why The Power of Choice ‘searchy’ dogs are happy dogs. Part Two explored ‘The Why’ and cov­ ered evidence­based scent work, getting started, conditioning scent and As a side note, we also, on day one, discussed the importance of allow­ tacit knowledge, and the more subtle dimensions of search. ing the dogs to choose the scents they wanted to work with. It became obvious as the program evolved that not all the dogs liked birch or clove After a comprehensive introduction, everyone got to have a go. The and, in fact, a couple of dogs found them highly aversive. If we are to re­ practical application of canine scent work was separated into a) the ally embrace choice­based dog training, then it should permeate all of Search, b) the Scent Conditioning and c) the Indication. There was, of our training disciplines and giving dogs a choice over scent seemed a course, much more to unwrap and unpeel along the way. The curricu­ very easy way to accommodate their needs. lum also covered both the skill and knowledge perspective of canine The photo (opposite page, top), taken on the last day as Robert and scent and the skills required to fulfil the role of scent instructor. After


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Karen were summing up how the group had moved from conditioning scent to external searching of the outdoor property, illustrates just how much progress we had made. Day one had started with, for the dogs, building positive conditioned emotional responses around the equip­ ment and, for the humans, the practical understanding of how to handle scent. Keeping containers, hands, equipment and scent areas free from cross contamination is very important. Respondent (classical) condition­ ing was then used to build up a stimulus association between the scent and food. In the small blue plastic bowls, a piece of fabric with the scent on it would be covered with a second bowl with perforations. Food was then placed into that bowl for the dog to eat. The next phase used sam­ ple tubes, one of which had the scent in it. The dog was simply rein­ forced for sniffing the correct tube while his handler sat in a chair and offered both. The tubes were then placed into plastic containers on the floor and the dog searched them for the scent. This behavior was sys­ tematically built up in small yet challenging criteria developing stamina, methodic patterns of search and lots of reinforcement across lots of dif­ ferent equipment. By the final day, everyone had progressed enormously, which was extremely reinforcing given that the program’s focus was on the devel­ opment and skill attainment of being an instructor. As in many work­ shop scenarios, the speed of the program requirements outpaced the dogs’ ability to fully grasp everything but, of course, as Robert and Karen reminded us often, to teach canine scent searching to dogs takes far longer than five days. Again, on the final day, each attendee had to not only handle a dog through a search area but also plan, set up and coach another person with their dog through a selected area. Seven search locations had been cordoned off across 12 acres of the property. It was the role of each par­ ticipant/instructor to choose an area that was suitable for their student and the capabilities of their dog. Each search team then successfully lo­ cated a minimum of three scented articles, outside in a new search area, coached by their instructor.

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PTSD nightmare detection training instructors Dr. Robert and Karen Hewings (in white shirts) pictured with course attendees

PTSD Nightmare Detection Dr. Hewings’ second program, Learn How to Train Dogs to Detect Post‐ Traumatic Stress Disorder Nightmares, welcomed another group of at­ tendees with a smattering of familiar faces from the five­day program. Many of the new arrivals work in the arena of service dog training or were veterans with service dogs. The program kicked off with an intro­ duction to post­traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how it impacts in­ dividuals, their families and our communities. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault. During the in­ troduction to the program we watched tear­jerking videos that featured United States veterans whose lives have been turned around thanks to the ability of their loving canines and the amazing individuals who work hard to train and deliver these great and irreplaceable companions. This program primarily offered an effective introduction to the role dogs can play in detecting night tremors in PTSD sufferers and then of­ fering comfort. According to Dr. Hewings, the aim was to explain “the unique role a dog, a nose and a dedicated trainer has in helping heal in­ visible wounds.” At the end of the course, I took two key things away. The first was that the five­day canine scent program had really set me up with the knowledge to understand how PTSD tremors can be scent detected and then indicated. The second was how effectively an environmental cue, in this case the tremor, can be trained to evoke an indication to the suf­ ferer followed by a comfort behavior from the dog. To briefly explain, sweat scent is collected in a systematic and scientific way from worn clothing by the PTSD sufferer and then the scent conditioning takes place in the same way as for any other scent. The scent then becomes the cue for the dog to indicate to the human that the tremor is taking place and, in some instances, where appropriate, the dog then climbs onto the victim and offers licks or some other behavior to help calm and reassure the victim. All I could think about as I left this workshop was the endless possibilities this knowledge could yield in terms of helping those who suffer from PTSD.


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I have many lovely memories from this program, the fondest of which, I think, was watching Hank, a rescue Rottweiler service dog, work with his partner Terry (this page, top right). For his first couple of tries at scenting Hank was very serious. He was uniformed in his service dog harness and seemed more concerned with performing his day job. Terry then took off his harness which unleashed, to the delight of the audi­ ence, a fun­loving Rottie who expressed his love of scent as a great game. n About Dr. Robert Hewings Dr. Robert Hewings retired from the Metropolitan Police (United King‐ dom) after 30 years’ exemplary service, 25 of which was as a police dog handler, and the final nine years as a full‐time trainer with the Metro‐ politan Police Dog Training Establishment. He also has a bachelor’s in canine training and behavior, a master’s in professional practice police dog training, and a Ph.D in professional practice canine scent detection. He has instructed all police canine‐search disciplines including explosive search and narcotics and headed the training for SWAT dogs at the the Metropolitan Police Dog Training Establishment. He is now head of learning and development with the UK College of Scent Detection (

Dr. Robert and Karen Hewings will be back at PPG headquarters later this year to host another five‐day Scent Instructor Program on Saturday, November 7 – Wednesday, November 11 and a five‐day Canine Scent Advanced Handling Course on Tuesday, November 17 – Saturday, November 21. More details to follow! Check also‐Summits for updates.

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Testament to Targeting Terrie Hayward explains why targeting is a valuable foundation skill to teach all learners, as well as a cornerstone to a healthy relationship and a building block towards a repertoire of confident behaviors in dogs and across a variety of species

Stationing teaches a dog to target a specific spot like a bed or a mat; cueing him to go to his station can be used as a strategy to reduce stress and anxiety Š Can Stock Photo/joyfuldesigns


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odern training starts with some basic behaviors designed to infuse trust, collaboration, choice, and cooperation. In addi­ tion, it involves teaching animals to exhibit a variety of behav­ iors for husbandry, educational, and entertainment purposes (Fleming & Skurski, 2012). Today, teaching animals is evolving into an exchange and dialogue in­ volving choice and communication. That is to say that, more and more, outdated aversive methods are being set aside for techniques which allow animals to decide to participate and at what level and duration.

Animal Training and Operant Conditioning According to Tedeschi, Fine and Helgeson (2010), “since the early 1990s, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of operant conditioning techniques to train exotic animals for husbandry and medical purposes.” Operant conditioning is best known from the work of American psychol­ ogist B.F. Skinner, who believed that studying animals via observable be­ havior was more productive than attempting to guess at internal mental events. Furthermore, “[t]he work of Skinner was rooted in a view that classical conditioning was far too simplistic to be a complete explana­ tion of complex human behavior. He believed that the best way to un­ derstand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning.” (McLeod, 2018). Once we understand that consequences influence behavior, this gives us tools to work with animals. We know that behavior which is re­ inforced tends to be repeated, or strengthened, while behavior which is not reinforced tends to diminish, be weakened, or be extinguished. Too, animals, like people, will tend to work harder to gain access to something they find reinforcing whereas they may do just the minimum needed to avoid an undesirable consequence. This means that when providing access to something an animal finds reinforcing, we may not only see a response, but might even experience a more intense level be­ havior known as “discretionary effort.” (Friedman, 2015). In this in­ stance the animal may choose to go “above and beyond” standard level effort to have access to something he finds reinforcing (Friedman, 2015). In addition, teaching by reinforcing behaviors that we want to see

pester you. Teach your dog to ring a bell, and you have a doggie door­ bell for him to use when he has to go to the bathroom outside. Target­ ing the dog's nose to the bell is the easiest way to avoid damage to the bell. Teach your horse to target a hoof to a bucket, and you have made soaking the hoof a lot easier (for you and the horse!)” Some of the most common body parts used to target are the nose and the feet or paws. However, as noted above, animals can also learn to target with their chests, heads, rears, hips, shoulders, ears, tails, or, in fact, just about any other body part. In terms of what to use as the target, “[t]he designated target can also be anything imaginable, including the palm of your hand or your closed fist, a finger, target stick, spot on the wall or door, or just about any object you choose to ask your dog (animal) to target.” (Miller, 2019). Once you teach your animal to target, you can work to increase their skill level by incorporating duration, distance, and distraction. You might teach them to touch the target area briefly at first. Then, as with any behavior, you work to build duration, appropriate response at dis­ tance from the target, and ability to respond to the target cue in the presence of environmental distractions. Once animals learn to target, they also can generalize this skill set to other lessons. This way, they can easily expand their repertoire of be­ haviors that are available to reinforce. And you can build on this skill to teach additional behaviors. Targeting is so versatile and easy, it’s a win/win to teach your animal to do it. Discussing clicker training, Ramirez (qtd. in Gordon, 2012) states that “we are only limited by our own imaginations and our own internal barriers and beliefs.” The same is true for target training.

Benefits of Targeting Teaching an animal to target has vast positive and practical implications. As noted above, it is a great behavior to start with and really is essen­ tially a building block behavior. It is one of the first behaviors that I sug­ gest teaching due to its many benefits, which include positive emotional effects and options for husbandry and collaborative interactions. These advantages range from enhancing the human/animal bond, to an in­ crease in the animal’s confidence by way of avoiding physical manipula­ tion and adding choice to the equation.

...animals, like people, will tend to work harder to gain access to something they find reinforcing whereas they may do just the minimum needed to avoid an undesirable consequence. This means that when providing access to something an animal finds reinforcing, we may not only see a response, but might even experience a more intense level behavior known as “discretionary effort.” (Friedman, 2015). more of builds bonds and trust. Again, per Friedman (2012), building a “trust account” is key. It allows us to have better quality interactions which don’t involve apathy, aggression, escape/avoidance, nor general­ ized fear. Instead, establishing and working to maintain a trusting rela­ tionship “improves the quality of life for all learners.” (Friedman, 2012). “Every interaction with a learner that results in positive reinforcement puts a deposit into the trust account.” (Friedman, 2012). By keeping these principles in mind we can teach (and reinforce) be­ haviors that we want to see again and again.

Target Training Target training, i.e. teaching an animal to touch a specific, predeter­ mined part of their body to a target, is one of these basic behaviors. The target may be an object or surface. States Luck (2017): “Targets can be almost anything. Use a kitchen rug as a settle mat for your dog; the dog targets his whole body onto the kitchen rug. Your cat can sit on a drink coaster while you fix dinner; as long as her feet are on the coaster, she can't jump on the counter and

Relationship: “Training is not a luxury, but a key component to good animal care,” states Ramirez (qtd. in Gordon, 2012). Working with an an­ imal on a targeting behavior helps to build a solid foundation for a posi­ tive relationship; because it does not involve any physical manipulation it is less “scary.” Instead of taking hold of an animal’s body part, we are helping him to use his brain to touch a nose, ear, or chin to a target and thus to gain access to favorable consequences. We teach that touching the target equals a click (or other marker) and a treat. In other words, by making it easy to figure out how to earn access to reinforcers, then delivering them in a timely manner, your dog (or other animal learner) quickly may equate this “game” to a positive experience with you. Targeting is a fast, simple behavior that you can work on to set the tone for your relationship. It teaches the dog, or other animal, that touching the target with the prescribed body part has positive conse­ quences. Behaviors that are reinforced are repeated. Therefore, once your dog learns that targeting has a positive outcome, you have a be­ havior you can practice with your dog that allows you to set everyone up for success. You can then generalize this behavior to other targets

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c o v e r and other body parts to continue to increase your communication and understanding.

Confidence: In addition to helping to build a positive relationship with your dog, teaching a targeting behavior can aid in increasing his confi­ dence. Targeting is a trust building behavior for animals because they are not forced or manipulated into doing anything. However, if they make the choice to touch the predetermined target, they have the power to create a situation where reinforcement occurs. This “gateway to reinforcers” can empower and enable them to feel more in control of their environments and therefore to feel more confident and comfort­ able. In addition to targeting as a foundation behavior, upon which you can teach many other behaviors, teaching an animal to target is a great example of how you can have a dialogue with your dog (bird, cat, etc.). Creating a back and forth conversation based in choice and trust, again, allows animals to relax and enjoy the exchange. © DogNostics Career Center

Applications of Targeting The benefits of teaching targeting behaviors range from improving (or easing) veterinary and grooming visits, to alternatives for behavior mod­ ification and, finally, to increased human/animal bond opportunities.

Veterinary and Grooming: Often, veterinary and grooming experi­ ences are scary, anxiety filled situations. However, that doesn’t need to be the case. When we teach animals to voluntarily and collaboratively participate in their own care, we reduce stress and increase safety for both the people as well as for the animals. With both veterinary and grooming procedures the restraint portion of the experience is frequently even more anxiety provoking than the procedure itself. Thus, by teaching behaviors that allow safe husbandry and relaxed medical handling we can reduce the fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) associated with the situation (Fear Free Pets, 2019). We can do this by teaching an animal to target a part of his body to a specific target and add duration to the behavior. If a dog voluntarily targets his chin to a towel in our lap, we can help them to feel calmer about handling an ear exam for example. Training targeting skills then adding duration and distraction can be of great benefit when going to the vet or the groomers.

Training and Behavior Modification: Targeting can be used to teach incompatible or alternative options in the case of undesirable behaviors. For example, say a dog’s history when noticing another dog has been to respond with a hard stare, stiff body language, escalating to a bark/growl response. Instead you can teach that the sight of another dog is the cue to orient and seek a targeting opportunity which leads to the chance for reinforcement. Building a strong pattern for this new be­ havior can eventually replace the original unwanted response. Thus, in­ stead of a dog reacting with a collection of anxious behaviors at the sight of another dog, we can use targeting to teach an incompatible or alternative response which nets positive and reinforcing results for the dog. This new behavior will eventually, with patience and consistency, replace the original behavior that we sought to modify.

(From top to bot‐ tom) Cover dog and Trick Dog Champion Jambo demonstrates a paw target, a tar­ get stick hold and a chin rest

© DogNostics Career Center

Communication and Positive Reinforcement Interactions: Teach­ ing an animal to target by marking and reinforcing approximations to­ wards behavior that we are seeking increases the probability that the behavior will continue/increase. As noted previously, behaviors that are reinforced are repeated. Additionally, the use of positive reinforcement avoids any potentially dangerous side effects of coercive training. Con­ sequently, using positive reinforcement is how modern, science­based behavior consultants and trainers choose to work with captive animals. © DogNostics Career Center


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c o v e r Working with an animal on a targeting behavior helps to build a solid foundation for a positive relationship; because it does not involve any physical manipulation it is less “scary.” Instead of taking hold of an animal’s body part, we are helping him to use his brain to touch a nose, ear, or chin to a target and thus to gain access to favorable consequences.

What the Trainers Say Case Study: Ferrets Ferret wrangler Shannan Skitch has owned ferrets for over 23 years and has worked with them professionally for 15 of those years. She started at a ferret­specific rescue group, the Ferret Aid Society, in Toronto, On­ tario and was one of the organizers of the International Ferret Congress (IFC) in Canada in 2006, a ferret­focused veterinary conference. Recog­ nizing the need for more education within shelters for this special little animal, she organized Ferret First Aid, a training seminar for shelter vol­ unteers to provide emergency first aid for ferret health emergencies. As a leader in her field, Skitch has been interviewed for both print and on­ line media due to her unique expertise in working with ferrets. While she has specialized in ferrets, Skitch’s experience extends to parrots, dogs, cats, and over 60 other species of animals as everything from caretaker, to behavior consultant, to trainer. “When working with ferrets in a shelter one of the first behaviors I teach them is a target. I start with a target stick and move to a hand target after the ferret be­ comes comfortable with handling by humans,” says Skitch. “There are many benefits to teaching a target but the number one reason I encour­ age it is because it will allow you to move the ferret into cages, carriers, and on or off surfaces without having to pick up the ferret, which in­ creases the risk of a bite. For people that are unfamiliar with the animal or ferrets that have not been handled extensively, training a target will help keep everyone safe and allow both participants to build trust and confidence before having to work on more difficult behaviors such as a ‘pick me up’ cue. “As ferrets are naturally inquisitive animals it's often very easy to capture the target behavior. They will usually investigate anything you put in front of them. It's important when working with a ferret that you have excellent timing when capturing as a ferret will usually move in for a quick sniff and just as quickly move on to something else if you are not ready with your marker and reinforcer.” When working with animals it’s important to remember that we are always talking about a “study of one” (Friedman, 2015) and, as such, finding what is reinforcing to the animal you are working with is key. “My preferred foods for training a ferret are Ferretone, salmon oil, or dehydrated chicken or shrimp. But any small meat­based product will do,” says Skitch. Not only are the reinforcers key, but the delivery method is just as important. Working with ferrets and using the abovementioned rein­ forcers Skitch explains that, “When using a liquid having a 1cc syringe, dropper bottle, or a small handheld bowl will allow you to offer 1­2 drops of liquid at a time. When using a dry meat product, you will want to use tiny bite size pieces, approximately the size of half of your finger­ nail. Using very small treats will reduce the chances the ferret will take the treat to a safe space to eat and will allow you to build up a few repe­ titions of the behavior before the session ends.” Keep in mind, too, the duration of your sessions is also important. Making sure you work in multiple, short sessions is preferable in most cases. With ferrets, Skitch suggests remembering that they have a very short attention span so recommends keeping training sessions short:

© Terrie Hayward

Ferrets will usually move in for a quick sniff and then move on so trainers must have excellent timing when capturing and have the marker and reinforcer ready

“Starting with no more than five minutes at a time will help to make it a positive experience for everyone!”

Case Study: Parrots “Targeting is such a valuable tool to add to a parrot’s repertoire in posi­ tive reinforcement training,” says Marie­Elisabeth Gagnon KPA­CTP, di­ rector and lead trainer for behavior and rehabilitation of the parrots at the Parrot Sanctuary in Toronto. “I love using targeting as it’s both a benefit to the learner (parrot) and the trainer. I use targeting in so many ways for training essential behaviors such as a reliable recall.” Gagnon notes that parrot caregivers often comment on how diffi­ cult it can be to have their parrots return reliably to their cages when needed: “At the sanctuary, we have many parrots that need to be ro­ tated in order to have access to common spaces for exercise. To do so safely, I teach each parrot a reliable targeting behavior to station on a specific perch. For this behavior, the parrot will need to place (target) their two feet on a particular perch,” she explains. One might wonder just how you would go about teaching this type of behavior and how it results in aiding in the crate rotation. “When cued (if they wish to have out of cage time), the parrot will target his two feet on a designated perch,” Gagnon says. “Once perched he will have access to flight time, and when it is time for him to return to his cage, the parrot will be cued to return to the same perch. This perch is fastened to the inside of their cage door.” Gagnon explains how this behavior is taught and the steps to a solid targeting routine, which can then be helpful in the crate rotation con­ text. The behavior appears as follows when cued: 1. With the cage door closed, the trainer double taps their index finger on the perch — the parrot (who is inside his cage) will place his two feet on the designated perch. 2. Open the cage door to give access to a variety of activities for the parrot. 3. Once it is time for the parrot to return to his cage, cue him (via a double index tap on the perch) to return to the perch. 4. When his two feet are back onto the perch, close the door (gently) and reinforce the parrot for staying on the perch until the door is fully shut.

