On Guard!

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs



In today’s society, both dog owners and non dog owners have extremely high (and perhaps unrealistic) expectations of our pet dogs.  We have no tolerance for any grumpy or aggressive behaviour directed toward humans at any point in the lifetime of a dog. 

What we’re really asking is that our dogs go their entire lifetime without ever losing their temper.  Do you think any human could do the same – I certainly couldn’t and I don’t know anyone else who could either.  

One of the more challenging behaviour issues for dog owners to modify is Resource Guarding.  It’s also probably one of the most commonly misunderstood or misdiagnosed issues by dog owners.  

What is Resource Guarding?

One popular, yet dangerously inaccurate, explanation of Resource Guarding is that you have a “dominant” dog.  This is the mistaken belief that dogs are all about rank and that we need to be the “alpha” personality in any relationship we have with our dog.  Any dog that attempts to prevent us from taking anything he has must surely be acting out of his “dominant” nature and clearly views us as being on a much lower rank – right?  Nope – very, very wrong.  Entire methods and programs of training are based on the myth of the “dominant dog”, and it’s an extremely dangerous approach to take.  

Resource Guarding can be described as simply as a dog’s attempt to hold on to a valuable resource.  

“Behaviour that discourages another to take, or get too close to, an object or valued area in a dog’s possession.” (Excerpt taken from an article on Resource Guarding by Dr. Patricia McConnell, May 3, 2013.  Full article may be found at patriciamcconnell.com.)

In a dog’s world if I have it, then it’s mine – simple as that.  They are unprepared for the human tendency to want to take things from them frequently or to want to invade their personal space bubble for various reasons that are unclear to the dog.  

Many dog owners get very angry at the idea of their pet dogs refusing to give up a treasured object – “how dare he growl at me!”.  In fact, this can often be a deal breaker, and many dogs have been given up for even normal levels of resource guarding because it is so misunderstood.

All dogs have a degree of desire to hold on to resources that are valuable to them.  With some dogs, you may never see any of the behaviour associated with resource guarding during their lifetime or you may see it in only its mildest form.  

In the case of other dogs, you may see it start very early then continue and often escalate as they mature.  Resource guarding is a “normal” behaviour in that it exists in dogs.  When dogs are afraid, feel threatened or are attempting to hold on to a valued resource, they display certain behaviour.  However, extreme resource guarding behaviour, especially those displayed in the very young, can be very unsettling, potentially dangerous and most trainers and behaviourists would not consider this to be “normal” behaviour under the spectrum of resource guarding in the average dog.

Dogs commonly display resource-guarding behaviour toward:

  • Food bowls or food dispensing toys
  • Dropped food
  • Treasured toys
  • Family members
  • Sleeping locations – growling as you approach dog beds, couches, human beds or any area the dog is already occupying.
  • Dropped objects or found objects on walks
  • Stolen items like laundry or items from the garbage

What Does Resource Guarding Look Like?DSC_1782

Resource Guarding may include one or more than one behaviour displayed at the same time or added as the circumstances escalate.  

Some normal guarding behaviours can include:

  • Speeding up eating as you’re approaching a food bowl or food dispensing toy.
  • Shifting position to subtly block your approach.
  • Quick and frequent glances that may speed up as you approach.
  • Getting up and taking a toy further away from you as you approach or even just moving it a little bit further away from you as you sit beside him.
  • Moving just a little bit closer to you as a dog or stranger approaches.
  • Glancing at you out of the corner of his eye – commonly called a “whale eye” – as he attempts to keep his eyes on the prize but also track your movements (in a “whale eye” the white of the eye is visible).  
  • Somewhat frantic movements.  You may see a faster moving tail along with faster consumption, shifting back and forth as he quickly either eats or attempts to move items to a different area.  He may appear “happy” but movements are faster and more frantic than his usual friendly “happy to see you self”.
  • Low growling as you approach.

More extreme behaviours can include:

  • Growling that intensifies as you approach.  In more extreme cases, growling can become snarling with/without teeth showing.
  • Barking and lunging – often seen displayed toward an oncoming dog or person when on leash with a human.
  • Freezing – completely stilling his movements as you approach.  The freezing may be multiple, small seconds of freezing as he tracks your approach or longer moments of freezing if your approach continues.
  • Crouching or lowering his body to hover over a treasured object.
  • Hard eye – a hard open-eyed stare.  This can be directed at the person or dog approaching.  It may even appear that your dog is just staring out into space.  The hard eye while just staring at nothing in particular can be mistaken for a lack of interest in your approach and has even been mistakenly thought of as a seizure by the unaware.
  • Muzzle punches directed at the body part reaching for an item or closest to the dog.
  • Quick forward lunges with or without a snap.
  • Air snapping.  Some people assume that a dog “missed” when they witness an air snap.  Make no mistake – when a dog means to bite he bites and can do so faster than you can blink or move.  An air snap is exactly what he intends it to be – a threatening gesture without causing immediate damage.
  • Full contact bites with or without any damage – minor or significant.

Extreme resource guarders can begin guarding from great distances.  A dropped sock or Kleenex can elicit guarding behaviours from a dog who may be all the way across the room from the item.

What NOT to Do!DSC_1783_2

The absolute worst response to any resource guarding behaviour is to get into a conflict with your dog.  Not only could you get badly injured, but also the behaviour will get worse in the future.  If you were “successful” in thwarting your dog’s attempt to guard his valued resource, then you will see an escalation of his behaviour because his last attempt was not successful.  

Do not use punishment-based training techniques – period.  These methods involve forcing your dog to give in to you and/or stopping any behaviour they are displaying.  This is a dangerous path. Punishment results in your dog beginning to hide some of his earlier and subtler resource guarding behaviour.  A glance, freeze or growl may be eliminated in favor of a direct bite as he goes for more immediate success.  Positive trainers use the analogy “punishing the growl is like taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm” – there are no longer any early warning signs to heed.

Proactive Prevention of Resource Guarding Behaviour

You can begin the process of preventing resource guarding at any point with your dog.  If you have a new puppy or newly adopted dog, begin on day one.  (If you are already seeing resource guarding behaviour, please seek the help of an experienced positive trainer who uses force-free techniques before attempting any training on your own.)  

Trade vs. Take

I would get pretty darn irritated if every time somebody wanted something of mine, or wanted to sit where I’m sitting or lie where I’m lying that they simply took what they wanted or shoved me aside.

Trading for everything and taking nothing is a simple yet powerful concept and very easy to put into place.  You are essentially making your dog more comfortable about giving up things that are valuable to him.

If you want what your dog has, trade for it with something he would like just as much as what he has – ideally something that is even more valuable.  Present a raw bone – if he takes it into his mouth, then you can calmly pick up the kong.  

I encourage people to practice this a lot when it doesn’t really matter and when there is an enormous up side to the dog to make the trade.  If you practiced a lot by trading ridiculously valuable and tasty treats for toys and immediately giving the toy back – what dog isn’t going to happily go for that deal?  If your dog learns that more often than not he doesn’t lose anything permanently, in fact he gains something and gets to have back what was in his possession originally, he will start to become far happier about giving up his items.  

If you offer your dog a trade for what he has and it doesn’t work – he doesn’t happily drop what he has – then increase the value of the offer until he does.  If I offer my dogs a raw bone for their kong, they will often prefer to keep their kongs – because I’m really good at stuffing them!  I may have to offer 2 kongs to get 1 back, or I may have to offer a tasty slice of freshly cooked meat.  The point is that the dog gets to decide what constitutes a reasonable trade and what doesn’t.  Every dog puts a different value on things and it’s up to us to come up with something of matching or greater value.

When you are doing Trade vs. Take, don’t be sneaky about it – don’t offer your trade and quickly snatch away what he has while he investigates what’s up for grabs.  We need to know how he feels about the trade, otherwise future trades won’t be successful – he won’t trust your intentions.

Trading, of sorts, also works for sleeping locations.  If I want my dog to get off the couch, try calling him over and give him a very tasty treat when he complies.  If calling doesn’t work – he’s really comfy and the lure of a treat just isn’t important right now – then find a better treat or item and try again.  Yes, you are luring him off the couch in this case – but this is so much better than getting into conflict.  If you find that a lure (bribing) is needed, then the feedback to take away is that more Recall practice needs to be done.

Proactively, I always suggest that my clients try to curb any tendency to guard sleeping locations by tossing a tasty treat any time they pass by their dog sleeping or relaxing.  It’s not unusual for dogs to be a bit grumpy about being disturbed when they’re sleeping.  With enough repetitions and lots of really good treats, this simple act helps turn any potentially grumpy feelings into happy anticipation. 

The Training

In addition to helping your dog become more comfortable with giving up items or sleeping locations, training is a necessary addition to any plan for the prevention or management of resource guarding behaviour.

1. Teaching a “Drop-It” Cue

I have found no better method for teaching a solid “Drop-It” skill than the one presented by London trainer Chirag Patel and his training company Domesticated Manners.  He has done a very good video on YouTube giving you step-by-step directions to teach this cue.  (Search YouTube.com for Domesticated Manners and watch his video “Teaching Your Dog to ‘Drop’”.)  It’s brilliant in its simplicity and there are self-checks involved.  Whenever you see a lack of success, simply go back one step and do more repetitions before proceeding further.  I started this with my puppy, Jack, the first day we brought him home and after months of continuous work, there are very few things that he will not Drop on.   A well-trained “Drop It” skill helps you recover items you need to get back from your dog.  Because it’s taught using positive training, your dog is also very happy to comply – leaving absolutely no need for any bribing or conflict.

2. Teaching a “Leave It” Cue

“Leave It” is another valuable cue to have.  The one thing I don’t like about the “Leave It” is that people tend to rely on their presence to accomplish the goal vs. good training.  Having to use an angry or loud voice, intimidating body language or repeated cues means your training is not yet reliable – more practice is needed.

I use the “Leave It” cue for something that my dog does not yet have in his possession or, in the case of dogs approaching us, is still at a comfortable distance.  When my dog spots a dropped item or an approaching dog, “Leave It” results in my dog ignoring the item or dog and turning back toward me – for which he gets a lot of valuable treats and/or a quick game of tug.  If he’s off leash, he will come racing back to get his reinforcement.

