Category Archives: Rants

Seeing Success

How you define success determines its existence; it doesn’t exist until you learn to see it. Success is critical to dog training, but like the mechanics of training, seeing success is a skill that requires development – both in definition and process. Whether or not a person can acknowledge success and what they expect it to look like has profound implications for the outcome of and commitment to training.

In which scenario is this little person most likely to succeed?


Criteria and Success Continue reading Seeing Success

He KNOWS he was bad!!

Published in this month’s Speaking of Dogs newsletter

Just imagine…

A new friend invites you to tea. You really like this person and would like to get to know her better, so you happily accept. You visit the finest bakery and purchase delicious pastries, a hostess gift, and show up at her house, well-dressed and on time.

She lets you in, accepts the pastries graciously, and heads to the kitchen for  plates, telling you to “help yourself.” You turn left and head into the dining room, and laid out before you is a buffet table 10 – no, 20 – feet long. Stomach grumbling, you start helping yourself to the plentiful food.

Minutes later, your new friend gasps as she rushes through the doorway. She shouts, “NO! STOP! What are you doing?! Stop that, you ungrateful jerk!” She grabs a newspaper off the side table, rolls it up, and whacks you across the nose, saying, “BAD! BAD!” She grabs you by the shirt collar and drags you out the front door, slamming it behind you. You are left spinning on the front stoop, sore in body and mind, wondering what on earth just happened. Continue reading He KNOWS he was bad!!

Positive Training and Animal Advocacy: A Catch 22?

Marc Bekoff is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado and an animal rights advocate. He’s a high profile ethologist who uses his position of influence to better the lives of animals: captive, domestic, and wild. Bekoff was invited to present at the Professional Animal Behaviourists Association conference a couple years ago. In one of his excellent lectures he addressed the subject of animal rights and welfare, a topic in line with the theme of the conference that year. He was advocating a vegan diet for his dogs in the name of the welfare of those herbivores that could have ended up dead and in the dogs’ bowls. In the Q&A I asked him what might be used as a primary reinforcer, and particularly how to pursue counter conditioning, if we are not to use animal products in training. His suggestions involved cantaloupe and crackers.

Continue reading Positive Training and Animal Advocacy: A Catch 22?

"THE RESCUE MADE ME DO IT!!": On taking responsibility for one's actions and prioritizing one's perceived "rights" over the right to life and well-being of mill dogs.

Bruno, my first foster, was breeding stock from a puppy mill

I’ve been thinking recently about responsibility. Specifically, about if and how people take responsibility for their dogs, their actions, and their choices. I’ve heard several anecdotes in recent months about potential adopters choosing to buy a pup from a pet store or Kijiji when their application for a rescue dog was declined or if the rescue simply took too long to process them.

To be clear, responsible breeders do not sell their pups in pet stores and the large majority of Kijiji pups are from mills, brokers, and backyard breeders (BYBs). I once asked a pet store clerk if the pups, living on grates behind glass at the back of the store, were from a mill.  Of course, she assured me that they were from only responsible breeders.  What ‘responsible breeder’ would pull the pups from the bitch early to prolong the period of ‘cuteness’ in the store window, deprive the pup of critical socialization by placing them in a glass box – sometimes in isolation – and allow the store to sell to impulsive consumers who have had no screening or background checks? If the sale doesn’t work out, who is the pup returned to? (Often to rescue, in fact) By definition, that breeder cannot be responsible. If there are any doubts about the conditions of dogs in puppy mills, watch one of the many undercover videos of puppy mills and reports on mill raids (such as this recent seizure of over 600 dogs from Canadian mill, Paws R Us).

Continue reading "THE RESCUE MADE ME DO IT!!": On taking responsibility for one's actions and prioritizing one's perceived "rights" over the right to life and well-being of mill dogs.

Training, Behaviour and Screening for Rescue

Bruno, my first foster

I’ve been volunteering with Speaking of Dogs rescue for the last ~2 years, and I couldn’t have hoped to fall in with a better organization! I started out as a foster home, and one of the biggest considerations in looking for a rescue was how my foster dog would be placed and what my input would be into that decision. Explicitly in this point is how the rescue places value on ethical training.  What I found in Speaking of Dogs is a rescue organization that has ethical and practical considerations that are very much comparable to my own. I use the term ‘ethics’ very deliberately here – using forceful methods to teach a dog something that can better be taught using force-free methods is not simply a matter of choice, it is a matter of ethical choice. Not only that, it may come down to being a matter of public and personal safety (see this study on confrontational training techniques and links to aggression).

Continue reading Training, Behaviour and Screening for Rescue

The Power of Veto


noun \ˈvē-(ˌ)tō\

plural: vetoes

Definition of VETO

1 : an authoritative prohibition : interdiction

2 a : a power of one department or branch of a government to forbid or prohibit finally or provisionally the carrying out of projects attempted by another department; especially : a power vested in a chief executive to prevent permanently or temporarily the enactment of measures passed by a legislature

b (1) : the exercise of such authority (2) : a message communicating the reasons of an executive and especially the president of the United States for vetoing a proposed law


Continue reading The Power of Veto