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c o v e r Targeting is a trust building behavior for animals because they are not forced or manipulated into doing anything. However, if they make the choice to touch the predetermined target, they have the power to create a situation where reinforcement occurs. This “gateway to reinforcers” can empower and enable them to feel more in control of their environments.

© Terrie Hayward

Demonstrating the foot target – targeting is a valuable behavior to add to a parrot’s repertoire

Gagnon emphasizes the importance of establishing specific and clear criteria: “The criteria are simple. As long as the parrot is targeting his two feet on the perch, he will be reinforced (access to flight, forag­ ing, play or food treat).” When teaching, we need to keep in mind that we are building be­ havior in small approximations. “In the initial stages of teaching a new parrot this behavior, I use my index finger as a prompt to initiate move­ ment of the parrot in his cage,” Gagnon says. “Parrots can be quite curi­ ous, and even a gentle tap of a finger on a cage bar will motivate a parrot to move around to see what the wiggling is all about. I will cap­ ture any movement towards my finger, from only looking in my direc­ tion to any foot movement towards my finger. I will mark and reinforce with a piece of peanut or a (hulled) sunflower seed (both are often pre­ ferred treats/reinforcers). As soon as a parrot makes the connection that moving towards my index fingers will result in the desired outcome (access to treats) training will move rather quickly.” In the final stages, the criteria have incrementally risen to reflect the following. “Once the parrot understands that where my index finger is

touching/tapping is the place to be then I can mark and reinforce for the duration of standing on the perch,” says Gagnon. “My tapping index fin­ ger on the perch now becomes the cue to target feet on the perch. Once the door is open, the parrot is free to explore what he wishes dur­ ing his free time. When I need the parrot to return to his cage, I will ini­ tially say his name to get its attention and then cue (tapping index) the parrot to return to the perch. I have found this to be the simplest and most reliable way to get a parrot to return to its cage with ease.” Finally, Gagnon discusses the vital importance of building a “super­ star” history of reinforcement to either a hand or the perch target. “This may be of great value if you need an emergency recall,” she says. To recap the targeting behavior sequence, Gagnon uses her index finger as a target to move towards the perch, then solidifies the index finger tap­ ping as her cue (indicating where to go) and then the parrot targets his feet on the perch, which then evolves into a highly reinforced stationary behavior. “You can see how targeting is so very useful for many pur­ poses such as teaching husbandry behaviors, infusing enrichment, or just for the fun of training a new behavior,” she says. “Everything is eas­ ier when you have a tool that gives clear communication with the parrot about where you would like his little feet to go to and how to find a good and safe place to perch.”

Case Study: Grizzly Bear Cindy Peacock CPDT­KA KPA­CTP, lead trainer at Kicking Horse Grizzly Refuge in Golden, British Columbia and head of behavior at Chasin’ Tails Dog Care Center in Calgary, Alberta, shares perspectives on teaching tar­ get training with Boo the grizzly bear. Boo came to be in the care of Peacock and her team after he and his brother Cari were orphaned at approximately 5 months of age, when their mother was shot by a poacher. They were initially housed at a habitat on Grouse Mountain, British Columbia, while a new, state­of­ the­art, 20­acre habitat at Kicking Horse Mountain was built. “Since 2003, Boo has resided in this sub­alpine mountain habitat enclosure, the largest of its kind for a single brown (grizzly) bear,” says Peacock. © Terrie Hayward The first behavior she worked on with Boo was teaching a target stick. According to Peacock, when she first presented the stick to Boo it was an aver­ sive stimulus because the only sticks he had prior experience with were ones that delivered injec­ tions. To combat this association and work to change Boo’s conditioned emotional response (CER) to the stick, she first presented the stick beside him, resulting in a click and treat using one of Boo’s fa­ vorite foods, purple grapes as reinforcers. Once Boo stopped showing a fear response to the target stick, Peacock began reinforcing any movement towards it, “leading to a nose/lip touch on the target stick.” (Left) Targeting has allowed grizzly bear Boo’s trainers to shape other behaviors, including to stand parallel to the trainers, allowing them to deliver topical medications


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c o v e r Then, when this behavior became reliable, she added the verbal cue, "touch,” to the behavior. “Over the years, this (targeting) behavior has allowed us to shape other behaviors, including ‘hold’ (stand parallel to the trainer)—a be­ havior which allowed us to deliver topical medications,” says Peacock. “This behavior is incredibly helpful in being able to move Boo in ways we need to observe his body condition (like standing to see his belly).” The “touch” cue has been also very effective as a recall over short dis­ tances, “especially in stressful situations such as when in the presence of machinery or other bears in the area,” Peacock says. Peacock also addresses teaching targeting from the perspectives of wellness and education. “With Boo I have found it important to explain why he is in captivity and why we do training,” she explains. “Boo is a male grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), born in 2002. He weighs 550 to 600 pounds in the spring, and up to 750 to 850 pounds in the winter before hibernation.” Peacock and her team’s initial goals in training were “to have a reliable method to get Boo from his main habitat into his holding area in case of emergency or evacuation, and to reduce the frequency of stress behaviors when locked into this space.” Ideally, they will “progress toward having him voluntarily participate in routine vet proce­ dures, such as dental checks and injections” and a targeting cue can play a large part in the facilitation of these welfare and wellness collabora­ tive behaviors.

Across Species: Elephants In 2018, I was lucky enough to travel to Mathura, India and work with SOS Wildlife Elephant Sanctuary where they have a number of rescued elephants. According to SOS, India is “home to almost 60% of the Earth’s remaining elephant population,” however, the country “is plagued with a lack of awareness and education which is leading to the persistent enslavement of these amazing animals for manual labor, per­ formances, processions, entertainment, and street begging.” (Wildlife SOS India, 2019). The fact that, at Wildlife SOS Elephant Sanctuary, these majestic creatures are being taught to collaborate in their care using the least in­ trusive, positive reinforcement methods is the reason that I specifically chose to visit this location. Wildlife SOS (2019) currently offers “medical services to the needy elephants and trains their handlers, the ‘mahouts’ on humane treatment and management of these gentle giants.” At the Elephant Conservation and Care Center, elephants learn to collaborate in their foot care, ear care, and nonstressful movement via targeting. In fact, special protected contact “windows” have been built to allow the elephants to target an ear or a foot for examination and/or care while participating voluntarily and keeping stress low. This ap­ proach ensures the safety of the human caregivers as well as that of the elephants and provides for a more compassionate and calm relation­ ship. During my visit, I chatted with the staff about the behaviors that they were working on with the elephants. We discussed their use of an “elephant­sized” target stick and a verbal marker “sebash.” We were able to practice cueing a trunk target with the target stick and marking using a verbal marker. Once more, teaching the elephants to voluntarily touch a target (in this case a large target stick) with their trunks in order

Often, veterinary and grooming experiences are scary, anxiety filled situations. However, that doesn’t need to be the case. When we teach animals to voluntarily and collaboratively participate in their own care, we reduce stress and increase safety for both the people as well as for the animals.

© Terrie Hayward

Author Terrie Hayward trains Indian elephants to trunk target, a behavior that is useful in improving the handler­elephant bond and allows the elephants to collaborate in their care

to gain access to reinforcers (bananas) makes the interaction pleasant and helps to create a positive conditioned emotional response. This trunk targeting behavior could therefore be used to improve relation­ ships between handlers and elephants as well as to begin teaching other valuable targeting skills. The fact that Wildlife SOS Sanctuary has embraced the use of posi­ tive reinforcement techniques instead of using coercion, manipulation, and force to restrain and restrict an elephant’s movement are a great glimpse into the potential future for these captive animals. Moreover, through the use of targeting behaviors, elephants who were previously exposed to stressful situations can now collaborate in their care which is an important perk for people and animals.

Applied to Dogs To come full circle, how might these concepts and techniques apply to those of us who share our homes and/or our businesses living and working with dogs? Along these lines, what are some strategies that you can begin to employ today to work towards reducing stress and anxiety and improve your relationship with the canines in your world? I suggest working on the following three behaviors as foundations for others you can teach: 1. Hand Targeting. 2. Stationing. 3. Chin Rest.

Hand Targeting: The first thing on my list is to teach a hand target. To review, this means teaching a dog to touch his nose to your hand. This behavior is physically incompatible with less desirable behaviors like barking or other expressions of anxiety. To teach a hand target, you begin with an aromatic, small treat in your hand (such as a piece of hot dog) and bring it within 1/2 inch of the dog’s nose. The second the dog touches his nose to your hand, click and treat. Step two would be to repeat the above behavior, however, without

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


c o v e r guardians to teach their canine clients and pets is to target a towel, their hand, or their lap with the chin. This “chin rest” behavior can have many useful applications for grooming and veterinary husbandry. To teach a dog to target his chin to your cupped hand, you can begin by very gently placing your hand under his chin and clicking the second you touch him. Gradually, you allow the dog to offer the behavior, in­ crease the duration and introduce distractions (for example, an eye or ear exam).

Cornerstone Targeting behavior has so many varied implications that teaching this skill is a cornerstone to a healthy relationship and a building block to­ wards a repertoire of confident behaviors your dog, or, indeed, any ani­ mal, can learn which will improve his quality of life. I encourage all trainers to incorporate target training into their foun­ dation skills training and even into their more complicated behavior sce­ narios. Via targeting, we can teach an animal to have more control over his surroundings, interactions, and consequences. In turn, this approach will help us create relationships with animals that are based on coopera­ tion, collaboration and dialogue and enhanced by mutual enrichment. Whether we work with ferrets, bears, parrots, elephants, or dogs, we can have a safer, more relaxed communication system in place by incor­ porating targeting. n © DogNostics Career Center

Jambo and his trainer Louise Stapleton­Frappell practice a hand target, a behavior that is incompatible with other, less desirable, behaviors

the treat in your hand. Again, be sure to mark the second the dog’s nose touches your hand and then to reinforce this behavior. Finally, for step three, you place an open palmed hand again within a 1/2 inch of the dog’s nose and click/treat the nose touch. If the dog doesn’t touch right away you can also rub a bit of hot dog on your palm to encourage the dog’s interest. I urge my clients to practice in short sessions of three to five repeti­ tions. Once the behavior has graduated to step three I advise them to continue to practice, thus building a strong reinforcement history for this behavior. Once the dog has the hand targeting behavior in his col­ lection of behaviors under stimulus control, it’s an easy alternative/in­ compatible behavior you can use on a regular basis. Stimulus control “refers to a change in operant behavior that occurs when a particular type of stimulus (SD or SΔ) is presented. With an SD, the behavior occurs in the presence of that stimulus and does not occur in its absence. With an SΔ, the behavior does not occur in the presence of that stimulus. Stimulus control develops when a given response is re­ peatedly reinforced in the presence of a particular stimulus (SD) and not in its absence, or not in the presence of a different stimulus (SΔ).” (Bloh, 2008).

Stationing: Stationing is when we teach a dog to target a specific spot, such as a bed or a mat with his body—in particular his belly. To teach this, you would place the mat between you and the dog. Once the dog steps onto the mat you click and treat. Incrementally you raise your criteria so that, at first, one or two paws would elicit a click/treat, eventually leading to only four paws on the mat. Next, you can wait for or cue a down on the mat. Gradually, and with a high rate of reinforcement, you can move to­ wards only reinforcing offered downs on the mat. Once the dog is reli­ ably going to and targeting the mat with his belly, you can build duration, cue from a distance, and incorporate distractions—teaching each individ­ ually, as we only raise criteria one category at a time for success.

Chin Rest: The final targeting behavior that I encourage all trainers and


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

Terrie Hayward is the owner of PAW-Positive Animal Wellness, LLC ( in Rincon, Puerto Rico. She is the author of A Deaf Dog Joins the Family: Training, Education, and Communication for a Smooth Transition and Your 10 Minute a Day Dog: A Training Guide to Using Your Time Wisely to Communicate Effectively with Your Pup, and is co-author of Grooming Without Stress: Safer, Quicker, Happier. She holds a Master’s in education and is a Karen Pryor Academy Faculty Member and Certified Training Partner, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT), and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, IAABC (CDBC).

References Bloh, C. (2008). Assessing Transfer of Stimulus Control Procedures Across Learners With Autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior 24 (1): 87– 101. Available at: Fear Free Pets. (2019). Fear Free Veterinary Certification Program Overview. Available at: Fleming, G.J., & Skurski, M.L. (2012). Behavioral Training of Reptiles for Medical Procedures. In Fowler's Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine (3rd edn.) 212-216. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press Friedman, S. (2012). Trust Accounts - Behavior Works [Video File]. Available at: Friedman, S. (2015). Tsk, No, Eh-eh: Clearing the Path to Reinforcement with an Errorless Learning Mindset. Paper presented at the ABMA Conference, 2016. Available at: Friedman, S. (2015). Behavior Works. Available at: Gordon, J. (2012). Thinking Beyond the Cue: Ken Ramirez Takes Animal Training to a New Level. Available at: Luck, L. (2017). How to Teach Your Pet to Target. Available at: McLeod, S. (2018). Skinner - Operant Conditioning. Simply Psychology. Available at: Miller, P. (2019). Train Your Dog to Target. The Whole Dog Journal. Available at: Tedeschi, P., Fine, A.H., & Helgeson, J.I. (2010). Assistance animals: their evolving role in psychiatric service applications. In Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice 421-438. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Inc. Wildlife SOS India. (2019). Elephants. Available at: /elephants

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A “Spoiled” Dog or a Frustrated Dog? Suzanne Clothier explains the power of volitional behavior and why it is the trainer’s job to set up situations so dogs can find the answers

© Can Stock Photo/DragoNika

© Can Stock Photo/ferrerivideo

A dog's behavior is always the best gauge of how things are going for the dog, regardless of the trainer’s expectations, experience or techniques

As trainers, it is our responsibility to set up a training situation where the dog can find the answer for himself, and then rapidly build on that success


able. What would you know? You'd know what the dog shows you in his be­ havior. Start there. Do not bring the judgment of "he is spoiled" into an as­ sessment of how the dog is behaving, or how you will respond to him. #3. If sessions are organized so that the humans are sitting and talking for a long time, do not ask the dog to be a part of that. Put him away or give him something really engaging to do. Do not give him an opportunity to practice unwanted behavior, and do not give him an opportunity to learn that you are willing to ignore and frustrate him. #4. When you are ready to focus on just the dog, then training begins. The dog deserves your full attention, and the client needs to see a profes­ sional trainer modeling appropriate interactions, which include managing when not training, and being focused when training. #5. “Ignore unwanted behavior and it will go away” is inaccurate, and often ineffective. If you ignore a behavior that requires external reinforce­ ment, then yes, that will probably diminish or extinguish. But if you ignore a behavior that is self­reinforcing, the dog won’t care one whit whether you ignore him or not. #6. Withdrawing attention until the dog "gets it right" can work some­ times. But it assumes that the dog can figure it out. Ignoring the dog until X happens hinges completely on the dog's ability (and willingness) to con­ tinue to offer new behaviors until he magically hits upon the "right" answer. Guess what dogs with low frustration thresholds don't do? Keep offering behaviors if they are unsuccessful. They just get frustrated.

young trainer questioned why her clients’ adolescent dogs often nipped or humped her, behaviors the owners reported did not hap­ pen with other people. The trainer characterized the dogs as “spoiled, used to getting everything they want whenever they want it.” She noted that she ignores the dogs when she enters unless there are four paws on the ground, and if they jump, she turns her back. She also noted that during the first session, she and the owners sit talking for a long time, dur­ ing which she deliberately ignores the dogs. When the dogs try to nip or hump her, she body blocks them and pushes them out of her space, and yelps if they nip her. If the behavior persists, she tries to distract with the dogs’ toys. She also waits for the dogs to give her eye contact before she provides treats. She is puzzled why the behavior keeps happening even after teaching the dogs basic manners using treats and toys. She is con­ cerned that perhaps she is doing something to trigger these unwelcome be­ haviors. Hats off to the young trainer for raising such a great issue! Unpacking this provides a lot of useful information. #1. A dog's behavior is always the best gauge of how things are going for the dog, regardless of the trainer’s expectations, experience or tech­ niques. If the dog is telling you he's frustrated, believe him. One of my Ele­ mental Questions™ is, “How is this for you?” Believe the dog’s answer. #2. Respond to behavior, not the dog’s history. Imagine that you just found this dog in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot with no information avail­

Respond to behavior, not the dog’s history. Imagine that you just found this dog in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot with no information available. What would you know? You'd know what the dog shows you in his behavior. Start there. Do not bring the judgment of "he is spoiled" into an assessment of how the dog is behaving, or how you will respond to him.


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

training Volitional Behavior Let's say I come to your house. And you are a very exuberant hugger and greeter. I do not want you to greet or hug me as you usually do, so I turn my back and say nothing. I am waiting until you put your hands in your pockets, stop talking to me and move away 5 ft. When will that dawn on you? Would you be frustrated, irritated or maybe even be puzzled about my ignoring you long before you "discovered" the right answer? How long would you even try to discover the "right" answer when for you, the right answer is big hugs and a warm, chatty welcome? As anyone who has watched me train knows, I am a huge proponent of letting the animal find the answer for himself. Volitional behavior, i.e. be­ havior a pet chooses to offer, is powerful. However, it's my responsibility as a trainer to set up the situation where the dog can find the answer, and then rapidly build on that success. It should be almost like falling in a hole, i.e. easy, if you have set up the situation correctly. My experience is that when we ignore dogs, the absolute lack of connection, information, and even normal interaction is at best uninformative and, for some dogs, wildly frustrating or off­putting. #7. Find a point of agreement, through direct interactions, instead of setting up a potential conflict. Sometimes, my starting point is simply asking the dog if he's willing to follow a high quality treat that I toss past him. If so, then I keep moving him (parallel to me) tossing treats. This engages SEEK­ ING, one of the seven emotional systems (Panksepp, 1998). I’ll continue moving the dog back and forth chasing treats until a brief delay in tossing the treat gets me a glance from the dog. Now I have the glimmer of connec­ tion. From here, I can begin to set a rhythm and pace that eventually leads the dog to being able to stand, watch me and wait a few beats for the next throw. Only then might I ask for a sit to see if he's cooperative. If you can't find a point of agreement, the dog is unlikely to care much about making eye contact with you or doing anything more advanced. #8. Body blocking and physically pushing a dog is a surefire way to get a

“Ignore unwanted behavior and it will go away” is inaccurate, and often ineffective. If you ignore a behavior that requires external reinforcement, then yes, that will probably diminish or extinguish. But if you ignore a behavior that is self-reinforcing, the dog won’t care one whit whether you ignore him or not. frustrated dog even more frustrated. It can also increase the arousal in a dog who enjoys physical contact and body slamming. Dogs who continue to make physical contact are not usually dissuaded by getting contact as a re­ sponse; instead, they often escalate. As reported by this young trainer, the dogs' behavior says that they are frustrated, that they may have lower thresholds than many other dogs who don’t respond in this same way with nipping and humping, and that they are aroused in a negative way. In my experience, it is more effective to begin with a bottom up approach that first considers the dog’s level of arousal and willingness to interact, rather than the "if dog does X, apply Z" top down approach which is prevalent in dog training these days. Tech­ niques that help move the dog into productive arousal, what I call the ‘Think and Learn Zone’ where he can both think and learn, help position dog and handler for successful interactions and learning new behaviors. n

Reference Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press Suzanne Clothier ( has been working with animals professionally since 1977. Currently based in St. Johnsville, New York, she is well respected internationally for her holistic Relationship Centered Training™ approach to dogs and the people that love them. Her background includes training, instruction, behavior modification, kennel management, temperament assessment, physical assessment and conditioning, early puppy development, class curriculum development, obedience, agility, Search and Rescue, conformation, breeding and more. Since 1991, she has taught workshops and seminars on a broad range of topics throughout the United States and internationally for a wide variety of groups from training clubs to international conferences in 11 countries. An award-winning author of multiple books and DVDs, her book, Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships With Dogs (2002) has received wide spread praise from every corner of the dog world, including twice being included in the Wall Street Journal's list of Top 5 Dog Books. She has served on the American Humane Association’s Task Force for Humane Training, the AKC Agility Advisory board, and is currently a consultant for Frankie & Andy’s Place, a senior dog sanctuary in Georgia. She has also developed multiple assessment tools - CARAT™, an assessment tool, RAT™ (Relationship Assessment Tool), as well as puppy and adult dog tests. These tools have been used by guide and service dog organizations, therapy dog groups, AAIA organizations, shelters and rescue groups, and trainers. In her work as a consultant to guide dog schools, her Enriched Puppy Protocol™ served as the structure for the updating of their puppy raising programs. Since 2007, more than 10,000 puppies have been raised in programs built around The Enriched Puppy Protocol™. Meanwhile, with fellow trainer Cindy Knowlton, she developed CCC: Connection, Cooperation & Control™, a puzzle-based program that builds joyful relationships between handlers and dogs. Her newest program, FAT - Functional Assessment Tracking™, helps caretakers assess a dog’s well-being day-to-day as reflected in physiological, cognitive and social aspects.