The training starts with your dog being heavily reinforced for choosing eye contact and works up to choosing eye contact in exchange for an increasingly valuable array of items – ultimately off leash and at some distance away from you.  I have some video on my business Facebook page (In Partnership With Dogs) that teaches and demonstrates the process and the result of teaching “Leave It”.

3. Teaching a Solid Recall

Perhaps the most valuable cue of all is teaching your dog to “Come” when he’s called.  Aside from its obvious value in giving your dog off-leash freedom, imagine how useful it would be to be able to successfully have your dog Recall off the bed or the couch when necessary, or ignore that piece of dropped chicken on the floor in favor of racing back to you.  Many people have some version of a “Come” cue for their dogs, but few, it seems, work on it to the point where it is truly solid and likely to work most of the time.  There will always be that one exception that you just can’t easily train for that may pop up in the lifetime of your dog.  However, a lot of successful practice can easily make this cue a truly useful and reliable skill.  

What If There is an Emergency?

What if you really need to get that item away from your dog?  If your dog has something that is dangerous for him to have, then you need to do whatever you can to get it away from him.  You really need to do your best to ensure that even in an emergency the situation ultimately has a positive outcome for your dog.  Make a plan and be prepared.

If I had to drop an entire roast beef on the floor in order to save my dog from danger, I would do it in a heartbeat.  This is so much better than having to wrestle something from your dog – you may or may not be successful and you may very well do irreparable damage to your training and to your relationship with your dog.  

You need to find out what it is that your dog finds so overwhelmingly valuable that he just can’t resist it.  Find this item now, keep it on hand and use it very rarely to keep it’s value high.  

Use the highly prized item to trade for the dangerous one.  Take the added precaution of tossing the valuable item a distance from your dog, so he will be far away from what you need to get when he drops it to investigate.  In an emergency like this, you may very well need to be sneaky and quickly grab what you need while your dog is momentarily distracted.  Keep a second version of the prized item on hand in case he takes the dangerous item with him to investigate before dropping it to consume his roast.  Now, I don’t always have one or two cooked roasts on hand, but I always have leftovers of some kind, a block of cheese or meat in the freezer.  My dogs consider any sort of human protein pretty valuable even if it’s frozen and a whole ton of it dropped on the floor for them is mind blowing.

Sometimes a large handful of less valuable but quickly accessible treats tossed at a great distance away may be sufficient for your dog to drop what he has and race over to investigate.  However, if it’s not really valuable, it won’t likely work a second time.

Spend as much time training solid, useful skills as you can so emergencies just don’t happen or can be easily managed.

Some Additional NotesIMG_6086

  1. If you are seeing any signs of Resource Guarding in your dog or if you are unsure what you are seeing, please enlist the services of a professional, positive dog trainer who is experienced in this area.  Having an experienced trainer design a training plan, step you through it and be there for follow up is important and well worth the investment.  It’s not always obvious to the average dog owner when things are starting to turn around and skilled observations are necessary.  All (age-appropriate) members of the family need to be involved in the training and be coached by the trainer.  Dogs do not transfer these newly learned skills to another person easily – again, professional assistance is a must.
  1. The most critical part of any training plan is Management.  Again, an experienced professional’s advice is invaluable here.  If you have children living in your home, then management and experienced, professional advice is doubly important!
  1. You will likely find that sharing items with your dog rarely results in any resource guarding behaviour.  Many dogs are happy to chew on something that you are holding onto, join you on the couch when invited, or come over for a pat when you are already petting another dog.  This is simply a display of “when you have it, it’s yours” and is well understood by most dogs.
  1. If you have a new puppy, get to a positive reinforcement puppy class that actively practices the prevention of this behaviour.
  1. If you’re looking for a good book on the subject of Resource Guarding, check out “Mine!” by Jean Donaldson.

As always, keep it Positive, have fun with your dog and start your training now!  IMG_6087

The Unreasonableness of “Dangerous” Dog Legislation in British Columbia


By Rebeka Breder , BA, JD




Picture this: A friendly and playful dog, Cody, somehow escapes his backyard when his owner is out, and gets into a kerfuffle with another dog.  Apparently it’s the other dog’s fault, but there are no other witnesses other than the other dog’s guardians. Animal Control comes to the scene, seizes Cody and then phones Cody’s owner to say that Cody has been impounded and put on a destruction order.  Cody is thrown into solitary confinement for months, with very little human and dog interaction other than his owner’s occasional visits, which are at the mercy of Animal Control.  Cody’s owner does everything she can think of to convince Animal Control that Cody has never done anything like this before. Cody’s owner sends to Animal Control numerous reference letters from friends, neighbours and dog owners, who all attest to Cody’s friendly character. These letters have no effect. Instead, Animal Control pursues the destruction order through the City’s legal department.  Cody’s owner eventually gets her day in court, but at this point, Cody has deteriorated so much – both mentally and physically – that the pound keepers testify there is no hope of rehabilitating him and they have reasonable grounds to believe that Cody will do this again.  A destruction order is made, and Cody is euthanized. 

Unfortunately, this type of situation can, and does, happen in British Columbia.  Here is why.

Under the Vancouver Charter and the Community Charter, a “dangerous” dog is one who

  1. has killed or seriously injured a person,
  2. has killed or seriously injured a domestic animal, while in a public space or while on private property, other than property owned or occupied by the person responsible for the dog, or
  3. an animal control officer has reasonable grounds to believe is likely to kill or seriously injure a person.

The courts have interpreted “seriously” broadly to include any puncture to the skin, regardless of the long-term effects of the alleged injury.  “Reasonable grounds” has also been interpreted liberally by courts; as long as an Animal Control Officer testifies that he or she believes the dog will do it again, the courts can rely on their statements. Courts may consider other evidence, such as a dog’s past behaviour, and expert animal behaviourist testimony, but they do not need to do so.  Courts have wide discretion to decide whether a dog fits the definition of “dangerous”.  And if the dog falls under (a), (b) or (c), the dog is well on his or her way to death row.  dangerous_dogs

One of the many problems with the “dangerous” dog laws in British Columbia is that the process – from impoundment to trial – is unreasonably long and does not provide the “defendant” dog guardians with a fair chance to save their “Cody.”  Even if one is lucky enough to afford the thousands of dollars it takes to get legal counsel and expert witnesses, or find a lawyer willing to defend the dog at a reduced hourly rate, the dog will likely need further expensive veterinary care if he is freed from the pound. 

The other problem is that the dog can be impounded as a “dangerous” dog even if the dog does not physically injure someone or another animal. Under our current laws, Animal Control only needs to have “reasonable grounds” to believe that the dog is dangerous.  This gives far too much discretion to Animal Control officers who are often not qualified animal behaviourists to determine whether the dog is truly aggressive or dangerous.

What are your rights if you are ever faced with Animal Control or the police attempting to seize your dog? You should be aware that Animal Control officers and police often try to convince people that fighting them is useless, and that the dog owners must give up their dog. This is wrong. Not only ethically, but in law. Animal Control and police officers do not have the right to seize someone’s dog from their property, regardless of how convincing and intimidating they appear. Officers must have a warrant. If they do not have a warrant, you can politely tell them that you do not consent to releasing your dog.

If the officers have a warrant, ask them to show it to you, and ensure that the time period on the warrant corresponds with the date of their arrival to your home. If the warrant appears valid, you will need to release your dog to them. Make sure to note how many officers attended your home, and your dog’s demeanor when released to Animal Control or to the police. Very often, the dogs are friendly and simply believe they are going for a car ride. This can bode well for adding to your evidence that the dog is not truly dangerous (would a vicious dog so easily get in the car with a stranger?!). 

At the time of seizure, also make sure to ask where your dog is being taken and ask to visit your dog. You should be allowed visitation, and to bring the dog’s toys, preferred food, bedding, and other special belongings. Unfortunately, there is no law that requires shelters to allow you to visit your dog, but most shelters are understanding. As hard as it is, keep your cool and be polite when speaking to Animal Control and shelter attendants. This will help you in the long run.

Once the dog is seized, she can only be kept at the shelter for up to 21 days, unless Animal Control files a destruction application (ie: lawsuit) within that time period. If Animal Control does not file a lawsuit, you have the right (and should) demand, in writing and orally, the return of your dog. If they do not return your dog, Animal Control may be liable for damages to the dog owner for the failure to return the dog owner’s “property”. 

If a destruction application is filed in court, this begins the trial process. The first thing a dog owner should do is to seek legal counsel.  This is usually a very expensive process. If the dog owner can not afford legal representation for the entire trial, lawyers will sometimes offer a flexible fee arrangement. If money is a complete barrier, it is worth obtaining at least an initial consultation to let you know your rights, and the next steps for which to prepare.

One of the first steps the lawyer should advise the dog owner to take is to retain a qualified animal behaviourist who can conduct her own assessment of the alleged incident and overall dog’s behaviour. Note that there are many dog trainers who call themselves behaviourists, but they are often not qualified. Ask them for their qualifications in animal welfare and behaviour. They should have more than just experience with dog handling and training. They should, ideally, have a university degree that qualifies them as an animal welfare and behaviour scientist.  Essentially, they are equivalent to animal psychiatrists. 

Once the animal behaviourist is retained, she should visit and assess the dog as soon as possible. She will often recommend a prescription for medication to reduce the dog’s stress while impounded. 

The lawyer should also advise the dog owner to obtain a trial date as soon as possible. If the dog owners do not urge the court registry for an early trial date, the entire process can take well over one year. This is far too long for the dog to be impounded. There are situations where one can ask for “bail”, but the law is currently very unsettled.

The other important point is that, thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Central Okanagan (Regional District), 2013 BCSC 228, “conditional orders” can be made. This means that even if a court considers a dog to be “dangerous” within the meaning of the legislation, the court can order the dog released on certain conditions (ie: leashed when on public property, muzzled in certain circumstances, continuation of a rehabilitation and management plan prepared by the animal behaviourist). This can be a useful bargaining tool with the Prosecution. Specifically, dog owners can agree in advance that their dog is “dangerous” on the condition that the Prosecution will not pursue a destruction order, but will instead enter into a “consent order” which allows both sides to agree to conditions of release. This “consent order” is then filed in court, and can drastically reduce the time needed for trial. A win-win for both sides. It ensures public safety while also allowing the dog to live.