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020



Let Them Be Little Gail Radtke discusses the importance of limiting puppy activity during the crucial early stages of development while ensuring they get the appropriate amount of physical activity for their age


can’t imagine taking a toddler on a long walk or hike, but I are rarely designed for dogs, and see it all too often when people are trying to tire the steps can be too high and out their exuberant and energetic puppies. slippery for a small puppy. Thus, The more exercise and activity he gets, the stair climbing and descent until more tired he will be, right? Well, the age of three months, in perhaps he will be physically ex­ combination with the immature hausted but he will still, quite neuromuscular function and co­ possibly, have plenty of mental ordination, might create too much energy. In fact, excessive repeti­ load on the immature joints and thus tive exercise when a puppy is promote abnormal development.” only just developing can be po­ (Krontveit, 2012). The same study re­ tentially detrimental: “If you veals that daily exercise outdoors in over­exercise a growing puppy you can over­ gently undulating terrain up until the age tire it and damage its developing joints, caus­ of three months can be helpful in pre­ ing early arthritis.” (The Kennel Club, 2019). venting hip dysplasia: “Provision of regu­ Luckily, there is a growing trend of infor­ lar exercise on soft ground in moderately mation and education in canine fitness be­ rough terrain appeared protective against coming more available, not only to the radiological CHD, while daily use of stairs professionals that train puppies but also should be avoided in this period due to to the puppy owners. One of the com­ its negative effect on radiological mon topics I discuss with my puppy CHD.” (Krontveit, 2012). clients is growth plates. I find this Similarly, Farricelli (2016) points © Can Stock Photo/adogslifephoto According to the Kennel Club, a good rule of thumb is a ratio of makes a big difference to their under­ out that puppies are “particularly five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until a standing of their puppy’s limitations prone to injury during strenuous ex­ puppy is fully grown concerning physical activity and also ex­ ercise because they lack coordina­ cessive play with other puppies. tion and don’t have a lot of muscle strength.” Of course, we don’t need The growth plates are the soft areas of tissue that sit towards the to be putting our puppies in a glass bubble, but I think we definitely end of the long bones in puppies and young adults. They contain rapidly need to know what are the age appropriate activities for them at vari­ dividing cells that allow bones to become longer until the pet is finished ous stages of development. growing (Puppy Culture, 2017). As the puppy matures, the tissues and cartilage calcify, the bones become denser and the growth plates close. Enrichment Growth plate closures vary depending on location in the body, breed When we talk about activities that are not appropriate for young devel­ and age (Farricelli, 2016). Until the growth plates close, they are soft oping puppies, this even includes very long walks. Often, when I discuss and vulnerable to injury. Injuries to the growth plate may not heal prop­ this with my clients, they are quite surprised at how limited walks for erly, causing growth deformities or making the puppy more prone to in­ puppies should actually be. According to the Kennel Club (2019), a good jury when he grows up (Puppy Culture, 2107). So, it is very important for rule of thumb “is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up owners to know what is expected for their particular puppy. For exam­ to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown, i.e. 15 minutes (up to ple, the smaller breeds’ growth plates close earlier than those of the twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old larger breeds. Some people even like to get X­rays of the growth plate etc. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer.” areas to ensure they are fully developed and closed before they get The average age of puppies coming to my training classes is around their dogs started with high impact sports (Farricelli, 2016). 12­14 weeks, so, based on that rule, they would need approximately 15 Even everyday activities can pose a threat. A study conducted in minutes of physical exercise up to twice per day. You can imagine, then, Norway suggests that the use of steps during the first three months of a that many loving, well­meaning puppy guardians might be unintention­ puppy’s life can increase the risk of canine hip dysplasia (CHD): “Stairs ally overexercising their pups. Fortunately, there are resources that pro­ vide creative solutions to finding the right balance of mental stimulation and age appropriate physical activity throughout puppyhood. We all worry about socialization – or the lack of One of my favorite visual resources is the poster, Exercise Guidelines it – and how it will affect our puppy’s behavior. for Puppies (Puppy Culture, 2017). For me, having this in my training As a result, puppy owners commonly seek out classroom is a must. It provides a month­by­month overview of appro­ playmates for their pets. However, we must priate exercises and activities for puppies. When I am discussing activi­ consider the impact of this selection on a ties with clients, I get them to consider enrichment activities instead of the traditional dog walk. They often chuckle and respond, “You’re giving puppy’s physical development. me permission to not walk my puppy?” My answer is that walking 28

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


© Deb Gross/Wizard of Paws

In puppies, growth plate closures vary depending on location in the body, breed and age; until they close, they are soft and vulnerable to injury

should not be the only activity. Additionally, we have to consider what impacts bones and joints, including surfaces such as concrete. So I tell them to try to walk their puppies on grass, or softer surfaces. High speed chasing and/or catching balls or discs during games of fetch or, as outlined above, even going down stairs can all have potentially negative consequences in later life.

Play Dates Lack of early socialization can also have negative consequences later in life. We all worry about socialization – or the lack of it – and how it will affect our puppy’s behavior. As a result, puppy owners commonly seek out playmates for their pets. However, we must consider the impact of this selection on a puppy’s physical development. In my puppy classes, I make time during the learning curriculum to have puppy play sessions. This enables the puppies to continue to develop their social develop­ ment skills and for the parents to learn about appropriate play behavior. Yet, I will only have play sessions when the puppies are size­, age­ and energy­matched to minimize any negative experiences, either physical or emotional. The 5­month­old, 40­pound Bernese isn’t a match for the 4­month, 7­pound Papillon, for example. I can’t count the amount of times I have heard, “But he plays with big dogs all the time,” and all I can picture in comparison is a 7­year­old child pulling a 2­year­old tod­ dler around and engaging in a rough wrestling match. Fortunately, most people, when I use that comparison, understand what I am getting at. But let’s get back to appropriate exercise. If you have a 4­month­old puppy and are aiming for your 20 minutes of physical exercise, you can certainly mix things up to avoid any strenuous and repetitive impact ac­ tivities. A light walk to learn loose leash walking skills and perhaps a game of “sniff and find” at home, with a bit of light toy play thrown in, are all things that can be safely repeated in a puppy’s day without nega­ tive effects. We also need to consider activities that require our pups to use all their senses and problem­solving skills along with physical abilities, aka enrichment. Think of things that are low in physical impact but that can keep puppy busy, engaged, and learning while minimizing the risk to his

physical development. Again, Exercise Guide‐ lines for Puppies (Puppy Culture, 2017) has a host of great ideas for activities and shows what is appropriate for each age. In the book, Brain Games for Dogs, another resource that I highly recommend, author Claire Arrowsmith puts together a host of thinking and problem solving activities owners can do with their puppies, all the way through to adulthood, to burn off energy. For puppy guardians, FitPaws USA and Toto Fit are both good resources for equip­ ment they can start with at home to help their puppies learn safe exercises that will help with development of balance, coordination, strength and confidence. States veterinarian Dr. Lisa Woodside: "If you are unsure of what is a good activity for your puppy contact your local rehabilitation/sports medicine veterinar­ ian and have them help you with a plan.” (Ready to Go Veterinary Rehabilitation, 2018). I am fortunate to have a canine fitness gym at my training facility and I am able to offer age appropriate exercise activities to my puppy clients. Puppies grow up so fast, so, in my opinion, we should enjoy them while they are babies and let them be little. There’s lots of time to do big dog stuff later! n

References Faricelli, A. (2016). Impact of Exercise on Puppy Growth Plates. Available at: Krontveit, R.I. (2012). Canine hip dysplasia in a prospective cohort study - Incidence, risk factors and long-term effects in four large breeds. Series of dissertations submitted to the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science No. 107. Available at: Puppy Culture. (2017). Exercise Guidelines for Puppies. Available at: Ready to Go Veterinary Rehabilitation. (2018). Let’s Talk about... Puppies!!! Available at: The Kennel Club. (2019). Puppy and dog walking tips. Available at:

Resources Arrowsmith, C. (2014). Brain Games for Puppies. Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books CABI VetMed Resource. (n.d.). Environmental Factors Can Affect the Incidence of Hip Dysplasia. Available at: FitPaws USA: Hyatt, R. (2017). The #1 and #2 common injury factors for puppies it's not just about hips and elbows. Available at: Krontveit, R.I., Nødtvedt, A., Sævik, B.K., Ropstad, E., Skogmo, H.K., & Trangerud, C. (2010). A prospective study on Canine Hip Dysplasia and growth in a cohort of four large breeds in Norway (1998–2001). Preventive Veterinary Medicine 97 3–4 252-263. Available at: Puppy Culture. (2017). New Appropriate Exercise. Available at: Toto Fit: Gail Radtke owns and operates Cedar Valley K9 ( in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. She is a certified Fear Free animal trainer and certified professional dog trainer and holds a diploma in canine behavior and science technology. She is also a DogSafe canine first aid authorized instructor, FitPAWS master trainer and certified canine fitness trainer.

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020



A Practical Application of Dogs in Schools Anna Bradley discusses how dogs are increasingly being used for therapy placements in educational establishments, what their tasks may involve, and how they are assessed to make sure they are suited to the job


n the last year, I have become involved in a wonderful and progres­ sive venture in the United Kingdom which assesses dogs for therapy placements within schools. It never ceases to amaze me just how versatile dogs are, how adaptable to the context and environment they can become, and, above all, the empathy they seem to exude when placed with young people experiencing many differing emotional states. In terms of getting started, usually, in my experience, one of the teachers at any given school will own a dog that they think would be a possible candidate for a school therapy dog placement. Or, sometimes, the dog will be owned by a parent. They initiate contact with me and then we have an initial chat about the idea, their dog’s personality, why they would like to participate in the program and go from there. All school therapy dogs must be fully assessed in accordance with the school insurance policy. And who, exactly, are the dogs? The most wonderful aspect about the school therapy dogs I have met thus far is that 90% have been res­ cue dogs. Some of these dogs have endured dreadful living conditions and abuse and still they offer trust, companionship and unconditional love, on first contact, to an unfamiliar human. Some of the school dogs have been rehabilitated from other countries, including Spain, Romania, Cyprus and Afghanistan. I am happy to say that no breed stereotypes exist with school dogs; some of the kindest, most soulful dogs I have assessed so far have been amongst the most traditionally stigmatized by certain parts of society. i.e. Staffordshire bull terriers and Rottweilers to name but two.

Flexible Approach In the schools, the dogs help in many different ways and this is the most wonderful aspect about the program. There is no one way to employ a school dog; each approach is flexible because each school meets differ­ ent needs depending on its pupils, demographics and location. Some school dogs wander completely at ease and off leash through­ out the school at various times throughout the day. In these circum­ stances, schools find that the dogs can help diffuse periods of tension, perhaps during recess or when pupils are charging through corridors to get to lessons. Other times, dogs many simply be brought into lessons on leash by a teacher or classroom assistant. This helps greatly where schools may struggle with large class sizes and the associated disruption that can bring, as a dog can provide a great calming focus. The children learn that they must be relaxed and settled around the dog or they will frighten him. They also learn that, if they would like to interact with him, then being quiet is contingent on that possibility. An interaction with the school dog is, in many cases, a huge pupil reward. Sometimes schools may have pupils who have individual learning needs. School dogs can create great advancements here. I witnessed this in particular a couple of months ago when visiting a local school. One of the pupils was a 12­year­old who had speech and language diffi­ culties and, subsequently, was having difficulty integrating into class. This child offered very little voluntary speech or interaction with teach­ 30

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

© Can Stock Photo/spepple22

In schools, the presence of a dog has been shown to boost children’s confidence and break down walls of shyness, particularly in children with speech or language difficulties

ers or classmates and had become quite introverted. At the time, the school dog had just been introduced into class and was beginning to make inroads. Gradually, a bond started to develop between dog and child. There was no additional pressure or judgment placed when talk­ ing to the dog, yet the need to talk was being exercised. I am absolutely certain of a positive outcome in this case over the next few months.

Creating Confidence Building from this example, speech, language and confidence are huge areas where dogs can help in schools. Often, children can be a little reti­ cent about speaking to or in front of teachers or even their classmates, but if they have to speak to a visiting canine, somehow it is so much easier. Dogs boost confidence and allow that wall of shyness to break down. Dogs can also provide a tactile release, diffusing feelings of anger, frustration and sadness. I think, in our current climate, there is less of an inclination to be open about our emotions, and, with that, comes the associated risk of a negative impact on overall well­being. Dogs can be wonderful here as pastoral care because they often appear to intuit how we feel. Dogs don’t care what we look like or how we think we look. Rather, we can offload whilst stroking and massaging their fur and

canine The children learn that they must be relaxed and settled around the dog or they will frighten him. They also learn that, if they would like to interact with him, then being quiet is contingent on that possibility. An interaction with the school dog is, in many cases, a huge pupil reward. vbfdbdfbb that physical touch can be enormously therapeutic. Another way I have seen dogs helping out is by increasing students’ energy and activity levels. Usually dogs are utilized indoors, but in this case, the school in question found it difficult to engage older children in exercise plans and physical education. At this particular institution, then, when the class went running, so did the dog, and that was fun for everyone.

What’s in an Assessment? The assessment of any individual dog always takes place within the school. It is necessary to see how the dog reacts in situ, as well as how he interacts with teachers and pupils and copes with all the associated noises and stimuli of the environment. An assessment involves looking at how the dog responds to people he has never met before. Is he tolerant? You don’t want a dog to be overly ebullient or excessively nervous or fearful. How good is this dog when he actually conducts a formal meet and greet? Can he remain calm? What does he do when his handler ignores him and has to focus on other tasks? A school dog must be able to relax and settle on cue. I normally conduct a couple of tests which assess how the dog might re­ spond to a more invasive or startling meeting or greeting. A school dog might easily be faced with this scenario because we can’t guarantee every meeting will be a textbook “dog­ friendly” one! He has to be able to tolerate a slightly more “in your face” type greeting.

I would also look at how the dog tolerates touch. Is he accepting of being touched everywhere, including vulnerable areas, bearing in mind that children might be inadvertently pulling, pushing, or poking him everywhere you can imagine. A dog that gets scared or agitated will not be an ideal candidate. Noise tests will also be conducted. Within the school environment there is usually quite a lot of extraneous noise and so an initial response is gauged, but various other stimulus responses will be checked for signs of anxiety or fear. The dog must also be able to exercise self­control, for instance, the ability to leave items willingly on cue. The items tested will include those of progressive value, e.g. food, small toys that replicate those owned by children, and commonly dropped items within that particular environment. Of course, also of paramount importance is how the handler inter­ acts with the dog. I think in all cases so far, they have formed an excep­ tional team. They must work well together, give each other confidence, and be calm and quiet. Finally, if all the initial assessment checks yield appropriate re­ sponses, I will then assess the dogs with the children themselves. The placement of dogs in schools is just another application of the numerous assets dogs possess. In practical terms, this venture is still in its infancy in the United Kingdom, but I have no doubt that from the cases I have witnessed, that it has a strong future. n Anna Francesca Bradley MSc BSc (Hons) is a United Kingdomebased provisional clinical, certified IAABC animal behavior consultant and ABTC accredited behavior consultant. She owns Perfect Pawz! Training and Behavior Practice ( in Hexham, Northumberland, where the aim is always to create and restore happy relationships between dog and owner in a relaxed way, using methods based on sound scientific principles, which are both force-free and fun.

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The Impact of Stress on Behavior Diane Garrod continues her examination of stress in dogs, including potential causes, and why and how stress applies to a successful behavior modification process

Stress is a nonspecific response of the body when any demand is placed upon it. Any biological or psychological demand will result in stress. The demand does not necessarily have to involve an aver­ sive stimulation for stress to occur. Mild stress can improve learning and provide beneficial mental and physical stimulation. Excessive stress leads to distress.” James O'Heare (2007). In other words, stress is caused by many things. It varies in intensity, is normal, and is necessary for survival. It is also influenced by the envi­ ronment. It can be good (eustress) or bad (distress). Poor housing condi­ tions, harsh training sessions, uncontrollable or unpredictable social situations (Beerda, Schilder, van Hooff & de Vries, 1997) and, for some dogs, a visit to the vet or a medical or grooming procedure can elicit stress responses. And these are just a few examples. For some dogs, just stepping outside the front door or the front gate can cause an immedi­ ate release of stress chemicals putting them on instant alert (see Stress Matters, BARKS from the Guild, November 2019, pp.36‐39). For others, the appearance of a stranger in the home can trigger an adrenaline rush, with spikes of cortisol and norepinephrine, leading to quick and potentially scary (for the stranger and the dog) responses. © Diane Garrod

French bulldog Beignet would get stressed by the presence of visitors to his home and would jump up to grab at their arms

The Science of Stress What, then, do we actually know about how to evaluate stress in dogs? Initially, studies tended to focus on acute stress rather than chronic. However, in 1997, Beerda, Schilder, van Hooff and de Vries published a paper examining the manifestations of both varieties in dogs. The re­ searchers aimed to evaluate stress responses by reviewing studies of dogs who were subjected to stressors such as noise, immobilization, training, novelty, transport and restricted housing condi­ tions. Stress responses were measured using behavioral, cardiovascular, endocrine, renal, gastro­intestinal, and hematological parameters. Since variations “in stressor properties and in individual characteristics of dogs intro­ duce variability in stress re­ sponses,” the scientists concluded that in order to minimize the risk of misinter­ preting measurements of stress, it is important to ob­ tain and apply, “fundamental knowledge of stress re­ sponses in dogs” and meas­ ure more than one stress parameter. (Beerda, et al. © Diane Garrod 1997). Chihuahua Abby was reactive to other In a follow up study in dogs and, sadly, was eventually returned to the shelter 1999, Beerda, Schilder, van


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

Hooff, de Vries and Moll examined chronic stress in dogs by taking phys­ iological and behavioral measurements from a group of beagles during a period of enriched, spacious, outdoor group housing and during a sub­ sequent period of solitary housing in small indoor kennels. The study concluded, “A low posture and increased autogrooming, paw lifting, vo­ calizing, repetitive behavior, and coprophagy may indicate chronic stress in dogs, and as such, can help to identify poor welfare. When chal­ lenged, chronically stressed dogs may show increased excitement, ag­ gression and uncertainty.” (Beerda, et al., 1999). In 2000, the same researchers, continuing to look at physiological and behavioral indicators of stress in dogs, observed that even when ex­ posed to mild stimulation, chronically stressed dogs demonstrated high levels of arousal. They responded to a minor disturbance with behaviors previously associated with acute stress such as body shaking, yawning, ambivalent postures and displacement behaviors. Again, since behav­ ioral observations alone can be misinterpreted, the researchers suggest combining behavioral data with physiological measurements when studying chronic stress in dogs. Hormonal indicators to consider include urinary adrenaline to creatinine ratios and urinary cortisol to creatinine ratios. (Beerda et al., 2000).

Stress Levels and Care Givers Interestingly, even looking at the physiological data in combination with corresponding behavioral observations does not complete the compli­ cated story of chronic stress in dogs. A more recent study reveals, for the first time, an interspecies (between dog and guardian) contagion of long­term stress (Sundman et al., 2019). Fifty­eight dog­human dyads were studied and the personality traits of the dogs and their guardians were determined and hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) of each were

canine analyzed on two separate occasions. (Hair provides measurements of cortisol over longer periods time, while blood and saliva measure acute cortisol levels.) The authors found that although dogs’ personality traits had little effect on their own HCC, human personality traits significantly affected their dog’s HCC. This first of its kind study suggests that to a large extent, dogs synchronize with, or mirror, chronic long­term stress of their guardians. (Sundman et al., 2019). It follows, then, that relieving stress in dogs directly relates to their environments, which include the guardians who care for them. There­ fore, changing stress levels means also changing the environment and human­dog relationship.

How Stress Applies to Behavior Programs The stress release protocol I have developed to help dogs that are chronically stressed takes relationship building, changing the environ­ ment, and the human­dog bond all into account (see Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, BARKS from the Guild, March 2016, pp.18‐23). Once the program is completed, not only is stress released, but dog guardians learn more about themselves, their relationship with the animal in their care, and how environment affects stress levels, both for humans and dogs. In my own research of over 600 dogs completing a systematic stress release protocol, a consistent 10% were chronically stressed and, of those 60 dogs, health problems were a significant factor. These were the dogs that took longer to go through the behavior modification process. Just a few of those dogs (1%) were not able to be helped through medication, disease diagnosis or behavior modification. Let’s briefly examine two real world examples of the role of stress management in behavior modification programs. First, Chihuahua Abby was stressed by big dogs and would respond aggressively to them from several yards away. Secondly, French bulldog Beignet was stressed by people in his home and would jump up to grab at their arms. Unfortu­ nately, Abby was taken back to the shelter because her guardian felt un­ able to work through her reactivity to other dogs. Beignet, on the other hand, went through a stress release protocol and became much more manageable. He remains in his home with a protocol for environmental changes which includes prevention, management, supervision and be­ havior modification. During the process, his guardians learned a lot, both about his behavior and theirs. In simple terms, chronic stress means a dog cannot come down below threshold. As such, his behavior becomes more intense, is repeti­ tive, and his body becomes accustomed to feeling stressed daily. Until this constant stress changes, he cannot really know of any other way to behave or feel. When helping dogs come down from that level of stress, I have found that behavior can get worse before it gets better.

BARKS from the Guild

...lower (or lowered) stress levels help dogs learn more quickly, retain more and make progress faster overall. Managing stress levels creates an atmosphere for the dog to thrive. Conversely, again in my experience, lower (or lowered) stress levels help dogs learn more quickly, retain more and make progress faster over­ all. Managing stress levels creates an atmosphere for the dog to thrive. Part of that process, which will be featured in the next installment of this series, focuses on how to change the environment through prevention, management and supervision, and how to help guardians build better re­ lationships with their dogs. To the benefit of both parties, these goals can be achieved through an understanding of canine body language, an awareness of when stress is present and a plan to work through it. n

References Beerda, B., Schilder, M.B.H., van Hooff, J.A.R.A.M., & de Vries, H.W. (1997). Manifestations of chronic and acute stress in dogs. Applied Animal Behavior Science 52 3-4 307-319. Available at: Beerda, B., Schilder, M.B.H., van Hooff, J.A.R.A.M., de Vries, H.W., & Moll, J.A. (1999). Chronic Stress in Dogs Subjected to Social and Spatial Restriction. Physiology & Behavior 66 2 233-242. Available at: Beerda, B., Schilder, M.B.H., van Hooff, J.A.R.A.M., de Vries, H.W., & Moll, J.A. (2000). Behavioral and Hormonal Indicators of Enduring Environmental Stress in Dogs. Animal Welfare 9 1 49-62. Available at: O'Heare, J. (2007). Aggressive Behavior in Dogs. Wenatchee, WA: Dogwise Sundman, A-S., Van Poucke, E., Svensson Holm, A-C., Faresjö, Å., Theodorsson, E., Jensen, P., & Roth, L.S.V. (2019). Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners. Scientific Reports 9: 7391. Available at:

Resources Garrod, D. (2016, March). Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. BARKS from the Guild (17) 18-23. Available at: Garrod, D. (2019, November). Stress Matters. BARKS from the Guild (39) 36-39. Available at: Diane Garrod BSc PCT-A CA1 FF1 is the owner of Canine Transformations ( based in Langley, Washington, where she conducts Treibball workshops, classes and private consults, specializing in canine aggression and reactivity.

BARKS from the Guild is the 64-page bi-monthly pet industry trade magazine published by the Pet Professional Guild, available internationally to Pet Professional Guild members, supporters and the general public online (and in print, by monthly subscription). Widely read by pet industry professionals and pet owners alike, BARKS covers a vast range of topics encompassing animal behavior, pet care, training, education, industry trends, business AND MUCH MORE! If you would like to reach your target audience, BARKS is the perfect vehicle to achieve that goal. To contribute an article, please contact the editor, Susan Nilson:

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


r e s c u e

The Impact of Social Isolation K. Holden Svirsky explains why ending the practice of isolation is overdue in animal sheltering and that caring for a dog’s social needs is a non-negotiable


dead chicken was discovered in the coop. At the fictional Litchfield Correctional Facility, where the characters of Netflix show Orange Is the New Black enjoy a farm therapy program, the deceased chicken was assumed to have been murdered. A strange, newcomer chicken was immediately suspect. The inmate in charge of the chicken program, Suzanne, decides to isolate the murderous chicken. “So it doesn’t strike again,” she says. Later, a corrections officer asks Suzanne, “Why is this one in an inappropriately sized enclosure?” “Misbehaved,” she responds. “Ah,” the corrections officer says, “Is this helping?” As Suzanne mulls over her isolation solution, another chicken is discovered dead. Two episodes later, Suzanne is seen placing each and every chicken into a small box. Social needs are briefly discussed, but Suzanne declares, “Now, I know it is not ideal, but it is the only solution that we’ve got.” Group housing in animal shelters, at least in California, is rare. Isola­ tion is employed as a widespread solution for prevention of disease and injury. Disease is expensive. Dog fights are scary. It is completely normal for humans to be nervous of both. Dogs are equipped with large and sharp teeth, which can cause injury, even death. When we isolate dogs into single kennels, we are keeping them safe, right? We are attending to the second, third and fifth of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare (see box, below).

© Can Stock Photo/MarcinSl1987

A study found that the stress related behavior of barking and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reduced by housing dogs in pairs or groups in a long­term kennel facility

Confrontation Over the course of eight years working full­time at animal shelters, hun­ dreds of dog­dog introductions, playgroups and roommate pairings, I have seen my share of dog fights. As all animals are individuals, and all combi­ nations are unique, conflicts fall along a very wide spectrum of intensity. The vast majority of fights were merely ritualized, aggressive displays be­ tween the dogs: growling, baring teeth, stiff body postures with weight shifted forward, and air snapping. Of these hundreds of interactions, there have been only three cases in which one or more of the dogs re­ quired serious medical attention, including shaving, suturing and/or an­ tibiotics. One dog sustained a 1­inch long laceration to her leg, the other two dogs received clean punctures with no collateral tearing of the skin. I have never witnessed a fatality. In the shelters I’ve worked where dogs were co­housed, no supervision was provided overnight, and no one was present to separate fighting dogs, or to punish antisocial behavior with

The Five Freedoms propose the following for the adequate welfare of agricultural animals: 1. 2.

3. 4.



Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. (Brambell, 1965).

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

any combination of water squirting, loud shake cans, air horns or electric shock. And I’ve never started my day with dogs injured overnight. Maybe I have been lucky. These are merely case studies, at best. How­ ever, a review of available research tells a similar story: that social isolation does more harm than good, and that injurious fights are the ex­ ception, not the norm. One study concludes: “In assessing the psychoso­ cial well­being of dogs, social isolation may be as harmful or more harmful than spatial restriction.” (Hetts, Clark, Calpin, Arnold & Mateo, 1992). In a German study of dogs housed in groups, 91% of the social con­ frontations between dogs housed together were settled by the use of be­ havioral rituals (Mertens & Unshelm, 1996). Finally, in a more recent study, both the stress related behavior of barking and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reduced by housing dogs in pairs or groups in a long­term kennel facility. In fact, in that study, "[b]arking was reduced overall in the facility following the housing change, even among dogs still in solitary housing." (Grigg, Nibblett, Robinson & Smits, 2017). While solitary kenneling is still widespread, other kinds of dog­dog so­ cial interactions, including structured, human­managed dog play groups, appear to be gaining popularity in shelters. There are at least three organ­ izations providing SOPs and training on how to best run playgroups, in­ cluding PPG's Shelter and Rescue Committee, which is currently working on a playgroup protocol. This is great news for social dogs living in shelters.

Frustration Current protocols available vary widely in suggested human interventions to prevent fights. I wonder, though, how much our methods affect fight frequency and intensity. Are there more fights and more injurious fights when we elicit frustration (and frustration related behaviors like barking, thrashing and lunging) by overmanaging social interactions with leashes and restraint? Are we creating, or reinforcing, fear of other dogs by pun­

r e s c u e I wonder, though, how much our methods affect fight frequency and intensity. Are there more fights and more injurious fights when we elicit frustration (and frustration related behaviors like barking, thrashing and lunging) by overmanaging social interactions with leashes and restraint? ishing any normal, noninjurious display of aggression or distancing sig­ nals? Or, as some people do, punishing normal displays of even nonag­ gressive behaviors like mounting or chasing? If you, at your first junior high dance, tried an awkward dance move or stepped on the toes of an­ other dancing kid and a chaperone threw a jug of pennies at you, you probably wouldn't buy a ticket to the prom. One day we may have better research on how to encourage play, in­ crease prosocial conspecific interaction, and decrease aggression in groups of dogs. My current bias is that the smallest amount of human in­ tervention produces the best social vocabularies. Again, dog fights are scary. They are used, illegally, for the entertain­ ment of humans precisely for this reason. However disgusting many of us find it, some people enjoy this type of adrenaline rush. While I admittedly know very little about organized dog fighting, I do know that it requires training the dogs, however gruesome these practices. It is normal for hu­ mans to feel afraid of conflict and big teeth. However, studies show that very few naturally occurring fights end in death or even serious injury. As such, we shelter managers, veterinarians and employees would do well to identify our biases about dog play and dog fights and seek to challenge them. This is a difficult process, a daily undertaking that requires self­re­ flection and active communication with others who may disagree or feel uncomfortable. Why are we imposing social isolation to assuage our fears? Apparently, left to their own devices and without any human inter­ ventions or management, dogs aren’t killing each other very often. They are, after all, an incredibly successful species. On some level we know isolation is cruel and unusual. The aforemen­ tioned chicken allegory made its way into popular culture via a television show about a women’s prison – likely less as commentary on animal wel­ fare practices and more on the controversial but widespread practice of sending humans into solitary confinement as punishment. Why animals garner more empathy than human prisoners is a different discussion, but ending the practice of isolation is overdue in animal sheltering. It’s also overdue in our own homes. How many of us keep single dogs, avoid dog parks or any off­leash social opportunities and then avoid other dogs on leash? It is not uncommon for pet dog owners to end all social opportuni­ ties for their dogs because we are terrified of even the possibility of growling and teeth­baring.

more research on how to best referee dog­dog interactions. Until then, my current recommendations for shelters and the pet guardians that make up my clientele are to challenge our fears of seeing and hearing ag­ gressive displays (or social confrontations settled by the use of behavioral rituals), and, yes, to largely “let them work it out.” n K. Holden Svirsky CTC began her training and rescue work at the San Francisco SPCA in 2012 and is a 2015 recipient of the Academy for Dog Trainers shelter and rescue scholarship. She was a trainer at Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation, winning local magazine Best Dog Training awards in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and currently consults privately on fear and aggression cases in the Bay Area as well as teaching classes for BravoPup. Her rescued pit bull/cattle dog mix Pablo is a service dog in training and they live together aboard their 45' sloop in the San Francisco Bay, California.

References Hetts, S., Clark, J.D., Calpin, J.P., Arnold, C.E., & Mateo, J.M. (1992). Influence on housing conditions on beagle behavior. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 34 1-2 137-155. Available at: Mertens, P.A., & Unshelm, J. (1996). Effects of Group and Individual Housing on the Behavior of Kennelled Dogs in Animal Shelters. Anthrozoös 9:1 40-51. Available at: Grigg, E.K., Nibblett, B.M., Robinson, J.Q., & Smits, J.E. (2017). Evaluating pair versus solitary housing in kenneled domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) using behavior and hair cortisol: a pilot study. Veterinary Record Open 1-14. Available at:

Resources Brambell, R. (1965). Report of the technical committee to enquire into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems. London, UK: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Social Needs Taking into account individual differences, including the truly gamebred, fearful and abused former fighting dogs (these are pretty rare in my expe­ rience), ones who have an injurious history, and watching for major size differences between potential playmates, our care of dogs needs to in­ clude caring for their social needs. When appropriate, making exceptions when indicated, company of the animals' own kind can help address this need.. This may involve stepping aside altogether and trusting dogs’ in­ nate and developed social abilities and tempering our hubris that we al­ ways know better, can predict the future, or can protect a dog from all negative interactions for his lifetime. We must acknowledge there is a risk of injury, and even death, but the risks of isolation are currently more widespread. It is completely possible that by overmanaging social expo­ sures between dogs with restraint and punishment, we are creating ag­ gression where there would have been none. Or, that we are creating more risk of injury by taking away a dog’s ability to have a normal and rit­ ualized display of discomfort and need for space. I am looking forward to BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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The Right to Choose Andrea Carne discusses how a little creativity in giving cats the power of choice can enhance their quality of life exponentially


hoice – such a small word, yet one that could change your cat’s life. At the time of writing this article, it was close to Halloween and social media was filled with photos and videos featuring cats of all shapes and sizes wearing cos­ tumes in the lead­up to the cele­ brations. Staring back at me from these pages was a host of unhappy felines showing plenty of body language to express their feelings, while their owners ignored – or were blissfully un­ aware of – such signals in the pursuit of the perfect shot and as many “likes” as possible. Now, to be fair, this isn’t true in every case. Some cats seem more than happy to wear a funny hat and have their photo taken. I myself have done it with © Can Stock Photo /LENblR my own cats (long before I Research is now demonstrating what has long been clear to cat guardians – that cats are capable of forming strong, started studying animal behav­ secure bonds with their owners and look to them for support when feeling fearful ior) but I like to think I knew enough to only do so with the ones who seemed okay with it and only for very short periods of time. Strong Bond Fast forward to now, with a lot more knowledge under my belt, and This is not to say that cats haven’t adapted over time to living in our celebrations like Halloween and Christmas fill me with sadness as I see human­centric environments and we can only hope that the vast major­ so many cats (and other pets) unhappily forced into photo opportunities ity of them have lived relatively happy lives with us in our homes and and their unhappiness being ignored by their humans. continue to do so. And, despite what some people may think, new re­ It got me to thinking about the simple act of providing choice for search is demonstrating they have evolved from wild, independent crea­ our feline companions. So much of what we provide for the domesti­ tures to ones which are capable of forming strong, secure bonds with cated cat is not about their choice at all. In reality, our domesticated kit­ their owners. ties are not that far removed from their wildcat cousins, genetically One such study involved a cat­friendly “strange situation test” com­ speaking. And yet we have placed them in an environment in which hu­ monly used to assess the mother­child bond in humans. Cats spent a mans make all the decisions – where they live, who they live with (hu­ short time in a room with their owner, then were left alone for a short mans and other animals), whether they have access to outdoors, period before the owner returned. Based on behavioral criteria, the re­ whether they are desexed, what they eat and when, what enrichment searchers concluded, among other things, that nearly 65% of the cats they have, where they toilet, and so on. tested showed a secure attachment (or bond) to their human care­ givers. They went further by investigating whether a 6­week training In reality, our domesticated kitties are not that and socialization program could change the attachment style of cats – far removed from their wildcat cousins, only to conclude that once a social bond is formed between a cat and genetically speaking. And yet we have placed his owner, it remains pretty much unchanged over time (Vitale, Behnke 2019). them in an environment in which humans make & Udell, Another study exposed cats to a potentially scary electric fan with all the decisions – where they live, who they live streamers. The cats were put in a room with their owners and then the with (humans and other animals), whether they fan was switched on. Owners were asked to act either neutral, scared or have access to outdoors, whether they are happy and the cats’ reactions were observed. Nearly 80% of the cats in desexed, what they eat and when, what the study looked back and forth between the owner and the fan, seem­ enrichment they have, where they toilet, and so on. ingly trying to gauge the owners’ reaction before making up their own mind. And to some extent they changed their behavioral response to 36

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

f e l i n e the object based on the owner’s reaction, for example moving away from the fan if their owner showed fear (Merola, Lazzaroni, Marshall­ Pescini & Prato­Previde, 2015). This isn’t something that has happened overnight. It is safe to say that domestic cats have had to significantly evolve as a species over the years in order to find peace and harmony in the human world and to bond with their owners. Some have done it very well and some still have problems, largely based on a combination of genetics, socializa­ tion, environment and health status. When one or more of these “big four” are at play in a negative sense, undesirable behaviors may be the end result…and that’s what we want to avoid, right?