There is much more to “dangerous” dog law. The above focussed only on provincial legislation in regard to destruction applications. The law is different when dealing with “aggressive” or “vicious” designations under municipal bylaws – that is a topic for another discussion. In the meantime, just remember that you have the right to fight for, and protect, your beloved dog. 

Raw versus Kibble!

Thoughts from Europe

By Dr. Nick Thompson



Dogs have eaten meat for thousands of years. I do not think anyone could dispute this. They are not obligate carnivores, like cats, but they have been eating herbivore flesh-rich diets even before humans first made fire and stone weapons. 
Raw food, species appropriate, feeding is once again becoming popular. Is it the best way to feed? Is the domestic dog still wild at heart? Is scientifically formulated dried food the new answer to all our nutritional problems? 
Arguments for raw food include increased health, fewer vet bills, greater satisfaction at meal times, better stamina and athleticism, smaller, less smelly, more ‘pickupable’ stools and ease of feeding…the list goes on. But how does it stand up against the industry standard, kibble? 
Concerns about bacterial and parasite contamination, balanced nutrition, bones getting stuck and the expense of raw food need to be addressed.
The prime argument, however incorrect, against species appropriate feeding in dogs is the risk of picking up infections from raw meat. Kibble is sterilised and generally has a low level of contamination. Raw meat, or complete raw foods containing raw meat, are frozen in production and storage, diminishing disease organisms to minimal, often zero levels. Actually, in the UK, infectious agents in raw dog food are better regulated than human food! Worldwide, there are many more reports of human and animal infection from kibble than from raw food by a factor of hundreds. 
‘Complete and balanced’ is a phrase meaning meals contain all required nutrients at approved levels when fed. This is easy to do with a ultra-processed, high starch kibble because every single element of the diet can be manipulated to give the approved ‘scientifically formulated’ end result. Raw food producers, on the other hand, even though they are able to manipulate the food less, can use technology and science to create diets that meet FEDIAF, the European pet food industry watchdog, standards. 
Many critics of raw food, when trying to denigrate the practice, quote from the 2013 review ‘Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat–based diets for dogs and cats’, that appeared in the prestigious Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The review quotes four papers on bone obstruction in pets, totalling 229 cats and dogs. The word ‘raw’ is not mentioned anywhere, suggesting that most foreign body blockage cases studied were not due to raw bones. 
Bones are generally very beneficial to the gut, teeth and mind of pet and working dogs. Problems are rare. Kibble does not clean teeth, contrary to popular myth. 
The same goes for bloat, dilation and stomach rotation in dogs; most cases are not associated with raw food feeding. By far the majority are fed kibble-based diets. A colleague of mine tells a story of dealing routinely with an Old English Shepherd rescue at his practice. He eventually persuaded them to put all the dogs on raw. His income from bloat cases from the rescue all but dried up. 
The hassle and cost of raw are always a contender when I talk to clients and give talks on raw food nutrition. But they need not be. Kibble is the ultimate convenience food. That is why it is the world’s most popular method of feeding. But convenience has nothing to do with nutrition, it’s a sales pitch to the consumer! 
Nowadays, there are dozens of producers supplying excellent complete and balanced frozen raw food meals. Just Google ‘complete and balanced raw foods for dogs’, to see the options. Raw food is now as convenient as kibble!
‘Completes’ an excellent way to start feeding raw to your dog, they’re convenient, nutritious and reassuring to the newbie feeder. Prices for quality raw foods match prices, per meal, of the mid- to upper ranges of the kibble market. You get what you pay for. You cannot expect Range Rover performance if all you buy is 2-stoke fuel, after all. 
But raw food is not for everyone. Some dogs, if they have been on high-carb foods (all kibbles, grain-free or otherwise) all their lives, cannot maintain weight initially when moved onto quality raw. Some dogs, and they are rare, can’t cope with the new texture and flavours. Labradors, needless to say, are rarely in this group. If you cannot bring yourself to go the whole hog and go raw, then moving up the ‘spectrum of nutrition’ is the key – feed the best kibble you can, or introduce some raw meat once or twice alongside the kibble. 
Kibbles go from super-economy to ultra-premium brands. If you are set on kibble, look around for producers who are careful when sourcing raw ingredients. Low-temperature processing is another desirable feature. Also, when you buy kibble, buy quantities you will get through quickly, from a wholesaler with a good turnover of diets to ensure freshness. Raw Liver Photo...

There are, as with everything, pros and cons to raw food and kibble feeding. Look at the arguments for both. Consider both. You, and your dog are, after all, what you both eat. Nick Thompson - PastedGraphic-2
Nick Thompson - PastedGraphic-2

What is Holistic Veterinary Medicine?

By Nancy Scanlan, DVM, MS, CVA

cat eating with eyes closed

Holistic (or Integrative) Veterinary Medicine is the examination and diagnosis of an animal, considering all aspects of the animal’s life and employing all of the practitioner’s senses, as well as a combination of conventional and complementary (also known as holistic or alternative or CAVM) examinations and modalities of treatment. The word “holistic” can also be viewed as “wholistic,” involving both mind and body, and a deeper ways of looking at some conditions that are not included in a conventional veterinary examination. 

When a holistic veterinarian sees a pet, besides giving it a comprehensive physical examination, performing laboratory tests where indicated, and asking about past medical and dietary history, he/she wants to find out all about a pet’s behaviors, the relationship of pet with owner, and its environment including current diet, emotional stresses, genetics, nutrition, family relationships, hygiene and stress factors. The disease pattern is important. A disease with a lot of variations, such as Cushings disease, considered as one disease in conventional medicine, will be treated in a variety of ways depending on which pattern within that disease that an animal is demonstrating.

By a series of analytic observations and appropriate testing the goal becomes finding the true root source of the pathology, which can be different or deeper than a conventional medical diagnosis. A simple appearing symptom may have several layers of causation. Only when the true cause of the ailment has been found is there the possibility for a lasting recovery. cat_health

The holistic veterinary practitioner will then develop a treatment protocol using a wide range of therapies for healing the patient. The most effective, least invasive, and least harmful path to healing is selected. In many acute situations, treatment may involve surgery and drug therapy from conventional western technology, along with alternative techniques to provide a complementary, integrative whole. Herbs, acupuncture, nutraceuticals, or other treatment modalities may be included. In less acute situations holistic treatments may be used either along with, or instead of, conventional medicine. 

This form of treatment has great value for chronic disease, severe trauma and certain infections. In such cases it often out-performs conventional methods. It is also at this time that other treatment plans such as those listed below are brought into use. Once the symptoms have been treated, the task is not complete until the underlying disease patterns have been addressed. The patient, as well as the client, will be guided to a new level of health.

Modalities Used in Holistic Veterinary Medicineslide2

Modern Drugs, Surgery and Diagnostics:
A holistic veterinarian selects the ones which best conform to holistic traditions. They stay current on the latest advancements.
Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Acupuncture has been used in China for at least 3500 years. It is the main treatment for a quarter of the world’s population. Thousands of years of acupuncture treatment prove its efficacy, as well as thousands of current research articles. The primary aim of veterinary acupuncture is to relieve pain and to improve the function of organ systems by stimulating acupuncture points on the surface of the body. Acupuncture treatments elicit responses which decrease pain and regulate physiological processes. Acupuncture practice spans from ancient Chinese knowledge to state-of-the-art electroactupuncture. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that Qi (pronounced “Chi”), is a vital force that flows throughout the body, traveling along channels of energy flow called meridians. Acupuncture points along the meridians are treated whenever a disease condition exists that blocks the normal flow of energy along these meridians. TCM also believes that disease often is because the body’s natural processes are out of balance (excess or deficient). The aim of TCM is to bring a body back into balance using acupuncture and/or herbal formulas.

The majority of acupuncture points have lower electrical resistance and can be found by instruments called “pointfinders” which can measure the flow of electric current in the skin. 
Behavior Modification:
This incorporates ethology, biology, nutrition, pharmacology, lifestyle evaluation and aspects of modern psychotherapy. Every discipline listed here affects behavior (particularly homeopathy, Bach Flowers, acupuncture, laser therapy, and herbal medicine), disease and health. Humane considerations are often at stake.
Detox, or detoxification:
All bodies have waste products that build up at times when the liver can’t process them. Initially they are stored in the fat, but may spill over into other parts of the body. Drugs or toxic substances may also be stored there. Too many of these can cause chronic inflammation or disease. Detox is a process which helps the body eliminate them safely.
Herbal Medicine:Cannabis_Oil
Herbal medicine is a system of treatment using whole plants and plant extracts in the treatment of disease and maintenance of health. Whole plants provide a broad spectrum of desirable effects, from specialized nutrition (herbs contain vitamins and minerals that drugs do not) to synergy of the various components, and may allow lower doses of drugs to be used. They can also reduce side effects of drugs. Herbal medicine also recognizes that certain traditional methods have validity today. For instance, almost nothing but nutrients in conventional medicine allow the practitioner to safely strengthen chronically ill patients, while herbalists utilize tonic herbs as well as nutrition for this purpose. Herbal medicine has always recognized the whole body approach and that the mind and body interact in health and disease—this knowledge is reflected in the use of herbal adaptogens and alteratives. 

Various cultural systems of medicine (such as Chinese, and western European) may be used in diagnosis and prescription, in addition to current scientific knowledge. Herbs are unique in “complementary and alternative medicine” because we have a tradition informing us about their use, often dating back thousands of years. Herbalists use ancient knowledge and modern science to develop treatment plans for their patients. Herbal medicine requires that the herbalist be aware of the world around us, because the tools of the trade and the environment in which they grow may be endangered by indiscriminate use. Good herbalists are conservationists and are often active in sustainable agriculture and medical initiatives worldwide. 

Becoming involved with plants as medicine transforms veterinarians. They become aware of broader clinical effects when herbs are used, even as they become aware of the broader global effects related to their new interests. Herbal medicine is healthy for doctors as well as for pets.