The Power of Choice If, then, we can acknowledge that cats have had to (and continue to) work extremely hard to fit into our wide variety of human domestic set­ tings, involving any number of potential stressors (think smell, sights, sounds, people, other animals, access to resources etc.), and yet they are still capable of forming secure bonds with us, don’t we owe it to them to give something back? To give them the best possible life we can? The obvious answer – as a cat behavior consultant and as a cat owner – is a resounding “yes,” and the best way to start hearkens back to my reaction on seeing those social media posts of cats in costumes. What those cats in the majority of those photos didn’t have, at that mo­ ment in time at least, was choice. And yet choice, and the option to offer their consent or not, is exactly what they should have had. By of­ fering cats choice, we can help them live their best lives possible within the confinements of our human environments. So how do we do this? How do we help give our cats some choice in their daily living? Well, here are my thoughts on the areas where choice is important:

Choice in Resources: This is number one on my list as it is by far the most important when it comes to preventing behavioral issues, particu­ larly with indoor only cats. By providing a large variety of resources throughout the home, cats have more choice in where they carry out their essential routines of eating, drinking, toileting and sleeping. If they share their home with other cats, choice of resources becomes even more important so competition is reduced and antagonistic behaviors such as resource guarding are unable to be carried out effectively. Ensure there are plenty of litter trays (one per cat plus one extra is the rule of thumb but you may find you need more) in a variety of loca­ tions throughout the home, preferably where the cat has privacy but cannot be ambushed without an escape route. Different cats prefer dif­ ferent locations and the more choice you give, the less likely you will have toileting issues. Offering different types of litter (paper, clay, crys­ tals) and litter trays (size, shape, depth) may also be a good option. Ensure food is provided in different forms and via different dis­ pensers in different locations – let the cats choose if they want to eat from a bowl, from a puzzle feeder or via a treasure hunt throughout the house. See what appeals and cater to those preferences (which will change from time to time). Measure out their daily food amounts and offer lots of different options and see what works. You may be surprised – my 17­year­old boy loves his puzzle feeder and will seek it out in pref­ erence to the easy option of the bowl. Ensure water is also offered in a variety of ways and in different lo­ cations. I have a client with a cat that only drinks from a glass on her bedside table! Offer bowls, fountains, glasses – and let them choose what they prefer. Ensure numerous resting places are offered as cats will often move from one to another throughout the day and will change preferences depending on the season or other factors. It is particularly important that some places are located at ground level and some are up high with

© Can Stock Photo/chalabala

In a study, 65% of cats tested showed a secure attachment (or bond) to their guardian when he/she left the room for a short time (Vitale, Behnke & Udell, 2019)

easy access. Provide different types of bedding, from a blanket to an igloo to the humble cardboard box. I have one cat who prefers his igloo bed on the couch while another moves between her snuggle bed high up in the cat tree and the back of my armchair. Cats sleep a lot so give them plenty of options to do so. If the cats have an outdoor catio, provide easy access to and from the space whenever they please, rather than placing them in it and leav­ ing them there all day with no choice. If the weather changes or they just want the comforts of indoors, they should have the choice to move inside. Ditto for when the house is too noisy or filled with strangers and they need to escape outside. And don’t forget opportunities to scratch – various scratching posts and mats, both vertical and horizontal are essential.

Choice in Interaction: Never force a cat to interact with you – give them the choice to say no if they are not in the mood. This is particu­ larly important when children are involved. Interactions with children should be supervised. Cats that are eating, sleeping or toileting should be left alone, so ensure cats have plenty of places to escape the clutches of children or strangers and avoid forcing them to interact when they haven’t made the choice for themselves. Encourage children and visitors to sit on the floor and wait for the cat to interact with them (if the cat chooses to). Have them hold out a relaxed hand towards the cat and see if the cat moves in for a sniff and a gentle head touch or chin scratch.

Bringing th e best of the pet chat, chuc industry to kle and sh are

Join hosts Niki Tudge and Louise Stapleton-Frappell with their special guests discussing news and views on force-free training, behavior, and pet care! BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


f e l i n e If the cats have an outdoor catio, provide easy access to and from the space whenever they please, rather than placing them in it and leaving them there all day with no choice. If the weather changes or they just want the comforts of indoors, they should have the choice to move inside. Ditto for when the house is too noisy or filled with strangers and they need to escape outside. Have you noticed your cat doesn’t particularly like being held and becomes rigid or squirms to be put down? Respect that reaction and don’t pick cats up unless all their body language says they enjoy it. They may prefer to hop on your lap for a cuddle rather than being picked up all the time. Let them choose.

Choice in Training: If you are training your cat to do certain behaviors or tricks, always start by inviting them to participate using a tasty treat. If they take the treat, you can start the session. Forcing them will get you nowhere. Keep training sessions short and fun – and allow the cat to leave at any time.

Choice in Play: As with training sessions, keep play sessions short and allow the cat to disengage and leave at any time. Give them a variety of toys to play with – both with and without you – and if they seem disin­ terested in one, try another. Change toys around frequently to add vari­ ety. High­energy play sessions should be kept short, as forced, lengthy sessions can end in overstimulation which can lead to scratches and bites. Think about the age, health status and general personality of each cat and adapt play sessions to suit. Not all cats want to participate in


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

high­energy play and that should (and needs to be) perfectly acceptable to the owner. Enrichment for cats is so very important – but offering choice in enrichment takes it to a whole new level – and your cats will love you even more for it. I realize we can’t offer choice in every situation. We still need to make choices for our cats in terms of health care (if you could ask a cat whether he really wants to go to the vet to be jabbed with a needle or have his testicles removed, I’m guessing he’d say “no”), and we still need to make the overall choices of where our cats live, whether they have indoor/outdoor access and who they share the home with. But where we can offer choice, we absolutely should. Cats with more choice are happier cats. And happier cats are healthier cats. And happy, healthy cats exhibit fewer behavioral issues. Choice – it’s such a small word that is so essential in the human world but we can also ensure it extends to the feline world – and to the other animals we care for – as well. n

References Merola, I., Lazzaroni, M., Marshall-Pescini, S. & Prato-Previde, E. (2015). Social referencing and cat-human communication. Animal Cognition 18 3 639-648. Available at: Vitale K.R., Behnke, A.C. & Udell, M.A.R. (2019). Attachment bonds between domestic cats and humans. Current Biology 29 18 PR864R865. Available at: Andrea Carne is a graduate of the University of Southern Queensland, Australia where she majored in journalism and drama before, later in life, following her dream to work in the field of animal behavior. She is a qualified veterinary nurse and dog trainer and member of PPG Australia. Her special area of interest is cat behavior and her passion for it led to the establishment of her own cat behavior consultancy Cattitude (, based in southern Tasmania, through which she offers private in-home consultations.

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Quick Cat Behavior Tip: Trimming Claws The PPG Cat Committee explains how to set up you and your cat for a successful claw trim, highlighting the importance of taking it slowly


hile there are a lot of cats who may not initially be terribly keen on the whole claw trimming process, there are ways to make it enjoyable and fun for both parties. This article will ex­ plain the steps cat owners can take to make it a more pleasant, stress­ free experience all round.

Important Reminders about the Behavior • • • •

Trimming a cat’s claws can prevent damage to furniture and other household items, as well as to humans, from inadvertent scratches. Often the biggest challenge isn’t the claw trimming itself but teaching the cat to become comfortable with having his paws handled. The goal is to gain the cat’s cooperation with the procedure, not to figure out the best restraint method. There is no need to trim all the claws in one sitting; our impatience to get this done often makes the procedure stressful and unpleasant for the cat.

Safety Information •

Cats’ claws have a narrow hook at the end and a wide base with a pink middle called the quick, which contains blood vessels and nerves. The narrow hook part is the part to cut. Avoid cutting the quick, as it will bleed and cause pain. When trimming your cat’s claws, gently squeeze the toe pad to extend the claw and identify the quick so you can avoid nicking it. If you do cut into the quick by accident, you can stop the bleeding fairly quickly with a styptic powder.

© Can Stock Photo/aksakalko

Cats’ experiences with claw trims are often far from positive, which can result in them not liking the process

Techniques and Tips •

Be patient and prepared: Take a deep breath and be gentle and calm. Prior to starting, purchase specific cat claw trimmers that are comfortable to handle, are rubber coated to avoid slipping, and have a stainless­steel blade. Make it positive: Cats’ experiences with claw trims are often far from positive, which results in cats not liking the process. Before starting, get some delicious, extra special treats your cat only gets during claw trims. A few examples are canned food, freeze­dried meat treats, tuna fish, and anchovy paste. You can also pet your cat in his favorite spot, brush him, or engage in a play session afterward, depending on his preference. Get comfortable: Trim your cat’s claws in a quiet room without distractions. It is important to provide a non­slip surface, like a yoga mat, for your cat to stand on. It can be helpful to trim the claws with the cat on an elevated surface (such as a table or a dresser). Do not restrain the cat—many cats dislike being turned on their back or restrained on their side, or even held in your lap. Instead, support and guide the cat’s body and paws. The cat should willingly participate because you have tasty treats. When choosing a time to trim claws, it is best to do it when your cat is relaxed, and not during play, for example. Start slowly and take it one step at a time: Feed the cat a special treat and trim one claw at the same time. Make sure the cat is engaged in eating the treat before trying to touch

his/her paw. If your cat stays relaxed, then trim a second claw while the cat continues to eat. As soon as the cat stops eating the favorite treat and/or starts fussing, the activity ends. The first few times you trim the cat’s claws, you might get the claws on only one paw trimmed, or even only one or two claws. That’s fine! Just make sure it’s a good experience for the cat. The next time you do it, the cat will be more willing to participate, and it will progress from there. Ask for help: If your cat continues to be resistant to claw trimming or to having his paws handled, a qualified training specialist can help you teach him to accept and even enjoy nail trims. A Fear Free certified ( or Cat Friendly ( veterinary hospital can also help.

Specific Tools • • •

Claw trimmers. Stainless­steel scissors­type cat claw trimmers (two half­circle blades) with rubber­coated handles are recommended. Treats, a cat brush, cat toys. Non­slip surface (e.g., yoga mat).

Timeline •

Approximately two to four weeks but may take more—or less—time, depending on the individual cat. n

A printable PDF version of this document is available as a handout on the PPG website:‐Claws Note: Every cat is an individual, and behavior is complex. If you need help training your cat, please seek out a qualified feline behavior professional:‐Your‐Feline‐Professional. BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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Feline Behavior Unmasked: Emesis in Cats Dr. Liz Bales discusses the intricacies of cat vomit, a phenomenon that feline guardians are often all too familiar with


: I have 2 cats. One throws up constantly. He has thicker fur (he is a tortie) than the other. I try to brush him as often as I can but he's not a huge fan. Any advice would be greatly appreci‐


A: This is such an important and misunderstood topic. We can help a lot of cats and the people who love them with this information. Most cat parents deal with cat vomit. Vomit is so common in life with cats that we have come to accept it as normal. Let me be very clear; vomiting in cats is common, but it is not normal. If your cat is vomiting more than once a month, there is a problem and you should take your cat to the vet. So, what could it be? The answer is lots of things, ranging from gob­ bling up food too fast, to food allergies, to systemic diseases like kidney or thyroid disease, to inflammatory bowel disease and even cancer. All of these things may look very similar. The only way for your veterinarian to get to the bottom of the problem is with a thorough history and physical exam. Based on those results, your vet may recommend blood work, radiographs, ultrasound and even biopsies to get a diagnosis.

Let me be very clear; vomiting in cats is common, but it is not normal. If your cat is vomiting more than once a month, there is a problem and you should take your cat to the vet.

A Hairy Issue

This sounds extreme when you are pretty sure it’s just a hair ball, right? Well, hair balls are also common, but not normal. Cats are designed to groom and, in the process, consume hair. You cannot brush your way into a solution here. This hair should pass normally through the gas­ trointestinal (GI) tract and not need to be vomited up. If your cat is vom­ iting hairballs, either he is overgrooming (due to stress or fleas or other causes of itchiness) and consuming more hair than his body can handle, or there is a motility problem in the GI tract that is preventing the hair from passing normally through it. There is a long list of causes for al­ tered GI motility. Again, the best way to get to the bottom of this and help your cat is with a veterinary visit. Please let us know how things go for you and your cat. If your cat gets a clean bill of health at the veterinarian, we can talk about the

If a cat is vomiting hairballs, he may be consuming more hair than his body can handle for some reason © Can Stock Photo/cynoclub


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

© Can Stock Photo/jojjik

Cats are designed to groom and, in the process, consume hair which should pass normally through the gastrointestinal tract

ways to reduce stress for your cat by introducing more enrichment into his environment. In fact, this is my very favorite topic! But first we need to make sure there is not an underlying medical condition that needs at­ tention. We will be waiting to hear back from you! n For further assistance with feline behavior issues, see PPG Feline Resources:‐Resources.

Do you have a question for the PPG Cat Committee? Submit your question for consideration to: Dr. Liz Bales VMD is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine who has a special interest in the unique behavioral and wellness needs of cats, including feline behavior and environmental enrichment. She is a writer, speaker and featured expert in all things cat around the globe including appearances on Fox and Friends, ABC News, The Dr. Katy Pet Show and Cheddar. She is also the founder of Doc and Phoebe’s Cat Company (, and the inventor of The Indoor Hunting Feeder for cats. Dr. Bales has been a guest speaker at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She also sits on the Dean’s Alumni Council at the University of Pennsylvania, the Advisory Board for the American Association of Feline Practitioners Cat Friendly Practice, and the Advisory Board of Fear Free.

a v i a n

Sam, I Can Lara Joseph relates the inspiring tale of Sam, the blind blue-fronted Amazon parrot who could, who did, and who still is, cautioning us not to underestimate special needs animals


n July of 2018, I went to Blairstown, New Jersey to work with the staff at A Helping Wing Parrot Rescue and Sanctuary on training their birds. At the beginning of the day when we were just getting started, a parrot in a cage off to my right caught my attention. I can’t remember exactly why, but I saw him interacting with his environment a little dif­ ferently than normal. He wasn’t moving but I could tell he was awake and alert. In any case, we carried on and, throughout the day, I taught the staff how to identify and work with bonded pairs of birds, how to approach birds that would bite if you tried opening the cage, how to station, how to target, and plenty more besides. Then, at the end of the day, we ended up back in the same room where we had begun, and the bird in the cage was once again beside me. I inquired about him. How could I not? He was a blue­fronted Ama­ zon named Sam who was at least 23 years old. He was also blind. He had been surrendered two years prior when the older man who cared for him had passed away. The late owner’s children took Sam in but did­ n’t know how to care for him, and so they surrendered him. When Sam arrived at the sanctuary, owner Jeanne Gilligan asked them if they knew he was blind. They did not. While at the sanctuary, Sam had to be captured two to three times a day to be given eye drops for his cataracts. After two years of this, a vet suggested removing the eyes altogether since they were serving no pur­ pose and it would eliminate the stress of being repeatedly captured. When I met Sam, one of his eyes had already been removed and the next was scheduled for August, one month later. I asked Jeanne what the likelihood was that Sam would get adopted and she told me the chances were very slim. I also asked what Sam did during the day and she told me he pretty much just sat on his perch and rang his bell. Then she added, “I’ll show you what he does know.” She approached his cage and jiggled the latch to the door of his food dish. Sam vocalized and moved quickly down his perch then down the side of his cage to the dish. What I saw immediately was a bird who was moti­ vated and had an understanding of his immediate environment. I re­ member smiling while watching him and thought he had potential to do more than just ring a bell and run to his food dish.

Sam’s Gotcha Day I was staying with a friend in New Jersey while I worked at the sanctu­ ary. During the two­hour drive back to their house, all evening and throughout the night, I kept thinking about Sam. He didn’t seem high maintenance and he seemed curious and eager to interact with people. The next morning, I jumped online, filled out an adoption

When the rescue acquired Sam, two years prior to me adopting him, the vet had written that Sam had not been let out of his cage for over 16 years. I was shocked when I read that because based on his behavior and the fact that he was out of the cage every day here at the Center, he acted like he was used to it.

© Lara Joseph

Sam was relinquished to rescue with his caretakers not knowing he was blind (pictured with author Lara Joseph on one of his stations outside his cage)

application, submitted it, and was approved. After Sam’s second eye surgery had taken place and he was recover­ ing well, I jumped in my Jeep and headed to New Jersey to bring him back to my facility, The Animal Behavior Center in Sylvania, Ohio, to carry on living his life. I wasn’t sure what to expect but, if nothing else, I could at least give him a comfortable place to call home. I had never worked with a completely blind bird before so didn’t have any specific expectations. Yet, if it wasn’t on the first day of being at the Center, it was certainly by the second that I had Sam out of his cage and walking around on the platform of an open door. Not only did his training begin right away, the foundation for a very strong relation­ ship was about to develop. I started by pairing my voice with the delivery of favored food rein­ forcers. Sam really loved his bell so I used ringing it to begin recall train­ ing him. Then, I paired my voice with the sound of the bell. Each time he would come to me, I made sure I always gave him something of value. Soon he was coming toward the sound of my voice and leaving his bell. People would ask me, “How do you prevent him from flying?” and my response was always, “A blind bird isn’t going to want to take off in flight if he doesn’t know where he’s going. Just don’t scare him.” A few times I also heard, “Why wouldn’t you just euthanize the bird. What kind of quality of life does he have?” Quality of life? I’ll show you quality of life! I began live streaming my work with Sam and soon the whole world fell in love with this amazing creature who was blossoming with the choices, control, and complexities he had in his new world.

Brave New World When the staff at the Center would walk in the door, Sam would yell “HI SAM!” over and over again because they would always answer back to

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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© Lara Joseph

Sam before surgery – his cataracts were so bad he was being captured and given eye drops three times a day so the avian vet suggested removing the eyes to prevent continually exposing him to this stressful situation

him. His tone of voice was cute and often had us laughing. We opened his cage every morning and he eagerly came out, calling to us and ready for a day’s worth of training and enrichment. I taught him to station on the outside of his cage, to touch a beak target, to take medication through a syringe, to recall, to follow my voice, to forage, to go into a crate on cue, and so much more. I also put a perch on the outside of his crate, around the corner from his door. Through luring with my voice and ringing his bell, I was able to shape him to go to his station. We did this for several days and he seemed eager to explore and for the opportunity to engage. One day I was in another room when I looked up to see Sam on his station on his own, calling “HI SAM!” I dropped what I was doing and went running into his room to reinforce the behavior and tell him how awesome that was! Adaptation is an amazing thing to watch and learn from. Each week, Sam was challenging me for more opportunities to learn and engage, so I looked around the environment to see what else there was that he would enjoy. I wanted to be able to move him around but wasn’t sure how. His small cage was next to a very large enclosure with a large flat top. I ended up turning his cage and butting it up to the large enclosure, then pulled out a ladder so I could stand on it and lure him to the top of the cage. It didn’t take long for Sam to climb onto the top of the adjacent enclosure. I put foraging toys up there for him and he would wander about and explore. The enclosure was also next to our other blue­fronted Amazon Suki’s enclosure. The two of them began talking. From then on, each day, Sam would go to the top of the enclosure. We called it “going to school.” He began to expect the opportunity to go to school each day. We also started to observe something interesting going on between him and Suki. Sam would go as close as he could to Suki and she would go as close as she could to him. Then they would vo­ calize back and forth to each other. I couldn’t have been happier for Sam, as I know social enrichment is one of the most complex forms of enrichment we can provide to animals. In the end, the behaviors Sam and I worked on together were end­ less. He was going into a crate on cue, beak targeting, foraging at com­ plex levels, letting us train him in workshops and letting me pet him. It was when we were working on syringe training that I noticed something was wrong. I returned home from a vacation and realized that he wasn’t vocalizing as much throughout the day. I also noticed he was spending more time in his cage rather than coming out and going to school on his own. I made him a vet appointment and, very sadly, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia. His time was very limited.