Homeopathy dates back to the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, a German medical doctor in the mid-1800’s, developed the system we are using today. Homeopathy works on the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur”, or “like cures like.” When a large dose of a toxic substance is swallowed, it can produce symptoms of illness, but when a homeopathic, diluted, minute dose of the substance is given, it can reverse those same symptoms. In a similar way the drug digitalis in large doses will cause heart problems, whereas in small doses it can help heart disease. 

Homeopathic remedies are made from plants, minerals, drugs, or animal substances. Classical homeopathy seeks to treat the deepest constitutional causes of the illness. Acute prescribing addresses current symptoms.

Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT):
Low-level laser light influences a number of processes in the body. It is especially good at stimulating healing, decreasing inflammation, and relieving pain. LLLT is increasingly used by a wide variety of veterinarians.

Mega-nutrients, Nutraceutical Therapy:canstockphoto35687857
Sometimes known as Orthomolecular Medicine, this uses supplemental minerals, vitamins and nutrients that correct deficiencies, prevent pathology and reverse tissue damage. Supplements are prescribed that support the organs and body tissues, aid body detoxification and assist in the healing process. Some vitamins in high doses have specific effects on specific diseases.

Nutritional Therapy:
Conventional medicine recognizes that specific diets can help in the treatment of specific diseases. Holistic diets do not have artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and emphasize the use of whole ingredients. Proper nutrition is the best preventative medicine. Each pet patient is different and may need a different diet or additional supplements for optimum health.

Trigger Point Therapy
A trigger point can weaken a muscle by as much as 30%, and can cause both local and referred pain. Trigger point therapy will help release the trigger and provide instant relief. Owners can learn to perform this themselves.

Veterinary Chiropractic:
Chiropractic can be used to treat conditions involving the spine or muscle groups along the neck and spine. It is especially good for senior pets with difficulty in standing or walking. In chiropractic, the problem area of the back or neck is identified and through hands-on specific adjustments the problem is alleviated.

Virtually every form of medicine and therapy used in holistic medicine for humans exists for veterinary medicine. Many have programs for veterinarians which provide training and certification, or continuing education which enables veterinarians to keep up with the latest discoveries and techniques. The new and the old combine to make the future of veterinary medicine a healthier, more humane endeavor.

The Dogs of Canada

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs


St John's Water Dog

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, I thought it would be fun to do some research and see what dogs are native to Canada.  Surprisingly, there are very few dogs that come from our provinces and territories.  It’s the rare and the extinct ones I find the most interesting.  I had only heard of one or maybe two before, so it was interesting research to do!

Extinct Dogs

Most dog breeds originate because of a need in society at that time like finding food or keeping safe and helping make those aspects of life easier.  Dogs themselves became domesticated out of our need for help – security, food gathering, hunting and even companionship. The following are some Canadian breeds who originated for very specific purposes and became extinct largely because of the introduction of other breeds, or the accidental introduction of new diseases, causing the early breeds to disappear entirely.

Hare Indian Dog 

The Hare Indian Dog originated in northern Canada bred by the Hare Indians.  It was thought to be a cross between a dog and a coyote (“Coydog”).  It’s size was somewhere between a fox and a coyote, with a long pointed muzzle, narrow head, erect ears and bushy coat and tail.  The coat was largely white with grey and brown colors in irregular patches. The Hare dog was bred to be small and fast and used for coursing – using speed and sight to chase and catch game.  As aboriginal hunting methods changed or declined, the Hare dog was no longer useful.  Inter breeding with other breeds of dogs eventually caused the original Hare Indian Dog to become extinct in the 19th century. 

Salish Wooly Dog

This was a small white, longhaired, Spitz-type dog developed by the native peoples of what is now Washington and British Columbia – the Coast Salish Indians.  It has been suggested that this is the only known prehistoric breed of dog that was developed solely by selective breeding.  The animal was bred for it’s very thick, white coat and was sheared once a year like a sheep to be woven into blankets (the Salish Blankets).  The dogs were kept confined from other dogs to retain the purity of the color and consistency of their coats.  

There were many claims that no dog hair was used in the weaving of the blankets found to be made by the Coast Salish Indians.  However, recent DNA evidence confirms the existence of dog hair in the very early blankets – those woven in the first half of the 19th century. The decline of the Salish dog began with the influx of Europeans in the 1800s who brought their sheep and alternate wool types (Hudson Bay blankets were introduced around that time). By 1858 the Salish Wool Dog was considered extinct as a distinct breed and the last identifiable Salish-type dog died in 1940.  The only known physical evidence of the Salish Wooly Dog is a single pelt, rediscovered in 2004, in a drawer at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


St. John’s Water DogNewfie statue

This breed, also known as the lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s Dog, was a known as a Landrace. A Landrace is a dog bred for purpose not because of it’s pedigree or appearance.  The formal definition of Landrace: “a dog or any livestock animal that has been bred without a formal registry, although their breeders may have kept written or informal pedigrees of their animals”.  Landrace dogs do not have breed standards so there is a lot of variety in their appearance.

The St. John’s Water Dog was the ancestor of the modern retrievers (Flat Coat, Golden, Labrador and Chesapeake Bay) as well as the ancestor to the larger Newfoundland Dog.  The St. John’s dogs were medium sized with strong, stocky bodies, thick short coats and strong, rudder-like tails.  Coloring was black with white patches on the chest and feet – “tuxedo” markings.  Writings as early as the 17th century describe these dogs accompanying Newfoundland fisherman on their boats retrieving lines and hauling nets back to the boats.  

The breed was made extinct by a combination of 2 factors:  In an attempt to encourage sheep raising, heavy taxes and restrictions were placed on dog ownership during the 19th century; and their main overseas destination, the UK, imposed long-term quarantines on all imported animals, especially dogs (1885) in an effort to eradicate rabies.  However, in both Newfoundland and the Maritimes provinces there are still many large, mixed breed dogs with many of the same characteristics of the St. John’s Dog.  The last 2 known St. John’s Dogs were photographed in 1980 at an old age having survived by living in a very remote area.

Interesting Canadian facts from my Googling:  Author Farley Mowat had a St. John’s dog named Albert.  In 1970, both Mowat and Albert appeared in an episode of the CBC series Telescope (CBC documentary series profiling notable Canadians). The episode included Mowat telling a bedtime story to his dog.  In the 1970’s Mowat made an attempt to save the breed by crossing Albert, with a Labrador Retriever. Four puppies resulted, and all had the distinctive white markings of their sire. Two puppies died and the other two were given away. One was given to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the other to Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin.  I found no further information on what became of the puppies.


Tahltan Bear Dog

This dog was bred and raised by the Tahltan people to hunt bear and big cats.  It was described as mighty power in a small package with fox-like yips and yodels as its distinctive vocalization.  The Tahltan dogs were small – standing 14 to 17 inches at the shoulder with large, erect ears and a pointed, refined muzzle.  They had a glossy, average length dark coat with a thick undercoat and some white patches of color on their feet or chest. They had a very distinctive tail – short, bushy and carried erect.  It has been described as a shaving brush or whisk broom. The dogs were prized for their ferocity in chasing, treeing and harassing bears so hunters could more safely close in for the kill.  Despite their behaviour with bears, the dogs were thought to be highly social with people and lived in the dwellings with their families.

The Tahltan dog descended from pariah type dogs – free ranging dogs in that area that had come from prehistoric migration.  The dogs were centralized in the remote mountainous areas of northwestern British Columbia and the Southern Yukon.  The dogs flourished in the bitter cold and any attempt to move them out of their native environment caused the dogs to succumb to distemper, heat prostration and problems due to dietary change.  As explorers began venturing into their territories the breed became diluted.  There are no known living descendants past 1970 and the breed is believed to be extinct with no known genetic relationship with any current breed.


A Note About the Rare and the Unique

Something I noticed when I began doing some research on the various breeds native to Canada was that there were dogs advertised “for sale” for many, if not all, of the breeds thought to be extinct.  My research was by no means exhaustive and largely consisted of the internet and the various sources found within the articles and excerpts I read.  I can’t say for sure that all of the above breeds are extinct beyond the explanations offered in what I read – but I would say that it’s highly unlikely that any remain today.  

Over the course of my career I have discovered that people are attracted to the rare and the unique.  This isn’t always a good thing when it comes to living animals that we share our lives with.  If a breed of dog is not common then not as much is known about it’s health and temperament over a long period of time.  This can make for a difficult to train dog or one who is difficult to live with depending on your circumstances.  It can also make for health or dietary challenges.  If you are one of those who are attracted to a dog that no one else has, please ensure that you do a lot of research and lot of talking to knowledgeable breeders, owners and handlers of these dogs before making any decision for yourself.  Then, make sure you pick a credible source to get your dog from.  Reputable breeders and rescue groups do NOT sell dogs over the internet.  NEVER buy or sell any living animal (rare or common) this way – you are contributing to the growing increase in the “modern” puppy mills and the horrible treatment of domesticated animals we hear about all too often.

Uncommon Dogs

Here are a few dogs that aren’t extinct but they aren’t very well known.  I know that one or two of these breeds were new to me!

Canadian Eskimo Dog / Canadian Inuit Dog

The Canadian Kennel Club name for this dog is Canadian Eskimo Dog but the Government of Nunavut calls it the Canadian Inuit Dog and has made it the territory’s official animal.

The Inuit people living in the Artic regions of Canada, Alaska and Greenland first bred the Canadian Inuit dog.  It is considered to be a very ancient breed – often thought to one of North America’s oldest and rarest purebred indigenous domestic dog.  The breed is strong and resistant to the very harshest weather conditions.  It was used for sledding and hunting oxen, bear and other large animals and even used to keep polar bears away from native settlements.  It was critical to the early Inuit way of life and survival.  Around 1970 with the rise of snowmobiles and more modern ways, the numbers of the Inuit dog began to decline.  Today it is still somewhat at risk of extinction but is enjoying a rise in popularity in the UK and other northern countries thanks to many Canadian and English breeders dedicated to saving the breed. 