© Lara Joseph

Sam undergoing the surgery to have his eye removed


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

When birds finally show signs of being ill, they are usually already pretty sick. Sam’s white cell blood count was off the charts. At that point, I, the volunteers, the rescue I had adopted him from, and two veterinarians all gave Sam everything we could and I evaluated his quality of life on a daily basis. I woke up one morning to give him his meds and noticed he was hyper­reactive to his environment and starting to lose his balance. I knew I had to make a call to a dear friend, a veterinarian, who would help me provide his final hours of peace. She and I thus laid Sam to rest that evening in the comfort of a place I am proud to say he could call home. Two days before I had to put Sam to rest, I received his vet records from the rescue in New Jersey. When the rescue acquired Sam, two years prior to me adopting him, the vet had written that Sam had not been let out of his cage for over 16 years. I was shocked when I read that because based on his behavior and the fact that he was out of the cage every day here at the Center, he acted like he was used to it. Know­ ing that he had not been allowed out of his cage for such a long time was probably the thing that struck me the hardest in my grieving for him. He could have had the empowerment that we had been able to

a v i a n People would ask me, “How do you prevent him from flying?” and my response was always, “A blind bird isn’t going to want to take off in flight if he doesn’t know where he’s going. Just don’t scare him.” A few times I also heard, “Why wouldn’t you just euthanize the bird. What kind of quality of life does he have?” Quality of life? I’ll show you quality of life!

give him so much sooner, yet he never got it until just six months prior to his passing. Sam, like so many animals, deserved much more in his life than what he received. Sam’s story, determination, and eagerness in learning took off on social media and reached further than the companion bird community. In his short six months at the Center, he had acquired quite the follow­ ing from animal lovers all over the world. And, when he left this earth, he left a huge gap and sense of emptiness here at the Center. When we label animals as “special needs,” people often have the tendency to think they should restrict mobility because the animal is “limited” and that this is necessary for their safety. I understand this and, of course, safety is important. But we need to be very careful to not limit their ability to adapt and learn. Special needs animals can pro­ vide much education to all of us in teaching us all to know and do bet­ ter. In this, Sam was nothing short of an inspiration. n

Resources A Helping Wing Parrot Rescue & Sanctuary: Sam, I Can Foundation: Lara Joseph is the owner of The Animal Behavior Center (, an international, educational center in Sylvania, Ohio focusing on teaching people how to live, love, and work with animals using positive reinforcement and approaches in Applied Behavior Analysis. She is a professional animal behavior consultant and trainer with a focus on exotics, travels internationally giving workshops and lectures, and provides online, live-streaming learning programs on behavior, training, and enrichment. Her focus is on behavior and training with all species of animals whether in the home, shelter, zoo, or as educational ambassadors. She sits on the advisory board for All Species Consulting, The Indonesian Parrot Project, Collaboration for Avian Welfare, and is the director of animal training for Nature's Nursery, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Whitehouse, Ohio. She is also the founder of several animal organizations for animal welfare and has much experience working with special needs animals. She is a published author and writes regularly for several periodicals and also blogs for Deaf Dogs Rock. She has also been asked to co-author and is currently working on an international manual of animal behavior and training. She is a guest lecturer in Zoo Biology: Animal Nutrition, Behavior and Diagnostics taught by Dr. Jason Crean at St. Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois.

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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Cooperative Care: It’s Not Just for Dogs! Alex Walker and Jayme Lee explain how they trained a Haflinger horse to stand for voluntary nebulizer treatments using positive reinforcement


t’s a common misconception that positive reinforcement training works on some animals but not others. Take the world of dog train­ ing, for example. Many of us may have had misinformed trainers tell us that positive reinforcement training will work for only specific breeds of dogs or for “easy” behaviors, but that others need a “heavier hand” in training or “all of the tools in the toolbox” if you will. Of course, we know that this is the furthest thing from fact and that positive reinforce­ ment training works regardless of breed or species. In fact, positive reinforcement training and protected contact train­ ing received one of its first big pushes thanks to the zoological commu­ nity. Despite this, the misconception about a species­specific style of training remains strong and one of the species that is often on the re­ ceiving end of this is the horse. As such, traditional horsemanship will often portray the human trainer or rider in a struggle for dominance with his or her horse. This rider might make use of negative reinforce­ ment, the act of removing an unpleasant or aversive stimulus (e.g. the pressure of a bit) to increase the likelihood of a behavior. Horses, as a species, are prey animals. They are often space con­ scious and uniquely aware of their surroundings and sensitive to the el­ ements within them. Physically large and robust animals, horses easily dwarf their trainers or handlers and are incredibly strong. Although these are important traits for livestock animals, their size and strength can result in a “heavy­handed” approach being taken to physically ma­ nipulate and coerce them into a specific behavior or position. This approach still pervades all aspects of traditional horsemanship and even extends to routine medical care or lifesaving husbandry be­ haviors. In this article, we are going to discuss how positive reinforce­ ment can be used to not only teach an important medically relevant behavior (administering medication through a nebulizer) but that this style of training can also build strong, steady and complex behaviors.

© Alex Walker

Co­author Jayme Lee with 9­year­old Haflinger, Lady, who was initially exposed to aversive training methods prior to being switched over to force­free training

What: In 2016, trainers and zookeeping staff at the facility where Lady

The Student Let’s take a look at our learner:

Who: Lady, a 9­year­old Haflinger horse. Note: Lady is what we would consider a “crossover” pony, i.e. an animal that originally was exposed to traditional aversive horsemanship methods before being switched over to an entirely force­free, positive reinforcement based training ap­ proach.

It’s a common misconception that positive reinforcement training works on some animals but not others. Take the world of dog training, for example. Many of us may have had misinformed trainers tell us that positive reinforcement training will work for only specific breeds of dogs or for “easy” behaviors, but that others need a “heavier hand” in training.


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

resided began to notice a nasal discharge from Lady’s left nostril. This discharge was treated but seemed to recur seasonally before resolving temporarily. By 2018, it had progressed to the point that previous treat­ ments showed little improvement and it became a chronic issue. The decision was thus made to anesthetize Lady and scope her sinus cavity and guttural pouch to determine the source of the discharge.

Why: Leading up to this procedure, zoo personal and vet staff consid­ ered all avenues of diagnosis and treatment. Pending the results of ad­ ditional diagnostics, one treatment option was the use of medication that Lady would breathe in via a nebulizer to treat the affected area. This is the specific treatment plan that we will now expand upon. Before starting our nebulizer training it was important that we first identify and document our goal behavior. Like any good training plan, we broke down behaviors into small approximations and adjusted as needed based on the information we gained from our learner’s behavior. While our initial training plan was quite extensive, for the purposes of this article we have presented an updated and amended version. Timing and duration guidelines were determined by vet staff and based on the medication that would be administered.

e q u i n e Goal Behavior Lady will stand in front of the trainer in the open­faced stall. Upon pres­ entation of the nebulizer, she will place her face into the opening and stand and breathe deeply for a duration of 5 minutes in three individual sessions for an overall duration of 15 minutes (this will occur twice daily).

Reinforcers Used: Chopped carrots, apples, kale, and romaine lettuce. Tools: Nebulizer machine and tubing, saline solution, four masks of dif­ fering sizes labeled Prototypes 1 ­ 4 (see photos, below), a timer, and two trainers available for the duration of each session. (left to right) Prototypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 from the inside

Extra Considerations: All sessions will be set up in a protected con­ tact style, meaning Lady and her trainers will be separated by a physical barrier — the stall door, in this case. Lady will have access to an alterna­ tive food source (free choice coastal hay) and she will be at liberty to enter and exit the training sessions as she chooses. With these parameters in place, we began the process of establish­ ing our training approximations. These have also been abbreviated for the purpose of this article.

© Alex Walker

The goal behavior was for Lady to stand in front of the trainer in the open­faced stall and, upon presentation of the nebulizer, place her face into the opening and stand and breathe deeply for five minutes, in three individual sessions for an overall duration of 15 minutes, to occur twice daily

Training Approximations: 1. Desensitization: In our first step the goal was to have our learner grow comfortable with the equipment (sight, sound and, even­ tually, touch). To begin, we started to bridge (or mark) and reinforce Lady for approaching mask Protoype 1, before building this into a brief (1­2 second) nose target. 2. Once the brief nose target was established, we moved on to hav­ ing Lady voluntarily place her face into the nebulizer mask. It was in this step that we moved to Prototypes 2 and 3. In these designs, there was a large opening at the bottom of the mask; this allowed for trainers to re­ inforce Lady when her nose was inside the mask. This not only helped to add reinforcement value to targeting but prompted us to start increas­ ing duration next. 3. Building Duration: After Lady grew comfortable eating and resting her nose in the nebulizer mask, we moved onto mask Prototype 4, with no opening at the bottom. This required that required Lady to hold posi­ tion before we bridged and removed the mask to deliver reinforcement. From here, our training approximations turned into sessions focused on increasing duration (the amount of time Lady held her face in the mask before we bridged and reinforced). Below is a brief outline of the time­ line criteria we followed based on Lady's responses, including notes on troubleshooting: • 1 second ­ 10 seconds: o Troubleshooting: Lady quickly began to anticipate that she would be reinforced after 10 seconds and removed her nose early for reinforcement. To contend with this, we made our reinforcement schedule more variable so Lady could not pre­ dict when she would be reinforced. • 10 seconds ­ 27 seconds: o In this step, we continued variable reinforcement timing, began supplementing our reinforcers with secondary rein­ forcement such as verbal praise and varied our reinforcement ratio. • 27 seconds ­ 45 seconds: o After building a solid and consistent nose target, we began

© Alex Walker

Here, Lady is anesthetized while having her sinus cavity and guttural pouch scoped nasally by the equine vet. You can see where the scope is located (red light above her eye, circled), demonstrating how far back the guttural pouch is in the horse and why a nebulizer was considered initially if this was determined to be the source of Lady’s nasal discharge

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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© Alex Walker

© Alex Walker

Co­Authors Alex Walker (photo, above left) and Jayme Lee (photo, above right) with fellow trainer Nathan Jorden work on timing Lady’s training sessions with the Prototype 4 version of the nebulizer as they work to build duration and frequency

to desensitize the other elements of the nebulizer. o We connected the hose to the nebulizer mask and worked on building the same duration with the machine on. o To help Lady approximate to the medication we started to add saline solution. This created a fine mist or vapor that let

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

us know our prototype worked and also gave Lady a safe sub­ stance to breathe in. 45 seconds – 2 minutes+: o With the saline solution on board, we were able to move into the next facet of training, reinforcing for breathing deeply. We wanted to ensure that Lady took deep, relaxed breaths while wearing the mask. To do this, we made sure to selectively bridge and reinforce after deep inhales and ex­ hales.

A Change in Plans After reaching the 2­minute mark in our training plan, Lady’s results came back from the equine vet and, after consulting with vet staff and trainers, it was decided to move forward with a surgical approach in­ stead of medication via nebulizer. Despite this change of plans and not meeting our goal duration (5 minutes), the experience gained through­ out the training process proved invaluable and allowed us to work closely with Lady, training a novel and enriching behavior that may prove useful down the line. In addition to this, we proved that you can train a complex and intricate behavior with a large and powerful animal, often dubbed “Crazy Lady” by colleagues, using entirely positive rein­ forcement. Proving once again that learning really isn’t “species­spe­ cific” at all. n Alex Walker is a Professional Canine Trainer - Accredited, Certified Pet Care Technician (Level 2), AKC Canine Good Citizen and STAR Puppy Evaluator, TrickMeister Apprentice and Licensed Pet Dog Ambassador Instructor and Assessor. She currently works as a trainer fulltime at Courteous Canine Inc. Dog Smith of Tampa (courteouscanine .com). Originally a trainer and zookeeper in the zoological community, Alex recently made the switch to focus on dogs full-time. Jayme Lee is an animal ambassador zookeeper and trainer at ZooTampa at Lowry Park ( She has a bachelor’s from the University of Tampa and five years training and husbandry experience in the zoological field. Passionate about positive reinforcement training, she has worked with a myriad of animals but her favorite remains a very special pygmy goat named Twilight Sparkle. She is also a speaker and presenter for the Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums developmental workshops.

e q u i n e

Starting Friendships on the Right Hoof Kathie Gregory relates how two horses, one of whom had lost his long-term companion and the other who had lived alone in a stall for the past few years, were introduced over a period of about 10 days to form an enduring friendship


here are two common ways of introducing horses. The first one in­ volves putting them together from the outset and letting them get on with it, so to speak. The second is to introduce them to each other gradually over a period of time, watching their body language and adapting accordingly. In this article, I will explain how I gradually intro­ duced two unfamiliar horses to each other with a view to them becom­ ing friends and living together.

The Details Existing Horse: Bear Background: 15­year­old Thoroughbred. Lost his long­term companion a short time prior to this introduction. An ex­racer, he went to several homes, only to be returned with the reason that the resident horses didn't get on with him. Injures were sustained. In his current home, he was with his companion for seven years. He does not go out and inter­ act with other horses, he remains on the owner’s land. Property and Land: A 30 ft x 30 ft barn, open to the yard on one side. Two x 2.5 acres fields off the yard, with a gate to each field.

Incoming Horse: Toffee Background: 20­year­old pony, thought to be part Connemara. Was a child's pony, consequently he was out and about doing many activities. Owners didn't want to give him up, so once the child outgrew him he spent his life in a livery stable. The last few years, he has been kept in a 10 ft x 12 ft stall 24/7 with only limited ability to see other horses. The only time he left the stall was when it was mucked out.

Reasoning for the Introduction Bear was clearly not happy being on his own and needed company. Tof­ fee's owner thought he only had a few weeks left and wanted him to have some happiness and time out of his stall. A chance conversation led to the idea that the solution could perhaps be to introduce the two and see if they got along. The hope was that Bear would no longer be on his own and that Toffee could live out his last few weeks in a natural environment. Pertinent to that was the knowledge that Bear had al­ ready lost a companion, and the loss of another so soon might not be in his best interests. The plan was to see if they made a connection and as­ sess Toffee's health with the change of environment, then determine whether it would be the right thing for Bear's emotional welfare to pro­ mote what might be a short friendship. The horses would have access to the barn and field 24/7 but would not be shut in, so it was also impor­ tant that Toffee's health could cope with this after living inside for years.

Session 1 – 30 minutes: Bear was in the field and Toffee in the yard. Bear was inquisitive and standing at the fence line. Toffee did not go up to Bear straight away but when he did, he was calm, quiet and ap­ proached slowly. Before he got to the fence line, Bear reared and let out a high­pitched scream, came back down and stamped his front hoof as

© Kathie Gregory

Before Toffee started his training sessions with Bear he had been kept in a stall 24/7 for a number of years with his only outings being to a grass verge outside his stall for a few minutes while it was being mucked out

he lifted his head high. In the wild, this is a challenge to a newcomer, basically asking them, “Who are you?” Toffee did not respond in like. He slowly backed up and created more distance between them. He then wandered around the yard, only barely grazing, moving towards and then away from the fence line but maintaining a distance where Bear did not react to him. When Toffee decreased the distance between them a second time, Bear gave the same response. As before, there was no follow up to this. Once Bear had given his side of the conversation he went back to grazing and Toffee moved away. Following that, both horses mooched about at a middle distance, not close, but not that far from each other. The body language of both horses was generally relaxed and there was no observable stiffness or vigilance. Then Bear initiated contact by coming to the fence line. Toffee responded and they touched noses and sniffed each other for a few seconds before Bear once again reared and screamed, but this time he did not stamp his hoof. His head still came up, but not as high as previously. Following this, Bear screamed another three times when Toffee moved about even though Toffee was not mov­ ing towards him and there was still some distance between them. Each time, the intensity of Bear's response reduced, his voice became qui­ eter, and it changed tone to more of a startled sound when Toffee moved and Bear didn't expect it. Bear went back to grazing and then they met once again at the fence line. This time they engaged for a cou­ ple of minutes just touching and scenting each other. This interaction

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


e q u i n e

© Kathie Gregory

© Kathie Gregory

After several introductory sessions spread over a period of approximately 10 days, Toffee and Bear were comfortable being in close proximity and sharing spaces

finished when Bear became unsure and emitted a little scream as he stepped back. The intensity was far less than the other instances and he did not rear or stamp. At no time during this session did either of the horses display signs of being unable to cope or wanting to get com­ pletely away from the other, although clearly they were both wary and out of their comfort zones. There were no tails swishing, no ears back, stiff body language, taut posture, neck thrusts, or positioning/orienting in a way that closed down the conversation. Neither was it always one of the horses that ap­ proached the fence line first; they both did. As the session progressed, both horses reduced rather than escalated their body language, voice and insecurity, their emotions and responses. By the end of the session both horses were comfortable and not taking much notice of what each other was doing, with Bear no longer reacting to Toffee's movements. At this point the session finished, and Toffee went home. As Toffee dis­ appeared out of sight, Bear galloped around the field a couple of times then resumed grazing. A couple of hours later Bear whinnied and a horse from the yard next door responded, then they repeated the greet­ ing. Could this have been Toffee?

Analysis Bear: Insecurity. This was his home and he was unsure of a new horse. He challenged Toffee and showed unease at the start. He was on alert. He has a history of not getting on with other horses, always being the one who is the recipient of other horses’ intolerance, and has had some injuries from horses biting and kicking him. Bear may well have wanted more distance between him and Toffee and he had the whole of a 2.5­ acre field to do that. But this was Bear’s home range and he was not yet

Being loose in a large yard where [Toffee] could wander at will, graze as much as he wanted to, and have social contact with another horse was a substantial change in his circumstances, and something that would take time to get used to. It is easy to think that he would embrace it and be ecstatic, but such a big change can cause anxiety, stress, and an insecurity as to what to do.


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

ready to accept an unfamiliar horse into it, so if he was uncomfortable, he would likely still choose to stay closer so that he could assess the sit­ uation. Toffee: Insecurity. Having to cope with being in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar horse. He was low key and wary of Bear to start with. He was also worried by Bear's first two challenges and was more reluctant to move towards the fence line for a few minutes afterwards. He whin­ nied for his friends at the yard next door when he wasn't sure of him­ self. Toffee could have created more distance from Bear by going into the barn. He could also have stood at the gate where he came into the yard showing that he wanted to leave and return to his home.

Session 2 (one day later) – 30 minutes (supervised): This session was low key. When Toffee was loose in the yard, he went over to where Bear was already at the fence line. They said “hello,” and spent quite a few minutes visiting with each other. Sniffing was more investigative with a good portion of each other’s bodies being checked out. There was no screaming or posturing from Bear. He pranced around the field tossing his head a couple of times and again when Toffee went home.

Analysis No signs of stress or discomfort. However, the question was, were they comfortable this second time around, or was there was an element of their emotions being subdued as they assessed the fact that they were in the same situation again?

Session 3 (one day later) – 30 minutes (supervised): Both horses were calm as Toffee arrived. He went over to greet Bear who was al­ ready at the fence. Bear did a tiny shriek and small foot stamp, then went a short distance away and started grazing. Neither horse showed much interest in each other during this session and there was hardly any interaction between them.

Analysis On the basis that both horses were more sure of themselves this time, it looks like they had been subduing themselves in the previous session.

Session 4 (two days later) – 1.5 hours (unsupervised): When Bear saw Toffee walking up to the yard, he gave a welcoming whinny. Again,

e q u i n e As the session progressed, both horses reduced rather than escalated their body language, voice and insecurity, their emotions and responses. By the end of the session both horses were comfortable and not taking much notice of what each other was doing, with Bear no longer reacting to Toffee's movements.

both horses were calm. They greeted each other and both showed more relaxed body language than the previous sessions. Toffee spent some time grazing. Previously, he had only had the odd mouthful of grass or had not eaten at all. This was a good sign that he was feeling more com­ fortable. Neither did he call out to his friends at the yard he had left. The horses were checked about 40 minutes into the session and they were both relaxed. Observing them without being seen, Toffee looked as though he didn't really know what to do with himself. When checked again a little while later, he looked a bit more relaxed.