These dogs are powerfully built, athletic and imposing in appearance.  They are built for hard work, not speed.  The coat is thick and dense with a soft undercoat and a thick, impressive mane around the neck – larger in males than females.  Their coats can be any color or color pattern including solid white, black or silver.  Males can range up to 80 lbs and stand up to 28 inches at the shoulder.  It is a tough, intelligent dog.  The Eskimo dogs are often thought to have a stronger prey drive than many other dogs due to their use as sled dogs who often have to forage for their own food.


Labrador Husky

Less common than the Canadian Eskimo Dog is the Labrador Husky.  This breed is another spitz-type dog and was bred to be a very strong and very fast sled dog used primarily for transportation.  It originated in the Labrador portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.  The breed probably arrived with the Inuit people who arrived in the area around 1300 AD.  Although once closely related to other husky-type breeds, they become isolated to that area and continued to develop on their own.

The Labrador Husky is still a rare breed and not many purebred dogs are known outside of its area.  It’s a large dog weighing up to 100 lbs and standing up to 28 inches at the shoulder.   It has a muscular and distinctly stout body with a wide and heavy boned chest. The dogs have a thick double coat and can be solid white, black or grey (rare) or mixes of white and red, black, or grey.  They are said to be a friendly and intelligent breed.

As with most sled dogs, they require a lot of exercise and plenty of mental stimulation.  They shed constantly with a major shed twice a year – grooming is a daily requirement.


Seppala Siberian Sleddog

The Seppala is a rare working dog breed.  They share the same ancestors as the Siberian Husky but are a separate breed.  The Seppala is considered to be the working breed version and the Siberian is considered to be the show breed.  As their name suggests, they were bred for pulling a sled in cold countries.  Their coats are dense, smooth and medium length with an undercoat nearly as long as the guard hairs.  Coat color and marking is considered of little importance and the Seppala generally tends to be less flashy in appearance than other husky types.  Their ears are taller than the Siberian Husky and their bodies are longer and lighter than the Siberians.

Bred by legendary dog driver Leonhard Seppala from dogs imported into Alaska from eastern Siberia, the Seppala Siberians became famous in Alaska for their domination of the All-Alaska Sweepstakes distance race in the period from 1914 to 1917.  The Seppala was prized for it’s strong work ethic and affectionate, cooperative nature.  In 1939 the last Siberia imports, along with several of Seppala’s dogs, became the breed foundation for the Siberian Husky in Canada.

The pure, original bloodlines of the Seppala are rare and facing extinction.  They are still found in small numbers in some Canadian provinces. 


Common Canadian Dogs

Labrador Retriever

The Lab – quite possibly the most recognized dog and one of the most popular dogs of all time in North America and in the UK. 

The first Labs (descendants of the St. John’s Water Dog) were black and the occasional yellow or chocolate colored pups were culled.  Gradually a deep golden color, fox red and chocolate became acceptable colors.  Over time the deep golden yellow evolved into lighter yellow and even cream while the darker gold and fox red color largely disappeared.  Interest in these darker colors began to grow again and were re-established by English breeders in the 1980’s.  

Originally used as a hunting/retrieving dog, today’s Labs are used for a variety of purposes, in particular, service dogs.  

ECT Landseer

If you’ve never heard of the Landseer part of that might be due to some confusion about the breed.  A Landseer is sometimes also called a Landseer Newfoundland.  Some consider the Landseer to be just a black and white Newfoundland dog called Landseer to make the distinction between the 2 acceptable (CKC) colors of Newfies.  For others, though, the Landseer is a separate breed and is distinctly different than a Newfoundland dog.  In 1960, the FCI declared it to be a distinctively separate breed.  (The FCI – Fédération Cynologique Internationale – is an international federation of kennel clubs.)

The “new” breed is referred to as the ECT Landseer (ECT = European Continental Type).  The breed name “Landseer” came from the British painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.  In 1838 he created the painting A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society, which shows a dog of this breed.

According to many, the Landseer ECT is in many ways different from the Newfoundland in appearance. In general the Landseer ECTs are taller, do not have a deep chest, have shorter hair, no under wool and their long legs make them fast, untiring runners.  They are much faster and more agile than the Newfoundland dog.


Newfoundland Dog

The Newfie is a large working dog and was originally bred as a working dog by Newfoundland fisherman.  It is renowned for it’s strong swimming ability and excels at water rescue / lifesaving.  

The breed originated in Newfoundland and is a descendant of the St. John’s Water Dog (the Lesser Newfoundland).  The Newfies have many mastiff characteristics, which were likely a result of breeding the Lesser Newfoundland with the Portugese Mastiffs brought to Newfoundland in the 16th century.

They are considered a giant breed with weights up to 200 lb in males and heights up to 30 inches at the shoulder.  Their coat is thick, oily and water repellent – ideal for icy water temperatures.  Their double coat requires a great deal of grooming which is something to take into consideration if you’re thinking of take a Newfie into your home.  Acceptable colors in Canada are all black or black and white (the Landseer Newfoundland).  Newfies can also be all brown or all grey but these are not acceptable colors for the Canadian Kennel Club.

Newfoundland dogs were used to bolster the St. Bernard breed in the 18th century when that population was threatened by distemper.  Newfies were also used as the foundation stock for the Leonberger breed in Germany, another breed who excels at water rescue.

Today they are still used for water rescue and also considered a good family dog provided that good, positive early socialization and training takes place.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Toller is the smallest of the retrievers.  The breed was developed in the community of Little River Harbour in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia around the beginning of the 19th century.  It was originally known as the Little River Duck Dog or the Yarmouth Toller.  Their origins are thought to be a combination of spaniels, setter and pointer-type dogs, retrievers and rabbit hounds with some farm collie thrown in.  Many have become herding as well as hunting / retrieving dogs hence the farm collie inclusion.

Tollers are named for their ability to lure and entice waterfowl within gunshot range (tolling).  They were sent out into the water to retrieve sticks or balls.  Their flashy white and red coloring and playful antics sparked the curiosity of waterfowl who would swim over to investigate.

Duck Tollers were officially admitted to the CKC in 1945 and gained worldwide recognition in 1980 by winning Best In Show at all breed championship events.  In 1995, the Toller was declared the official dog of Nova Scotia.

Tollers are intelligent, high-energy dogs who require a great deal of physical and mental activity.  

There you have it – all the Dogs of Canada – or at least all that I could find any information on.  Happy Birthday Canada!  Let’s focus keeping it positive for all our dogs – all over the country!

           **Above the Statue in St. John’s Newfoundland, in tribute of their famous friends.

Labrador dog

Text of Newfie


Canada’s Outdated Animal Cruelty Laws Fail Animals

By Camille Labchuk


Kitty Kitty

In 1997, two men in Edmonton tied a border collie and a husky to a tree and smashed their heads in with aluminum baseball bats. The sickening killings sparked nation-wide outrage, but the judge in the case acquitted the men, stating, “It certainly is not acceptable to me and many other people in this country to kill a dog like [that]… but there is no law.” That’s right—this brutal and vicious beating wasn’t a crime under our animal cruelty laws because the dogs seemed to have died quickly. 

There are many more stories like this one, but the point is that our animal cruelty laws are severely outdated and full of legal loopholes. Canada is widely considered to have the most ineffective animal cruelty legislation in the western world, and the result is that countless animal abusers escape criminal prosecution every year for shocking acts of cruelty like puppy mills, neglect, hoarding, animal fighting and even bestiality. Yes, it’s true: Our laws are so bad that last June, the Supreme Court was forced to rule that humans are legally entitled to perform a variety of sex acts on animals, so long as they stop short of penetration.

You might think that the shock of a court legalizing bestiality would motivate politicians to take action, but perhaps the saddest part of this story is that MPs–including the Liberal government–recently killed an important bill that would have closed some of our embarrassing loopholes and helped bring Canadian laws into the 21st century. Despite overwhelming support for this legislation in opinion polls, Members of Parliament voted 198 to 84 against protecting animals in a vote last October. For millions of vulnerable animals, no end to this nightmare is in sight.

So, how did we get here? Canada’s animal cruelty laws were first enacted in 1892, and they were significantly updated only once—in the 1950s. The problems with these laws have been apparent for decades, especially to the federal Liberal party which once led the charge to fix them.  Starting in 1999, well-respected former Justice Ministers like Anne McLellan and Irwin Cotler drafted and introduced government legislation that would have closed the loopholes in our laws, and moved animal crimes out of the property offences section of the Criminal Code. This is important recognition of the fact that aren’t mere inanimate objects like tables and chairs, but living beings who can suffer and feel pain.

Some of the bills introduced in the late 90s and early 2000s got very close to becoming law. They were the subject of extensive study by Parliamentary committees, with animal protection advocates, veterinarians, and humane societies making the case for giving more legal protections to animals.

The bills passed repeated votes in the House of Commons and the Senate, ut bad luck and worse timing meant that the legislation died after prorogations or elections. Animal cruelty laws were reintroduced many times as private members’ bills by MPs like Mark Holland, Hedy Fry, and several members of the NDP. But with zero interest in animal cruelty updates during the recently-ended Conservative decade, animals were put on the back burner.

When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals swept back to power last year, they promised to once again ensure that Canadians’ compassionate values were reflected in public policy. Animal advocates had reason for the first time in years to be optimistic—there was no reason to think the new government wouldn’t still agree that animals deserve laws to protect them. 

The first animal cruelty bill came quickly from Toronto-area Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. His private members’ Bill C-246 was virtually identical to the previous versions introduced in the late 90s and early 2000s. On top of fixing our laws in the same way recommended by former Liberal governments, Erskine-Smith added in provisions to protect animals from sexual abuse to respond to the unfortunate Supreme Court decision. Bill C-246 proposed as well to ban imports of cat and dog fur, which is surprisingly still legal in Canada despite bans in the US and EU. It also targeted the horrific practice of shark finning, in which live sharks have their fins sliced off and are left to die. Bill C-246 wasn’t a legal revolution for animals, but it would have taken a solid first step toward helping our laws align better with those of other western democracies. 

Bill C-246 had support from the humane societies and SPCAs from coast to coast that enforce animal cruelty laws. These are the inspectors who see first-hand the heartbreak caused by our loophole-ridded laws. Not surprisingly, law enforcement agents often feels deep frustration when an animal abuser escapes conviction, or when a prosecutor gives up, refusing even to lay criminal charges against abusers out of fear the charges won’t stick. 

Bill C-246 also had broad support from Canadians. Public opinion polls consistently show that over 90 percent of people want to see stronger animal cruelty laws, and MPs were deluged with emails and phone calls urging them to support Bill C-246.

But overwhelming support for protecting animals fell on deaf ears when it came to the government. Instead of listening to compassionate Canadians who care about animals, the government instead listened to lobbyists from the hunting, fishing, and farming industries. These special interests did everything they could, spending enormous amounts of money to block even the most basic protections for animals.

These lobby groups were responsible for inventing preposterous claims about Bill C-246, spreading alarmist propaganda that it would have criminalized people who hunt, fish, farm, and conduct medical research. 

It’s not worth examining the details of these false claims, other than to say they’re not true, and betray a disturbing indifference toward protecting animals from sadistic cruelty. Keep in mind that Bill C-246 was largely drafted by the Justice Department, with the clear goal of targeting animal abusers—not animal users. Not a single legal expert in the country came forward to say that these basic protections for animals would have somehow affected industries.

In the end, the animals lost out and political concerns won. The government chose to sell out abused animals, and listen instead to these narrow special interest groups for fear of losing votes in rural ridings where hunting, angling, and farming groups may complain. 

But it’s a mistake for the government to assume it won’t pay a political price for blocking basic animal cruelty legislation. Canadians want to do the right thing for animals, and support for ending animal cruelty runs deep. Pet owners and other compassionate animal advocates even got active in the last election to endorse animal-friendly candidates, and working as volunteers to help good MPs win. In the next election, MPs and candidates who voted against protections for animals may be surprised and dismayed to see active efforts to expose and unseat them.

The effort to fix our laws is only just beginning, and if we want to win, every Canadian who cherishes the friendship of a companion animal needs to step up and help. It’s critical that each of us tells our elected officials that we care about animals, want them be protected against cruelty, and will only vote for parties that vow to pass strong animal protection legislation. 

While Canada’s identity as a country revolves around the idea that we are a polite, compassionate society, our animal cruelty laws are out of step with this perception. After two decades of trying, it is long past time we fix our animal cruelty laws for once and for all.  It’s up to us to make sure that happens.


10 Tips to Find the Right Groomer

By Jackie Matheson

Fetch Grooming, Winnipeg, Manitoba




Grooming is an essential part to your dog’s overall health and well-being.  Choosing the right groomer for your fur baby is an important decision and one that takes some time.  Your research into a good groomer should include more than browsing through the yellow pages and selecting the first salon with an available appointment.  Your dog’s grooming experience will leave a lasting impression on him and it should be a happy one.  Here are ten things to look for when choosing a groomer that is right for you and your fur baby.

  1. Ask questions when doing your initial research.  Call the various salons and get a sense of what they have to offer.  Don’t be afraid to ask how long they have been in business.  What does the salon specialize in, pet grooming or show grooming?  Ask for referrals and rely on word of mouth from trusted family and friends.  
  2. Stop in to take a tour of the salon.  Transparency is important.  There should be no closed doors or restricted areas.  If you are not permitted to view the grooming area, this may be a red flag.  It is important to be able to have a clear understanding of the grooming process and where your dog will be kept.
  3. Ensure that the groomer is properly educated.  A good groomer is knowledgeable and should be able to answer your questions regarding skin coat condition, shedding concerns, nail health, etc.
  4. What is the groomers handling procedures?  The groomer should be able to relieve any anxiety that the owner may have if their dog requires extra care for special circumstances such as skittish behavior, elderly restrictions, aggressive behavior or injuries.
  5. Are you allowed to watch during grooming?  Yes, should be the answer.  If you are not allowed to watch, this may be a red flag.  Like children, dogs have a natural tendency to want to go to their “moms and dads” making grooming more difficult.  However, if a dog or their owner has had a bad grooming experience in the past their anxiety will be high and may feel more comfortable staying for the grooming.  This should always be permitted.
  6. Does the salon use kennel dryers or do they hand dry?  When a dog is being kennel dried, it is essential that the dog is in an adequate size kennel and being closely monitored for signs of stress or overheating.  Many dogs are afraid of dryers and do not do well with kennel drying.  Hand drying does help reduce a dog’s stress level and allow the dog to be closely monitored for overheating.
  7. Is the salon clean, organized, warm and welcoming?  Are the dogs kept in adequate sized kennels?  Is the grooming staff professional, caring and knowledgeable?  These are important factors to consider when choosing the right salon.
  8. What types of products is the salon using?  Are they high quality products that are safe and natural without harmful chemicals?  The salon you choose should be able to provide a list of ingredients and information regarding their products without hesitation.
  9. Review the salons pricing structure and make sure you have a clear understanding of what is included for each service.  Some salons offer an all-inclusive package while others offer a basic package with al la carte services.  This can become quite costly if there is any miscommunication between the salon and the customer with regards to service and price expectations.
  10. Listen to your initial gut feelings.  Your dog may be nervous to enter any new facility however you know your dog best.  If you are comfortable and have a good feeling, your dog will sense that.  If you feel uneasy, chances are that your dog will too.grooming dog

Pet Food Safety:

The Final Ingredient in Your Pets Health

By Inna Shekhtman


frozen meat photo


Your pet is part of your family and you want to see them live a longer and healthier life! You buy or make great food that that will help your pet thrive, you ensure they get regular exercise and socialization, and you have a great veterinarian that supports your goals and decisions. Now you have to navigate the world of food safety: How can you ensure that the food that you buy is safe for your animal companion and the rest of your family?  How is safety implemented and regulated in the pet food processing industry? What should I do once I bring food home?  Is real (raw) food for dogs and cats less safe that highly processed food? 

The subject of food safety has received a lot of attention in the media, the industry and the pet community in recent years.  It is encouraging to see new educational initiatives to create more consumer awareness and transparency around the subject of safety in pet food!  However, food safety has also become a marketing tool with buzzwords like “clean”, “human-grade”, “certified” and “premium” that appeal to emotions rather than speak to functionality or effectiveness.  Furthermore, since the emergence of commercial raw pet food, the subject of food safety has also been used to polarize the industry by suggesting that feeding fresh food to pets poses a higher risk than processed food.  

Food safety is not an option; it’s not a political tool or a marketing tool. It’s a necessity and my hope is that as the real food revolution grows, food safety will become a culture in the industry and in our homes!

How do I know if the food that I am buying is safe?

In short, you don’t.  

In Canada, the human food supply is one of the safest in the world. However, when it comes to pet food, the regulatory system of pet food in Canada is mostly based on trust. When a pet food is made in Canada, and sold in Canada, the government simply trusts the pet food manufacturer. There are NO legislated manufacturing practices or standards to follow. There is NO inspection or verification. 

In the US, in theory, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pet food. In practice, limited resources and the need to prioritize human safety have led the FDA to effectively cede federal oversight to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). A private organization with no regulatory authority, the AAFCO can’t enforce its voluntary guidelines, which emphasize nutritional requirements over sourcing. So while the association establishes such standards as minimum protein levels, it’s not strict regarding where that protein comes from. 

So how do you decide which manufacturers you can trust and which foods are safe? No food safety system or food handling practices can guarantee zero risk. However, companies that are aware of food safety risk and actively work to build a safety culture and processes will go much further in reducing these risks for consumers.  Here are some questions you can ask a manufacturer:

  1. Are all the ingredients used in the products human-grade? Do they come from facilities that are certified and inspected by the CFIA, FDA or other regulatory agency?  Personally, I believe that all ingredients in a pet food should be good enough to be consumable by humans. The world of “pet ingredients” has way too many grey areas to provide any assurance with regards to safety or quality.
  2. Where do the ingredients come from? Are they from Canada, US or overseas? And if ingredients are overseas, how well regulated is the food ingredients in the source country? Try to avoid products that include ingredients from countries with poor food safety records. 
  3. What kind of food safety systems and protocols does the company have in place?   Make sure the company is committed to a culture of food safety and has a clear system in place to manage the risks. 
  4. Are they certified or inspected by any independent body to verify that these systems and protocols are being followed?

Is processed pet food (canned or kibble) safer than raw pet food?canstockphoto9736463_small

One of the concerns raised about the trend of feeding raw unprocessed food to pets is that the bacteria in raw meat can hurt your dog or other members in the household, especially those with weakened immune systems.  Yes, raw meat can contain bacteria and it might hurt your pet if they already have a compromised immune system or other health problem.  Yes, your pet may shed bacteria in their poop and if you grab their poop, you can get sick.  

Should we as consumers be aware of this risk? Absolutely! 

Are these risks unique to raw pet food? No, they are not!  ALL pet food can contain bacteria that can be harmful to pets and humans and all pets can shed bacteria in their feces, regardless of what they are eating! While FDA and other regulatory bodies continue to claim that raw presents a risk of contamination, it understates the risks of the same contaminations in hundreds of thousands of pounds of kibble and treats that occur annually.   For example, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2008 a contaminated dry pet food caused 79 cases of Salmonella in humans across 21 states.  

In my opinion, real food movement for pets (raw pet food) has actually done a service to the pet industry by making the pet food safety conversation front and center for consumers! The bottom line is, whatever you feed your pet: use common sense and good food handling practise (more on this to come in the next section). And please don’t lick your pet’s poop, grab it with your hands, or lick your hands after handling it.

On the other hand, we know that fresh minimally processed foods help us thrive and are better for us than food that is heavily processed.   Fresh food is certainly not risk free and all food, including vegetables, can get contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, E.coli, etc. but these risks can be managed and reduced with good food safety systems in industry and in the home.   Our choice of foods should be based on what’s best of the body and not based on fear – and the same goes for our pets. 

In addition, most healthy pets are naturally less affected by bacteria than the human family members – after all they do groom their own rear ends and eat and roll in all kinds of unsightly things (including feces of other animals) without any ill effects.   So focusing on keeping your pet’s digestive system healthy with quality fresh food and probiotics is the best way to support this natural mechanism.

Raw Liver Photo...