Analysis As noted, before Toffee started these sessions with Bear he had been kept in a stall 24/7 for the last few years. His only outings were outside the stall on the grass verge for a few minutes while the stall was being mucked out. Being loose in a large yard where he could wander at will, graze as much as he wanted to, and have social contact with another horse was a substantial change in his circumstances, and something that would take time to get used to. It is easy to think that he would em­ brace it and be ecstatic but such a big change can cause anxiety, stress, and an insecurity as to what to do, which can become more apparent in a longer session than a short one.

gether. The decision as to when the time is right is based on your as­ sessment of how their relationship is developing and also on your gut feeling. They may be doing well, but if it just doesn't feel right, then you should wait even if you don't know why it doesn't feel right. At this point, it was safe for Toffee to stay and live with Bear but there was also another consideration; the owner. The transition to spending time out in a field, being able to graze and in the company of another horse is a big deal and a huge change to Toffee's lifestyle. How­ ever, it is also a big deal for an owner to feel comfortable with such a change in their horse’s lifestyle. There are many worries when you move from actively managing a horse to allowing him to manage himself. For this reason, the owner was not yet ready. Thus, for the next few weeks, Toffee was brought over for several hours, several times a week, and then went home. On each occasion the gate was opened straight away so the horses were together. Finally, the owner grew comfortable enough for Toffee to live with Bear full­time, and they have been to­ gether ever since. n Kathie Gregory is a qualified animal behavior consultant, presenter and author, specializing in advanced cognition and emotional intelligence. Passionate about raising standards and awareness in how we teach and work with animals, she has developed Free Will TeachingTM (, a concept that provides the framework for animals to enjoy life without compromising their own free will. She has authored two books, A tale of two horses: a passion for free will teaching, and A Puppy Called Wolfie: a passion for free will teaching, and her work is currently divided between working with clients, mentoring, and writing.

Session 5 (two days later) – 1.5 hours (unsupervised): Toffee arrived when nobody was around to bring him in, so his owner tied him to the gate post to the yard while he left to find someone. Bear's voice was heard saying he was not sure about his situation, so someone went to investigate. They found Bear standing by Toffee on the other side of the gate. Bear was taken out to the field and Toffee was let into the yard as usual. They then met at the fence line, with Bear star­ tling when Toffee moved and again saying he was not sure. Following this, they were both fine and relaxed with each other for the session.

Analysis It was too soon for Bear to be comfortable with a change in the routine. He had accommodated another horse in his core area and begun to feel secure about it, but Toffee being tied up on the other side of the en­ trance to the yard was different and made him feel uncomfortable as he did not know what was happening.

Session 6 (three days later): Both horses were fine and comfortable from the start. They interacted well, neither was worried by what the other did and they were both relaxed after a couple of hours. It was de­ cided that it was a good time to open the gate to the field and let them be together. Toffee walked out into the field and Bear looked up and went over to say “hi.” Bear then ran around the field, his body language indicating that he was happy, and finally returned to Toffee to ask him to play. Toffee responded by laying down and having a good roll in the grass. Once Toffee got up, both horses spent the next couple of hours grazing before Toffee went home.

Analysis There is always a risk when you first let two horses out in a field to­

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020



Ask the Experts: To Discount or Not to Discount? Veronica Boutelle of PPG corporate partner dog*biz discusses the parameters for training more than one dog in the same home


: What’s the best way to handle training more than one dog in a household? I’ve had this come up a couple of times recently, and I wasn’t sure how to charge for it, especially when both families asked for a discount for the second dog. Thanks for any insights! A: Let’s say you’ve been called in by a family with two dogs. One is leash reactive and the other needs some general basic manners. In this case where the training goals are specific to each dog, I’d be inclined to train the dogs separately, necessitating a training package for each. You’d charge whatever you normally would for each dog. Avoid the tempta­ tion to discount, as you should be fully compensated for all of your training hours. Now let’s say you’ve been called in by a family who have two dogs who both need basic manners. Goals and desired cues for both dogs are the same, and there are no additional complications. You could still choose to sell a package for each dog. Your other alternative would be to sell one longer training package for the two dogs, giving yourself time to work with the dogs individually as well as together, and proof for both situations.

Compensation Whatever you decide to do in such situations, keep these two parame­ ters in mind: Make sure you give yourself an appropriate amount of time based on the clients’ goals, and that you’re fully compensated for that time. Remember that you have a finite number of potential paid hours as a trainer and that it’s important to protect your income for the longevity of your business and your ability to help as many dogs as pos­ sible over your career. Stand your ground when clients ask for multidog discounts. If it helps, consider the discount request in any other field or context. For example, no one would dream of asking for half off their second child’s college tuition, or dental exams. Most vets don’t give clients discounts on treatment for second and third animals, and pet supply stores don’t offer half off your second dog’s food. Treat your services with the pro­ fessional regard they deserve, and clients will follow. n

Stand your ground when clients ask for multidog discounts. If it helps, consider the discount request in any other field or context. For example, no one would dream of asking for half off their second child’s college tuition, or dental exams. Most vets don’t give clients discounts on treatment for second and third animals, and pet supply stores don’t offer half off your second dog’s food. Treat your services with the professional regard they deserve.


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

© Can Stock Photo/DragoNika

In some cases two dogs in the same home have similar training needs, whereas in others, each dog might have specific issues that need to be worked on

Veronica Boutelle MA Ed CTC is founder and co-president of dog*biz (, and author of How to Run Your Dog Business and co-author of Minding Your Dog Business. dog*biz offers professionally designed positive reinforcement dog training class curricula, including Open-Enrollment Puppy, Open-Enrollment Basic Manners, and short Topics classes built for retention.

Do you have a question for the business experts at dog*biz? Submit your question for consideration to:

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Professionalizing the Pet Industry Niki Tudge explains why licensing alone is not the solution to raise the standard of dog training and behavior consulting


ccording to the registration required for American Pet pet industry employees Products Associa­ (other than veterinari­ tion (APPA) (2019), 67% ans, some veterinary of U.S. households now technicians, and board own at least one pet, certified veterinary be­ which equals an esti­ haviorists), or any re­ mated 84.9 million quirement to hold homes. Millennials repre­ relevant qualifications sent the largest segment (other than veterinari­ of pet owners for all pet ans, veterinary techni­ types owned, especially cians and board certified bird owners, small animal veterinary behaviorists.) owners, and saltwater Thus any numbers avail­ fish owners. In addition, able are not particularly more than 80% of Gen Z reliable. and Millennial pet own­ In her article Working ers report owning dogs, with Animals, published while 50% or less own by the U.S. Bureau of cats. Undoubtedly, these Labor Statistics, Royster © Can Stock Photo/tifonimages figures represent large (2015) details several pet In the fields of dog training, pet care and animal behavior consulting, there is currently no legal requirement to be certified and no legal mechanism in place to protect the consumer from negative numbers of constituents, care job titles, their ex­ or injurious consequences that transpire as the result of an individual’s lack of certification and if mobilized and pected median income, called to action, could job opening forecast represent a significant voting bloc. numbers, and qualifying credentials based on data published in 2012. Royster (2015) notes that “[m]ost occupations that involve working with animals have no postsecondary education requirements” and that for Booming Industry positions such as breeders, animal care workers, and animal trainers, the Many of the changes across the industry have been driven by technol­ only qualification required is a high school diploma or equivalent. She ogy and the ease of online purchases. Kestenbaum (2018) argues that points out that any “on­the­job” training required is moderate, a year “most of the growth is because of changes in culture. As Millennial and maximum, “to develop the skills needed to attain competency,” with no Generation Z consumers have come into adulthood, they have em­ additional experience required. Royster (2015) also notes that licenses, braced the pet­owning and pet­loving lifestyles to a far greater extent certifications, or registrations are not required for anyone wanting to fill than their elders. one of these “Other Services” type positions and join the pet industry. APPA (2019) reports that pet care spending in 2018 reached a In terms of any future legislation or oversight geared toward those “record­breaking high” of $72.56 billion compared to $69.51 billion in working in the field of pet care, training, or behavior consulting, it is my 2017, an increase of 4.3%. In 2019, this booming industry was expected to grow another 4.5%, generating $75.38 billion dollars that were esti­ mated to be spent across several key areas such as food, supplies, vet­ Royster (2015) notes that “[m]ost occupations erinary care, animal sales and “other services.” (APPA, 2019). The “other that involve working with animals have no services” income category references additional products such as postsecondary education requirements” and grooming, boarding, training, pet sitting, behavior consulting, pet exer­ that for positions such as breeders, animal care cise, and pet walking and represents a significant growth area in the last workers, and animal trainers, the only 20 years. Other services now account for around 8% of pet industry qualification required is a high school diploma or total income, or $6.3 billion per year, having gradually increased as a equivalent. She points out that any “on-the-job” percentage over the last 20 years, up from 4%, or $1.2 billion (APPA, training required is moderate, a year 2019).

The Need for Change It is very difficult at present to establish how many individuals are em­ ployed or contracted across the pet industry. There is no state or federal


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

maximum, “to develop the skills needed to attain competency,” with no additional experience required.

business opinion that it would do pets and their owners an enormous injustice if any such legislation or industry oversight did not specifically call for prac­ titioners to possess the appropriate skills and knowledge to effectively, efficiently and safely carry out their profession in a way that safeguards pets’ physical and emotional welfare. At the same time, any such legisla­ tion or industry oversight must also protect the consumer from fraudu­ lent marketing practices, business maleficence and/or outdated training methods and tools that are mispresented by pet professionals as scien­ tific or beneficial. Conversations about regulating the pet industry all seem to gravitate towards occupational licensing. But what is occupational licensing? Do those calling for it really understand the potential pitfalls of this type of regulation and is it really suitable for our industry?

What Is Occupational Licensing? According to Roth and Ramlow (2016), “Americans have always been rooted in the idea of economic freedom.” In other words, Americans tend to be of the belief that hard work and determination will pay off. Children, from a young age, may be told that, rich or poor, if they have the right attitude, a good work ethic and are honest, then success will be attainable. We might, then, wonder why the practice of licensing has become so prevalent. Why does the government, through occupational licensing, place obstacles such as complex rules and barriers to the so­ called American dream? Another question not to be overlooked is the one pertaining to whether there is a suitable occupational license for trainers and behavior consultants within the pet industry? In the United States, more than one­quarter, or 25­30% of workers, are now required to hold a license to perform their jobs. Many of these licenses are controlled and administered at a state level (Roth & Ramlow, 2016). In fact, there has been a five­fold growth in state level licensing since the early 1950s. In states such as Wisconsin, the growth of licenses and licensees has actually outpaced the population growth. Much of this change and growth can be attributed to a change in the workforce con­ figuration toward personal and professional white collar services and away from more supervised, less empowered blue collar jobs. According to the Treasury Office of Economic Policy, the Council of Economic Advisors and the Department of Labor (2015), “1,100 occupa­ tions are licensed in at least one state but fewer than 60 are licensed in all 50 states.” This reflects the priorities and motivations of individual states and their given preferences over licensing trades. South Carolina, for example, has a 12% licensed workforce whereas Iowa, at the higher end, licenses 33% of its labor force. Such differences in licensing regula­ tions across states are not only due to differences in the types of occupa­ tions that require a license, but also to an individual state’s specific policies and licensing philosophy. Licensing requirements across individual states and occupations also vary in terms of educational requirements and professional experience. For example, to become a security guard in Michigan, one would need to undertake three years of education and training whereas, in other states, just 11 days will suffice. Numerous examples of this type of disparity are available across many job types making it very difficult for a transient labor force to enter and compete within their given profession.

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Conversations about regulating the pet industry all seem to gravitate towards occupational licensing. But what is occupational licensing? Do those calling for it really understand the potential pitfalls of this type of regulation and is it really suitable for our industry?

Licensing Reform Roth and Ramlow (2016) show that there has been a steady pace of occu­ pational licensing reform across numerous states. The reforms have fallen across two categories, those requirements that serve no state interest and those that have little impact on health and safety. In 2015, Attorney General and Governor of Texas, Gregg Abbott, signed a bill eliminating a $200 annual licensing fee from various professions, thus impacting 600,000 workers. In 2016, Governor of Arizona Doug Doucy signed a bill eliminating licensing for citrus packers, yoga instructors and noncommer­ cial driving instructors. And, in 2015, Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Rai­ mondo, eliminated 27 licenses for a selection of occupations, including music therapists, barbers, cosmetologists and estheticians. Overall, re­ forms have taken place across 12 states from 2014 to 2016.

Competing Propositions for Licensure In economics, there are two competing propositions in favor of occupa­ tional licensure: rent­seeking and public interest (Maurizi, 1974). 1. The rent­seeking theory presents that occupational licensing limits access to certain occupations, which increases wages for those practicing and costs for those consuming (Friedman, 1962). 2. The public interest theory argues that licensure is needed to the extent that it protects the general public from unlicensed professionals and that the end user (the client or customer) may lack the necessary knowledge or information to make an informed decision, which can, in turn, poorly impact local communities (Arrow, 1963). Those in favor of licensing argue that its key purpose and function, when designed and implemented correctly, is to provide consumers with two main benefits: high quality services, and more structured health and safety standards. Other opinions suggest that governments license for three primary purposes: 1. To generate income for the state. 2. To protect public safety. 3. To raise the standards of the profession. According to Roth and Ramlow (2016), licensing also serves addi­ tional, often understated yet more concerning functions: to protect members of a profession from competition and hiking up consumer prices. This speaks to the process of “grandfathering,” a system whereby all existing practitioners in an industry are automatically granted a li­ cense when new licenses are developed and rolled out. This, in some cases, occurs without a need for them to meet even the basic minimum of standards required of those newly entering the profession.

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020



© Can Stock Photo/monkeybusiness

In many countries, pets are an important part of the culture and play key roles in people’s daily lives

A report prepared by the Department of the Treasury Office of Eco­ nomic Policy, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Department of Labor (2015) suggests that occupational licensing encourages individuals to professionalize and creates career pathways incorporating education and skill training requirements. However, a review of the literature and research in the same report shows, in fact, that the opposite may occur, and that occupational licensing may: • Increase barriers for entry into an industry. • Increase small business overheads through licensing fees. • Reduce employment opportunities. • Increase service pricing for consumers, varying from 3­16%. • Not significantly improve the level of service quality. • Create a 10­15% disparity in earnings between licensed and unlicensed workers with similar education, experience, and training. • Accelerate a decline in innovation and research. • Restrict worker mobility across states.

Is Occupational Licensing Just Regulation? Occupational licensing is a form of government regulation that requires individuals wanting to practice their trade to obtain permission from a government body. According to Kleiner (2017), it is “the process by which governments establish qualifications required to practice a trade or profession, so that only licensed practitioners are allowed by law to receive pay for doing work in the occupation.” However, all too often, li­ censing is converged with or misrepresented as credentialing when, in reality, the two are very different. The argument also exists that it is not the role of an individual or agency to provide oversight for an industry or specific areas of an occu­ pation where one is not an expert. For dog trainers, who form part of those other services we discussed earlier, one way of taking control of their destiny would be to establish a standard level of education. Dunbar (qtd. in Hubbard Sorlie, 2018) suggests “a degree­level course that is more practical than any other type of training course being offered, and everyone has to have it…It needs to be offered worldwide, translated into Spanish, Japanese and other languages. This would be the gold stan­ dard in education…otherwise another profession will do it, or heaven for­ bid, the government.” The process of licensing whereby one is granted permission by state or federal governments to practice a particular occupation or profession


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

unwittingly (or unfortunately) legitimizes all practitioners who are either grandfathered into a new licensing tenure or meet the minimal require­ ment guidelines set by the government oversight body. This is, more often than not, a body of individuals who are versed in government pol­ icy, but not necessarily in the required competencies of the skilled li­ cense holder. In Maryland alone, the Division of Occupational and Professional Li­ censing oversees 21 licensing boards, commissions and programs ap­ pointed by the governor. The division is responsible for regulating the activities of more than 246,000 individuals and businesses across 25 pro­ fessions (Maryland Government, 2018). As the licensing process involves the power of the state, should a practitioner violate the licensing terms, they can be held legally account­ able under civil or criminal law of the governing body. In few industries, however, do the minimal educational and or skill requirements really speak to competency of the practitioner and fewer, in reality, protect the consumer from unethical or dangerous practices. Recent political trends are seeing a bipartisan interest in licensing reform, with real efforts being made to remove licensing requirements from occupations where it is deemed unnecessary. As Roth and Ramlow (2016) state, it is licensing that serves no state interest, has little impact on health and safety and only serves to fence out opportunity, that is in need of reform.

Pets and Their Influence on Our Culture Politics and pets seem to be irrevocably connected. The lives of our pets are significantly impacted by politics through ownership regulation, pub­ lic policy, and criminal and regulatory law enforcement. In the United States, pets are an important part of the culture and play key roles in many facets of people’s lives. Given the number of studies reflecting that ownership of pets increases the amount of exer­ cise undertaken by their owners, reduces stress and blood pressure, and produces hormones that positively impact pleasure, there is an eco­ nomic and social value to pets in our societies (Centers for Disease Con­ trol and Prevention, 2019). In children, pet ownership has been shown to reduce allergies and assist with development. And let us not forget or underestimate the many functions pets serve and perform for the sick, disabled, and those in need of assistance (Hunter & Brisbin, 2016). Thus, with increasing numbers of animal welfare organizations and groups now demanding political action to protect the physical, emotional and environmental well­being of pets, coupled with the fact that pets can generate costs to the pubic through rescue, sheltering, cleanup and care, we are beginning to see movements at a state level regarding the li­ censing and oversight of professionals who work with pets.

Industry Certification The process to become certified in any given field can be more rigorous than becoming licensed. However, certifications are generally non­ governmental. They are usually earned from academic or professional societies or institutions and often have renewal terms and conditions at­ tached to them. Certifications recognize individuals for meeting specific criteria of skills and knowledge. They are a way for practitioners to seek self­pro­ motion and differentiate themselves from their competitive set. Certify­ ing organizations set standards of competency and their certification programs are designed to use these predetermined competencies as

Politics and pets seem to be irrevocably connected. The lives of our pets are significantly impacted by politics through ownership regulation, public policy, and criminal and regulatory law enforcement.

business In the United States, pets are an important part of the culture and play key roles in many facets of people’s lives. Given the number of studies reflecting that ownership of pets increases the amount of exercise undertaken by their owners, reduces stress and blood pressure, and produces hormones that positively impact pleasure, there is an economic and social value to pets in our societies (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).

benchmarks for pass or failure performances. Consumers draw inference from certifications that a professional has met a specific standard of competency and/or carries a particular body or depth of pertinent knowledge. However, in the pet industry, along with a number of other industries, there is currently no legal requirement to be certified and no legal mechanism in place to protect the consumer from any negative or injurious consequence that transpires as the result of an individual’s lack of certification. In such cases, the only line of recourse a consumer may take regard­ ing a professional who advertises a specific credential is through the cre­ dential provider and the possibility of a credential recall or removal from the credentialing organization. Remember, credentialing is a declaration that the individual has successfully completed the course of study, passed an examination, or in some other manner displayed that they can meet the credentialing criteria. It is not uncommon for a government body to decree that licensed professionals must be certified to a minimum standard to retain their li­ censing status, but this, in turn, begs questions about what types of cre­ dentials are available and what the ethics and integrity of the approved credentialing body are.