Raw Liver Photo…

Basics of Pet food safety at home

Stick to the basic rules of sanitation and food handling for your pet’s food:

  1. Do not buy or keep food past its expiry date.
  2. Inspect the food before severing it to your pet – if it looks or smells different or off, do not use it. 
  3. Wash your hands, your pet’s bowl, and any other surface that came in contact with the food with soap and hot water for 20 seconds after each meal to disinfect. Yes, even if you are feeding kibble you should follow the same food safety procedures as with raw meat to avoid risk of illness! 
  4. Do not leave food sitting in your pets bowl for prolonged periods of time. Discard any uneaten food after 15-20 minutes.  
  5. And of course, wash your hands and other contact surfaces after handling what comes out the other end.

In general, use the same common sense and food handling practices as you would for your own food. If you need a refresher, check out the FDA consumer tips page: https://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm255180.htm 

Raw (meat) pet food safety basics

The risks associated with raw proteins are contamination and spoilage and these do not end at the store! Handling these products with the caution and attention they deserve is our personal responsibility once we bring them home, to assure the safety of our entire family, especially your pets because they thrive on meat diets. 

What causes food spoilage?

There are several naturally occurring catalysts that can cause meat to spoil. 

Bacteria: Meat has naturally occurring microorganisms on its surface including molds and bacteria. The bacteria break down the fats and proteins in the meats, causing it to spoil.  This breakdown begins immediately after slaughter – and while it can be slowed down by lowering the temperature of the meat, it cannot be reversed or halted. In contrast, exposure to light or heat will speed up that process. 

Mold: Another cause for meat spoilage is mold. Mold likes moist, warm places with lots of food sources — meat makes a great home for a mold colony. Mold can spoil meat by spreading over the surface in fuzzy or colorful patches that change the taste and texture of the meat.

Oxidative Rancidity: Improper packing techniques can cause a chemical reaction in the meat called oxidation. The fats in the meat react with oxygen molecules and cause the meat to go rancid, producing discoloration and a rotten, sour smell and taste.

Here are the key components of any good household food safety strategy: fish

  1. Separation

Keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator to avoid cross-contamination.

2.  Handling

Wash your hands, preparation surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs with soap and hot water to sanitize. 

3. Storage 

For frozen products, store in the freezer until ready to use. Generally, food will not spoil in the freezer, but it will degrade in quality. For fresh or thawed products, store in the refrigerator for a limited period of time, to avoid spoilage.  The “Danger Zone” for bacteria growth is between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly. 

Vacuum sealing slows down the growth of aerobic, spoilage bacteria and fungi by reducing the food’s contact with atmospheric oxygen. Therefore, food quality, good texture and appearance last longer when the food is vacuum sealed. 

How long can you store meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator?

 4. Thawing

If you are purchasing frozen raw food for your animal companion, you are likely going through the daily ritual of thawing the food before serving.  As soon as raw meat begins to thaw and becomes warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing begin to multiply at exponential rates. For this reason you should never use hot water to thaw raw food (not to mention it will get cooked) or leave raw food on the counter at room temperature for more than two hours. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

There are two methods of safety defrosting your pets raw meal: in the refrigerator and in cold water. 

Refrigerator Thawing

Planning ahead is the key to this method because of the lengthy time involved.  Allow for a full day to thaw the meal if it’s a flat-pack – more if the food is in a block.  A large frozen item like a turkey requires at least a day (24 hours) for every 5 pounds of weight. Even small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, there are variables to take into account.

  • Some areas of the appliance may keep food colder than other areas.
  • Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F

Cold Water Thawing

This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. Small flatter meal package of 1-2 lbs — may thaw in an hour or less.

5. Freezing and re-freezing

Home freezers are designed to keep food frozen, not to freeze food from room temperature. This means that even small portions of fresh food can take days to fully freeze, compromising the quality of the food.  Avoid freezing or re-freezing things in your home freezer. If you must do so, allow as much space around the package as possible for air circulation.  

Before we end, some food for thought … Most foodborne illness is caused by bacteria. For many years, we have been led to believe that our food and environment needs to be sterile to avoid illness.  And for many years we bought this message and waged the war on bacteria with chemical disinfectants and other modes.  More recently, we have begun to appreciate the balance of nature when it comes to bacteria and the importance of nurturing a balance of bacteria in our body end environment rather than focusing on elimination.  There are thousands of bacteria strains in the air, on surfaces and even in our own body. Not all of these bacteria are bad – in fact the majority of them play an essential role in building the immune system and keeping us healthy and safe.   

Food safety is not black and white. There is much that we are still learning about food safety in industry and in the home.  If food safety is to become a culture, it first needs to be a conversation – one that re-examines all our preconceived notions and looks at what makes the most sense for our pets and for our entire family to thrive!


  1. http://wwwualberta.ca/news-and-events/newsarticles/2017/january/dry-pet-food-can-cause-salmonella-infection-in-people
  2. http://truthaboutpetfood.com/lets-get-the-facts-straight-fda
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrthtml/mm54744a2.htm
  4. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/the-big-thaw-safe-defrosting-methods-for-consumers/CT_Index
  5. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2118871/How-keeping-children-clean-wreck-immune-systems.html


By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs




Through all the dogs we’ve had and all the training and learning I’ve done over the years, there are certain cues that stick out as particularly good (and fun) things to teach your dog.  I’ve never been much of a formal obedience-minded person.  I do teach obedience classes and I teach some “traditional” obedience cues to my dogs, but I prefer to be a little more creative.  Also, there are just certain things that make living together a little bit easier!

Over the past 4 years or so, I’ve started teaching my dogs a new cue and I’ve also started including it in my class curriculum.  I have to say – it’s a winner!  People love this cue! Even the dogs seem to love it!

Stop!  That’s my new favorite.  What’s it for?  Well – just imagine some of the things your dog does that you might use that word for.  Stop – digging up the plants; barking at the squirrels; teasing the cat – and so on.

Several years ago I came across a video from a trainer who worked with rescue bully breeds and he was demonstrating his use of the Stop cue.  He taught all his foster dogs and clients a Stop cue.  His reason for doing so was to put some level of control into the play between the bully breeds he was working with.  

The dogs he had in his video were strong dogs and they had a pretty fast and furious play style.  The Stop cue was designed to get the dogs to stop playing altogether or to stop and take a brief break so that play would remain fairly consistent and not escalate into something other than play.  

If you’re just one person monitoring play between 2 or more strong dogs, it can be difficult to physically stop the dogs if their play starts to get a little too crazy.  Pulling dogs apart during play isn’t really ideal either as tension on collars or harnesses can often increase the energy of the play making the dogs harder to separate and less thrilled about being stopped.  Teaching a really solid Stop cue is a great, proactive way to solve this issue.FullSizeRender

It was a great video – unfortunately I no longer recall who the trainer was at the time so I can’t give him credit!  It lodged in the back of my mind as a really good cue to teach but I didn’t take it any further at the time.  

Fast forward a couple of years and we adopt Quincy – a 6-month-old female Doberman.  At the time, a friend of mine had a dog the same age (Frankie) and we started to introduce the girls to each other and to have the occasional play date.  For a time, I was looking after Frankie often and the 2 girls quickly became fast friends.  At that point they were both about the same size – they weren’t that big then – but boy did they play like crazy things!  They were nuts when they got going – even in a small space like my living room.  If I ever let them out into the yard together (which was a rare occasion!), I needed at least one other person to help monitor things – they both ran like the wind and were very hard to catch once they got caught up in the frenzy of their play.  It was a full time job looking after them both – and exhausting!

I really didn’t want them to learn to play like idiots without taking appropriate breaks, so I had to do something about it.  I remembered the Stop and decided to put it to the test.

I spent several days working on training Stop with the 2 dogs whenever we got together.  Within a remarkably short time both girls were pretty good at it and it suddenly got a whole lot easier to have them together.  Before too long I didn’t have to monitor them nearly as closely and I could get them to take breaks whenever I could hear or see things getting a bit too fast with very little effort on my part.  Fantastic result!  

Fast forward another 2 years and we adopt Doberman puppy, Jack.  IMG_9031

At this point, Quincy has become a full-grown almost adult Doberman.  She’s not big for a Doberman but she’s still a good-sized dog and pretty strong – and Jack is looking like he’s going to be a lot bigger still.  The Stop will be a perfect cue to be able to control their interactions, as they both get bigger and more mature.

What does “Stop” mean?

My criterion for Stop is:  Stop whatever you’re doing and come back to me.  

Before I even started teaching the cue, I put quite a bit of thought into what I wanted to have happen.  That’s an extremely important point! Before you begin to teach your dog anything, you need to know exactly what you want as a result.  If you’re not clear what you want, your dog won’t be either and confusion can be frustrating for everyone and your training will not be successful.

I decided that if I my dogs just Stopped with nothing else following, then there was a good chance they would go back to what they were doing sooner than I might want.  Also, I really liked the idea of them being close enough to put on a leash if I needed to.  Now, of course I could cue “Stop” and then cue something else like a recall, but if I can accomplish all that in just one cue, why not?

Your criterion doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but make sure you have a clear idea of your end result.  Also, make sure you can easily train it.  If you wanted your dog to Stop and stay where he is, that would be tricky.  That involves training at a distance, which is done systematically and generally takes quite a bit of time.  It’s not easy to train your dog to perform things far away from you.  Traditionally we often begin training our dogs quite close to us – teaching Sits, Downs, Roll Over, Play Dead, Hand Targets, etc.  They become used to being close to us when performing cues or coming to us to get their reinforcement and this makes distance training quite challenging.Screenshot 2017-04-27 14.08.41

Let the training begin!

I began Stop training with Jack the day we adopted him – at 10 weeks of age.  The results with him have been even better than I expected!  Certainly starting before his imprinting period was over made a big difference, but also because I had already trained the cue a few times before so I was very clear on how to get it and what to look for.  Plus, Jack has some pretty strong drive, so he does everything with great gusto!

Beginning Steps:

To begin with, ensure that you are working in an area with nothing much going on – maybe your living room or kitchen.