Licensing vs. Certification Wilson (2016) summarizes the difference between licensing and certifi­ cation thus: licensing (without a license) presumes the activity is forbid­ den whereas certification presumes the activity is permitted by right. Licensing increases the power of government whereas certification em­ powers the consumer and not the government. To delve deeper, there are certificates and there are certifications. Certificates are often issued from a narrow scope of subject matter. There are fewer tangible criteria for achieving a certificate and some­ times just participating in an educational program will deem an individ­ ual to be eligible. With industry certifications, some are administered and issued in the best interest of the credentialing organization while others take into consideration the interests of the professional, the con­ sumer, and the industry as a whole. It is all too common for credentials to be issued based on little objec­ tivity and few ethical guidelines. Alternatively, the required minimum standards of competency and what constitutes the required job task skills and knowledge might be developed by teams of subject matter ex­ perts who determine Job Task Analysis and review relevant literature. When the latter occurs, it is often by professional credentialing bodies who are guided by strong professional ethics and a recourse and ac­ countability system for professionals who stray from agreed upon and approved operating standards. Licensing as a regulation may be best suited to industries and trades where there is a need to protect the physical and emotional interests of an individual or sentient being and where practitioners can impact the safety and health of the consumer and their best interests. No sound minded individual would entertain medical advice or surgery from an un­

licensed doctor. The licensing discussed here speaks to a level of compe­ tency and guarantees a minimum level of education and skills supported by ethical guidelines. In industries such as the pet industry, where quality impacts public safety and protects against dangerous practitioners, there may be room for a model of regulation that provides the necessary competency and operational guidelines, as well as a level of oversight and ethical supervi­ sion for trainers and behavior consultants, while protecting the needs of pets and their owners and providing for transparency and consumer pro­ tection. Licensing alone that requires an annual fee with oversight solely from a government body is just not going to cut it. n To learn more about a recommended model for pet industry oversight, see Article adapted from ‘Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People’ by Niki J. Tudge, Susan J. Nilson, Debra A. Millikan and Louise A. Stapleton‐Frappell (see ad on p.11).

References American Pet Products Association. (2019). 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. Stamford, CT: APPA American Pet Products Association. (2019). Marketing Research and Data. Available at: Arrow, K. (1963). Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care. American Economic Review 53: 941-9. Available at: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). About Pets and People. Available at: Friedman, M. (1962). Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press Hubbard Sorlie, D. (2018, Fall). APDT Founder urges trainers to take control of their profession. APDT Chronicle of the Dog 27-31 Hunter, S., & Brisbin, R.A. (2016). Pet Politics. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press Kestenbaum, R. (2019). The Biggest Trends in the Pet Industry. Forbes. Available at: Kleiner, M.M. (2017). The influence of occupational licensing and regulation. IZA World of Labor 2017: 392. Available at: Maryland Government. (2018). Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Available at: Maurizi, A. (1974). Occupational Licensing and the Public Interest. Journal of Political Economy 82: 399-413. Available at: Roth, C., & Ramlow, E. (2016). Fencing out opportunity: Occupational licensing in the Badger State. Milwaukee, WI: Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. Available at: Royster, S. (2015). Working with Animals. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Available at: Treasury Office of Economic Policy, the Council of Economic Advisors and the Department of Labor. (2015). Occupational Licensing – A framework for policy makers. Available at: Wilson, L. (2016). Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners. (n.p.): L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc. Niki Tudge PCBC-A AABP-CDBT AAPB – CDT is founder and president of the Pet Professional Guild (, The DogSmith (, a national dog training and pet care license, and DogNostics Career College (, and president of Doggone Safe ( She has business degrees from Oxford Brookes University, UK and has achieved her DipABT and DipCBST. Recently, she has published People Training Skills for Pet Professionals – Your essential guide to engaging, educating and empowering your human clients, Training Big for Small Businesses, and A Kid’s Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog.

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


p r o f i l e

The Greatest Reward is Success In our ongoing series of PPG member profiles, this month BARKS features

Rose Lesniak of Rose Lesniak Dog Trainer, LLC in Miami, Florida


n her first career, Rose Lesniak was a performance poet working in New York City. She then moved to Florida where she worked at the Miami Beach Police Department in the Special Victims Squad. As part of a team there she assessed and investigated the abuse and neglect of children. Q: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, how you first got into animal behavior and training and what you are doing now? A: I wanted to do something which brought happiness into my life and people’s homes instead of panic and distress. At the time, I was work­ ing in the Miami Beach Police Department in the Special Victims Squad and I was also training my dog Martha. I loved it and so I began an online journey to study dog training which culminated in my gradu­ ating from the Animal Behavior College. Petco then selected me to be a dog trainer in 2004. Five years later, I opened my own dog train­ ing/behavior consulting business. Now I have a small and successful business and am able to choose which clients and families I work with. Q: Tell us a little bit about your own pets. A: Right now, I am dogless, having lost two dogs in the last two years. My Wheaton terriers Martha and Joey experienced a good senior life and died at home in my arms at the age of 16, assisted by my compas­ sionate vet. Q: What is your favorite part of your job? © Rose Lesniak

A: Seeing dogs think a cue through. I love changing a dog from being anxious or reactive to a one that is thoughtful, loving, confident and reliable. I also love the fact that dog parents think this is magic instead of science and I enjoy teaching them to use force­free techniques.

Rose Lesniak with her late Wheaten terrier Martha at a party in Miami Shores, Florida

Q: What are some of your favorite positive reinforcement techniques for the most commonly encountered client‐dog problems?

Q: Why did you become a dog trainer or pet care provider? A: I became a dog trainer because I love the work. I also wanted to con­ trol my own schedule. I’ve always been creative and know I can help solve problems in a family. I love the rush of walking into people’s homes to help. I communicate intuitively with animals and humans. It’s fun to deal with all types of humans and dogs. I love driving from house to house and, luckily, I’m good at time management. Q: Are you a crossover trainer or have you always been a force‐free trainer? A: I was trained as a positive trainer but at the beginning of my career I assumed that active pressure would sometimes work. The more I read, the more I attend seminars, the more I study under various masters, the more dogs I work with and the more I study science… These all led me to understand that force­free, creative, patient, and positive reinforce­ ment is much more effective in training and communicating with ani­ mals.


BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

A: It’s my belief that a single technique never works with all dogs or hu­ mans. Whether I am counterconditioning or luring or teaching a behavior chain, it’s most important for me to move at the dog’s pace. I work with multiple reinforcers when teaching: auditory, visual, and I also use good food rewards. Secondly, it’s important for me to teach the human par­ ents how to relax, have fun and enjoy communicating with their dogs.

“The man had left the poor pup in his crate for over 13 hours. The man was screaming, ‘I never wanted him anyway… you take him!’ I grabbed the pup and his papers, got into my car and asked myself, ‘What am I going to do now?’ With various options and legalities running through my brain, I drove around with this poor, scared, poopy pup.” - Rose Lesniak

p r o f i l e “I love changing a dog from being anxious or reactive to a one that is thoughtful, loving, confident and reliable. I also love the fact that dog parents think this is magic instead of science.” - Rose Lesniak Q: What reward do you get out of a day's training? A: Seeing dogs and their humans succeed is the greatest reward I can achieve: Going from house to house; feeling the joy of partnership; solv­ ing problems where problems occur; and working with humans to achieve an understanding of how their own emotional behavior affects their dogs are all important to me. Q: Who has most influenced your career and how? A: I have no one professional who has guided or influenced me the most. People come into my life from all walks and teach me what I need to learn. Every client I work with teaches me something. PPG has helped especially by giving me more knowledge and scientific data that only serves to confirm my belief in force­free training.

thought the pup was “cute.” After three training sessions, his girlfriend left and went back to her mother in Russia. That night the elderly man went to a club and drank himself into a hotel bed. He called me early the next morning and asked if I could go over immediately. He was los­ ing his mind, he said. I went to his home and there was the pup still sit­ ting in his crate with poop all over himself, the crate and the expensive floor. The man had left the poor pup there for over 13 hours. He was screaming, “I never wanted him anyway… you take him!” I grabbed the pup and his papers, got into my car and asked myself, “What am I going to do now? With various options and legalities running through my brain, I drove around with this poor, scared, poopy pup. Eventually, I de­ cided to call the man’s attorney who was out of town and happened to be eating dinner with a couple. It so happened that this couple had met the pup earlier, loved him, and wanted him immediately. They adopted him on the spot and I then worked with them to help train their new pup. I still see this couple at various events with their dog. Ten years later, Charlie still remembers me and is always happy to see me. Q: What awards or competition placements have you and your dog(s) achieved using force‐free methods? A: Personally, I do not believe in any dog or human competitions and shows. My reward comes from seeing progress made between humans and dogs.

Q: What do you consider to be your area of expertise? Q: What advice would you give to a new trainer starting out? A: Working with human­to­dog and dog­to­human relationships is my special expertise. I love the challenge of solving behavior problems. I love bringing life back to a shut down or shy dog. I enjoy working with puppies because I can assist in shaping behavior to create a great dog, with the goal of communication between dog and human. Q: What is the funniest or craziest situation you have been in with a pet and their owner? A: One time I was working with an elderly man and his young girlfriend. He had bought her an expensive English sheepdog pup because she

A: I think people are good at what they love doing, so do what you love. Work on your walk. Look straight ahead. Breathe out your fear. Know what your gifts are. And remember. What you give, comes back. And Dr. Patricia McConnell once advised at a conference, “Don’t get involved in other trainers’ gossip.” I thought that was great advice. n

Rose Lesniak Dog Trainer, LLC ( is based in Miami, Florida To be featured in the BARKS Profile section, please complete this form:

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


b o o k s

A Life Filled with Animals Louise Stapleton-Frappell reviews Confessions of a Veterinary Nurse - Paws, Claws, and Puppy Dog Tails by Tracey Ison


onfessions of a Veterinary Nurse ‐ Paws, Claws, and Puppy Dog Tails revolves around the author Tracey Ison’s life as a veterinary nurse (aka veterinary technician), portraying her love of animals and the many interesting, humorous and sometimes heart­wrenching events that have occurred throughout her career. At the start of the book, we are told that, “Even as a small child, Tracey dreamed of a career working with animals. That dream became a reality in 1986 when she secured a training position at a local veterinary practice. Fresh­faced and eager to learn, Tracey was thrown headfirst into life in a busy mixed animal practice. From pigs to pugs and from calves to kittens, from day one, Tracey realised that this was going to be no ordinary job.” Although I am not a veterinary nurse, I do have a love of animals and the countryside and, as I began to read, I couldn’t help but be pulled into the author’s autobiographical account of her working life, and the numer­ ous emotional and physical events she experienced. The stories she re­ counts stem from when she first began her veterinary nursing career (in what now seems like a very antiquated veterinary practice, I might add, al­ though I am sure I wouldn’t have ever imagined saying that in 1986!) to her final years as a head nurse. While they all stand alone as individually engaging narratives, they also flow seamlessly from one to the next.

Emotional Burden At the outset of the book, the author asks the following questions: • Have I ever looked into the eyes of an animal who is sick or in pain and wondered if I could be the one to help, the one to make a difference? • Could I maintain a cool head in the face of a crisis, think fast, and act quickly? • Could I resist the urge to cry tears of joy at the birth of each new life? • Could I remain strong and hold back the tears, cradling a precious life in my hands as that life slipped away? • Were my shoulders strong enough to carry the heavy burden of emotional weight that came with devoting my life to caring for God’s beautiful creatures? These questions and more are asked by many veterinary nurses (and, indeed, many others who work with and/or care for animals), at some point during their careers. Throughout Ison’s book, I answered “yes” to every single one of them.

In Confessions of a Veterinary Nurse ‐ Paws, Claws, and Puppy Dog Tails, author Tracey Ison finds herself wondering whether she could resist the urge to cry tears of joy at the birth of a new life and then hold back the tears as another precious life slipped away


BARKS from the Guild

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

b o o k s There is a wonderful enthusiasm throughout the book with both laughable moments and more sobering ones. Ison successfully envelops you in the humorous and sometimes heartbreaking world of a veterinary nurse and the people and animals that have filled her life. When you read Confessions of a Veterinary Nurse, I am sure that while following the author’s career from mopping floors and washing buckets, to visiting farms and getting chased over hedges; to looking for lost dogs, and assisting in lifesaving operations, you will understand why she also always answered “yes” to her initial questions.

Demands of the Job We don’t just get to learn about Ison’s career, by the way. We are also introduced to the other members of the veterinary team, “…from a roguish practice principal to a head nurse who was a little too keen on a tipple, alongside committed and dedicated fellow veterinary nursing students,” as well as many of their memorable human, canine, bovine and porcine clients. One such ‘client’ being a cow in need of a Cae­ sarean section. We learn how, while the head vet tended to the calf who wasn’t breathing, Ison was left with instructions to keep hold of a contracting uterus. She was soon up to her shoulders inside the cow with her face pressed against the cow’s flank! Confessions of a Veterinary Nurse ‐ Paws, Claws, and Puppy Dog Tails is written in a simple, easy­to­read style that reminded me somewhat of a James Herriot book where you are drawn into the world of country living and a love of life, nature and animals. There is a wonderful enthusiasm throughout the book with both laughable moments and more sobering ones. Ison successfully envelops you in the humorous and sometimes heartbreaking world of a veterinary nurse and the people and animals that have filled her life. I read my copy during a 3­hour flight and have to admit, it filled the time perfectly. Whether you work in the veterinary field or sim­ ply love animals and nature and would like a little “you time,” I cannot rec­ ommend Ison’s book highly enough. n Confessions of a Veterinary Nurse ‐ Paws, Claws, and Puppy Dog Tails Author: Tracey Ison Hubble & Hattie 112 pages ISBN 978‐1‐787112‐95‐7

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BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


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Myths and Misconceptions David Egan discusses expectations vs. reality and the ongoing risk of dog owners being exposed to outdated, inaccurate information about training


grew up in the era of black and white TV when films featuring Rin­Tin­Tin (a German shep­ herd) and Lassie (a rough collie) were commonplace on the screen. Between them, they were so popular that Hollywood made 27 films featuring Rin­ Tin­Tin and six starring Lassie. Since then, there has been a plethora of movies starring dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds. The one thing all these dog movies have in com­ mon is anthropomor­ phism. By that, of course, I mean the way the dogs are por­ trayed as having human­type thought processes, such as the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Some of them even talk.

have raised people’s expecta­ tions of dogs to be way out of synch with reality. It’s really a shame that the hours, days, weeks and months of work that go into training that movie dog get so little pub­ licity.

The Media

Newspapers often run stories on dogs. There are plenty of feel­ good type stories but also an abundance of negative coverage, like when there has been a dog attack on a child or person. Context is rarely given. Nor is scientific data referenced. In­ stead, certain breeds of dogs have found themselves some­ © Can Stock Photo/Gelpi Reality TV what demonized by There is a multitude of information available to dog owners across a variety of platforms, but how can they possibly know how to discern good information from bad? Since the 1980s, the press. We all there have also been know who they are. a number of dog The ripple effect of training programs on TV whereby dog owners can, allegedly, master the such articles, being, as they are, written from a point of ignorance and art and science of training, not to mention learn how to instantly “fix” sensationalism, is that people may be convinced that certain breeds are any behavior issue without having to leave the comfort of their own “dangerous” and to be avoided at all costs. I have yet to read a newspa­ sofa. There is a whole raft of books, DVDs, magazines and audio books per article reporting on a dog attack that explains that any dog can bite available on the subject, while the internet has given rise to countless given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances, and the importance of YouTube videos that cover each and every different technique and style training or managing a dog to avoid possible incidents. Surely that of dog training. Obviously, this means that, while there are a lot of good, would be a much fairer and more accurate message to deliver. It might scientifically sound, positive reinforcement training videos available, even be enough to get people out training their dogs. It could certainly there is, unfortunately, also a lot of outdated, aversive stuff as well. save a dog's life. With so much information at our fingertips, you’d think that every dog And then we have various legislative bodies’ knee­jerk reactions to in the country would be so well trained they’d even be doing the wash­ dog attacks introducing Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) against the ad­ ing and ironing for us. But sadly, no. vice of training and behavior professionals and dog industry associations. I see it as something of an information overload that has either These grossly unfair laws have led to the seizure and/or deaths of inno­ turned dog owners off from actually training their dogs because it’s too cent dogs and also been found to be ineffective in preventing dog bites. difficult, turned them into experts overnight, or gone a long way to con­ Urban Legends and Myths vincing them that their new canine addition to the family is not only ex­ People talk. No surprise there; it’s our primary way of communicating. tremely intelligent, understanding every word said to him, but It’s also the fastest way to spread misinformation. The prolificacy of the immediately knows what is wanted and, indeed, expected at all times, internet has simply added to this. Just google the term “alpha dog” and telepathically almost. After all, isn’t that how it happens in the movies? you’ll see what I mean. Thousands and thousands of blog posts and arti­ It’s no coincidence that, following the release of any film featuring a cles, all of them completely out­of­date and inaccurate in their interpre­ smart dog (e.g. the beagle in Cats and Dogs, the Malinois in Max, or the tations of canine behavior. Labrador in Marley and Me), demand for that same breeds goes Here are just two myths out of many that have grown to urban leg­ through the roof. It’s as if people believe the dogs come pre­pro­ end status over the years: grammed. Unfortunately, the dogs portrayed on the silver screen may

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020


comment While it is true that tail wagging is often an indication of happiness, it can also be a sign of fear or anxiety, or may be a potential precursor to aggression. Things like speed and direction of the wag and tail carriage are all significant. In addition, rather than looking just at the tail, we have to pay attention to a dog's overall body language to attempt to determine his emotional state.

them. The problem is they get passed around – in conversation, in the media, on the internet – and eventually they become “truth” in the eyes of some. After all, it’s far easier to believe something someone has told you, or that you have read online, than to do your own research. Sooner or later, all of these myths just lead to knowledge about dogs becoming diluted to the point of being nonsensical, running the very real risk of dog owners being exposed to inaccurate information and unable to discern good material from bad. As the saying goes, there’s nothing quite like not letting facts get in the way of a good story. n

A Dog Wagging His Tail Is a Happy Dog: Yes, dogs tend to wag

David Egan DipDogPsy (Dist) BSc (Hons) is based in Haslemere, Surrey, England and operates Living with Wolves ( .uk/1-2-1-dog-training.html#) with a focus on behavior consults, puppy and dog training, and confidence building, all on a one-to-one basis. He started out working in a security kennel training German shepherds in obedience, bite work and tracking and has also trained breeds such as English springers and Labradors in drug and explosive detection work. The accepted method of training when he started out did not sit well with him so, searching for a better way to train, he started upon a path of education. He has since completed a course in canine psychology and a bachelor’s in canine behavior and is a proud member of PPG.

their tails when happy and excited. However, they are known to wag their tails for plenty of other reasons too.


Lock Jaw: According to this myth, certain breeds of dogs can lock their jaws tight when biting, making it impossible to get the dog to release thus causing untold damage to the unfortunate on the receiving end.

Fact: There is no breed of dog that has locking jaws. It is physically im­ possible for any dog to do this. What you do have in some dogs, how­ ever, is a tenacity to hold on once a bite has been instigated.

Fact: Canine body language can get pretty complicated. The tail is just one of the many ways dogs communicate. While it is true that tail wag­ ging is often an indication of happiness, it can also be a sign of fear or anxiety, or may be a potential precursor to aggression. Things like speed and direction of the wag and tail carriage are all significant. In addition, rather than looking just at the tail, we have to pay attention to a dog's overall body language to attempt to determine his emotional state. There are so many myths relating to dogs I could fill a book with

Pet Professional Guild has partnered with BarkBox to provide all members with a 20% discount. * Order a monthly box of dog goodies for your canine friend! * Special rates available for gifts for dog friends * A portion of proceeds from each box will go to help dogs in need The promocode can be found in the Member Area of the PPG website: /benefitinformation 62

BARKS from the Guild/January 2020

Bradley, J. (2014). Dog Bites: Problems and Solutions. Animals and Society Institute. Available at: Egan, D. (2019, November). Dogs, People and Changing Attitudes. BARKS from the Guild (39) 60-61. Available at: Miller, P. (2018). Danger! Dominance Theory! Why Every Mention of “Alpha Dogs” or “Dominant Dogs” is Dangerous to All Dogs. Available at: Pet Professional Guild. (2018). Position Statement on Breed Specific Legislation. Available at:

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