  1. With your dog on a leash short enough that you can reach his nose, cue the word “Stop”.
  2. Immediately put a really good treat right in front of his nose for him to eat.  Continue to feed more treats while you take a few steps backward leading him with you as he takes and eats his treats – at least 15 treat in all! Lavish him with some verbal praise while he follows you eating his treats.
  3. Use a cue to end the exercise – “All Done!” 
  4. Repeat the first 3 steps at least 5 times.

Next Steps:

  1. With your dog on a short leash, cue the word “Stop” – this time pause instead of immediately putting a treat in front of your dog’s nose.
  2. As soon as your dog begins to turn toward you looking for that stream of treats, click or verbally mark his response – “Good!”
  3. Immediately begin the continuous feeding of treats while you once again take a few steps backward and lavishly praise his brilliance.  Again, feed at least 15 treats in all before stopping.
  4. “All Done!”  
  5. Repeat at least 10 times, and then take a break.FullSizeRender4


If you aren’t getting a response, there are several reasons why this may be:

  1. Your treats aren’t tasty enough.  

You need to use mind-blowing, over-the-top treats for this to ultimately be a solidly trained cue.  Remember that you are possibly asking your dog to come away from something really fantastic to come back to you even if it’s just for a brief moment.  Make it worth their while!

  1. You aren’t being generous enough.  

When I mention in the steps to give your dog 15 treats, I mean at least 15 and I’m not kidding!  I will give at least that and even more – 25 or 35 pieces of rare roast beef.  It has to be ridiculously rewarding in order to compete with taking a play break from your dog’s best friend.  

The biggest mistake I see people make in their training is not being generous enough – nothing more complicated than that – simply not begin generous enough.  And your dog is the one that gets to decide what’s generous enough!

  1. Your set up is too exciting.  

If you’ve done lots of practice in your living room, don’t move from there to having your dog playing with their best friend!  And when you do move to that step, have both dogs on leash and merely looking at each other from at least 10 feet away.  If you make the set up too challenging to break away from, too quickly your training will take a long time.  

  1. Your dog isn’t on leash or confined in some way.  

You really need to be able to control the outcome to some extent in the initial steps.  I don’t want you to use the leash to get them to come back to you – the treat and the less than exciting set up should do the trick.  However, I do want you to use the leash to prevent your dog from simply wandering off and choosing to do something else instead.IMG_2226

The Double Reinforcement!

Perhaps the best tip of all is to make your set up include the possibility of a double-reinforcement.

This means that whatever you Stop your dog from doing, ideally, is something he really wants to return to doing.  This becomes your second reinforcement after the buffet of delicious treats is over.

After some initial training with low distractions, I started to use play as the second reinforcement. Every time I cued Stop, both my dogs got tons of treats and then I would say “All Done!” – back they would jump into play.  Such fun and well worth the break for each of them! 

You could do the same training with a friend and their dog in order to get that reinforcement of play.  If you don’t have a second dog available or if your dog isn’t good with other dogs, then just be creative.  The second reinforcement can be anything that your dog finds reinforcing:  going off leash, chasing a ball, chasing you, getting dinner, playing tug, etc.

(Note:  If your dog does not find play with another dog or play with a particular dog fun, then returning to play is NOT reinforcing. However, the relief of being able to take a break from any play or interaction that they are not enjoying will actually act as the second reinforcement.)IMG_2231

Continuing to Proof your Training.

Once your training is progressing and your dog is clearly beginning to understand his Stop cue, you can begin to “proof” your training.  Proofing is simply practicing and training in every circumstance you can think of in a systematic way and choosing a careful pace.

I didn’t go from play in my living room to free play in my backyard as the next step.  Instead, we did a ton of training in my living room with longer and longer time periods of play between breaks first.  Then I would introduce new toys, or something to get the excitement of the play amped up before introducing Stop breaks.  I wanted to start working with bigger bursts of excitement before asking for a Stop.

I also started using it in other contexts – someone at the door, dogs barking; off leash walking away from me; staring at something out the window; barking at a squirrel; heading toward a dropped food item on the floor (tough one!), etc.

Be careful to make things easy to first when you change contexts.  When I started to introduce free play in the yard, I began when they were both already tired from a long hike.  Then I made sure they only interacted for mere seconds before cueing Stop – not waiting for the adrenaline to build very much at all.  The reinforcements were over the top – the best food option I could come up with.

This became a very useful cue for me and I have put a lot of time and effort into the training.  After about a year and a half of working with both my dogs, I can now cue them to Stop playing together anywhere (so far!) – out of sight, a long way away, with any level of play, with different dogs who don’t even know the cue themselves.  It’s pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  I love it!

Also, I have to say, it’s a lot of fun to do in front of people because boy does it look great when you can stop your dog in mid-flight or mid-play with their dog and have them immediately heading right back to you!

Other Uses for Stop.

 I have found tons of uses for Stop:

  • off leash as an alternative to my Recall
  • chasing wildlife
  • barking
  • jumping up (not an ideal solution, but okay in an emergency)
  • a lunge or pull on leash (not a good solution for constant pulling, but good in an emergency)
  • spotting or thinking about chasing a jogger or biker
  • stopping a potential interaction with another dog
  • stopping a stare or a stalking position directed at other dogs
  • a great cue for people who walk more than one dog – owners or even dog walkers

What uses can you think of for Stop?

Enjoy your training with your dog! Remember, keep it positive – and BE GENEROUS with your reinforcement!

For video examples of the Stop in use, check out my Facebook page at “In Partnership With Dogs”.IMG_2230

Adventures of a Spiritual Dogster

It’s Hard for Them Too: Help Your Dog to Understand Death

By Amanda Ringnalda


marge sasha amanda

Sasha came out to greet me as I approached — an 11-year-old female old Border Collie mix. I was immediately drawn into her large and especially round, coppery-colored eyes and pretty face. Her tail was swingin’ with delight at meeting a person who immediately recognized the soul within her. And she knew it. 

A couple feet behind Sasha stood the delicate figure and huge smile of Marjorie — the most vibrant and joyful 93-year-young woman I’ve ever met. I was visiting this dynamic duo for the first time, having been contacted by a caring family member to come in and provide support through this difficult part of their journey together as bonded souls: one human, one canine. This powerful pair was facing the reality which all of us will one day face… the end of life in this body.  

In December 2016, Marjorie (the human companion) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Considering her age, treatment wasn’t suggested. So she’s spending her time at home now, with support from hospice. She’s feeling amazing some days, not so great other days. Marjorie’s perspective on the whole thing remains the motto she has held her whole life: she’s “taking it as it comes – there’s no need to get all upset.”

Sasha kept one eye on Marjorie every moment I was there. She was like her short and furry nurse. Marjorie is a tiny yet strong woman, and didn’t seem to need or want much nursing with the energy I saw! Yet, there was a secure tie between the two at all times. Marjorie explained that following her adoption 10 years earlier, she and Sasha have been together almost non-stop ever since. 

Needless to say, both beings were deeply affected by Marjorie’s illness. To help support the pair in their energetic healing and balancing, I had formulated a custom flower essence blend for each of them. After I brought out a tiny bit of lavender essential oil to invoke a more calm and grounded environment, I also put 7 drops of Sasha’s flower essence liquid on a little dog biscuit, let it absorb, and fed it to her. She kindly accepted. Actually, she was drawn toward the bottle of essence before I even got it open! Initially, her actions were more likely from curiosity – what will this interesting new human pull out of her purse next?! Yet after she caught the initial whiff, and processed the information she had received, she came right in for more, holding her nose directly against the bottle. I’d say that’s a good fit! 

After another 20 minutes or so of conversation about their relationship – building the energetic bond even stronger – I applied Sasha’s essence to her external body by putting a few drops between her shoulder blades, which is an especially receptive energy center for animals. Being that it’s close to their heart region, it’s of particular importance when balancing emotions. Now, everyone was at ease and ready for some settling in. 

Together we prepared for our meditation… some time for us to move beyond the thoughts, words, and doings and allow our awareness to relax into the stillness and peace which lies within us. Within all of us, no matter what kind of animal. When we spend more dedicated time in this peace space, we’re reminded that we are more than our bodies – our true essence is timeless, ageless, and beyond the reach of death… a deeper existence in which we are all one.

The intention of our meditation was to provide a tool to help Marjorie and Sasha stay established in this oneness. The quiet practice of meditation provided an opportunity for communication without words to flow to and from each of them. This communication can provide comfort, ease, and relief from the fears around the change we are all destined to face. 

We sat for a few minutes in the silence and stillness. Then I opened the idea of sharing, through the voice of the heart, and from a space of feeling as opposed to thinking. I guided them to send any messages they’d like to each other. Then we let the potential of silence remain. Tears filled my closed eyes as I felt love embrace us.

The ease and grace in which Marjorie is handling this huge life change is remarkable. Following our meditation, she was comfortably open to me sharing these suggestions for helping Sasha the dog, or most any animal, understand the process of death and dying, as well as grieving:

Tips for helping a dog process the loss of a loved one:

  • Talk to them. Speak from your heart. Explain what is happening. They don’t need to know the words to understand your message. Keep in mind, they already know from their highly-attuned senses that change is in the air.
  • Be sure to tell them the plan when the time comes – where they will go and who they will live with. Do your best to share this with an energy of safety and being very well cared for. 
  • Allow the pet to either be present during the time of passing, or, as strange as it may sound, allow them to smell the body afterward. Dogs live their life through their profound sense of smell. They receive the information they need through smell. 
  • Keep an item of clothing or something that holds the scent of the departed one. Place it in or near their pet’s bed – someplace where they can lay on it. 
  • Use supportive tools like flower essences, energy work, animal communication, and meditation before and after transition to fortify the eternal bond.
  • Recognize that beings who love one another are forever together and able to stay connected on the spiritual plane. That’s why it’s ideal if the dog can be taken to do things or visit places where they used to go with their beloved human companion. 

To me, it’s times like this where the holistic approach is so amazingly rich, fulfilling, and essential to living a truly integrated life. Body, mind, and spirit are who and what every one of us is. The sooner we come to embrace the energetic and soulful side, not only of humans but animals as well, the sooner we get to enjoy the most enriching relationships and the most gratifying life we can imagine.

This article is dedicated to the inspirational Marjorie and her forever friend Sasha.