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Look, Don’t Touch!

I was out for a walk on the city streets with my elderly dog, Arlo. When I saw someone approaching with a young doodle, I led Arlo up a driveway to wait for them to pass. The owner and I greeted each other briefly, and then she stopped. His owner asked me a question about my dog, and as I answered briefly, the doodle leaned into the leash and oriented his body and wide, excited eyes toward my dog, tail wagging higher and harder. The owner asked if the dogs could meet, and I politely declined. We said our goodbyes, and as she dragged her dog away he gurgled a bark through the pressure on his collar.

So why didn’t I allow a greeting? The answer lies in frustration, and a dog’s response to it.

Frustration often arises from being unable to fulfill an intense want or need. In our dogs, it’s usually a product of arousal in combination with restraint. For the doodle, this meant that seeing Arlo just 15 feet away resulted in feelings of excitement (arousal). He was confined on a leash, which acted as the restraint and prevented access.

This combination of factors resulted in frustration, expressed as staring and orienting, leaning hard on the leash, and vocalization. This was a pretty minor display as compared to many other dogs, but the effect on this dog – or the dog being stared down – shouldn’t be minimized.

Frustration in humans leads to all sorts of maladaptive coping mechanisms. Road rage is a perfect example of how frustration causes uncomfortable feelings up to the point of aggressive outbursts or even physical assault. Frustration is profoundly distressing for the person experiencing it, even if it doesn’t escalate to that point.

Dogs show a similar range of expression of frustration, and unfortunately the information available to most pet owners neglects to mention it as a cause of problem behaviours or even aggression. Most people do not see a connection with their cute little puppy excitedly bouncing around on the end of the leash barking because “she just wants to say hi!”

Excitement is normal, and it is not this excitement that is the problem – it is the human response to it! Too often, owners of friendly dogs allow their dogs to experience these feelings of frustration and even deliberately put their dogs in situations where it is likely to happen.

At best, they teach their dogs to get cranked up at the sight of other dogs and that pulling and barking is the best way to fulfil the desire to meet the other dog. At worst, they are cultivating an aggressive response to other dogs. That can either come from a road-rage-like response to the feelings of frustration or through well-intended training methods that include corrections like jerks to the leash. In this case, a dog who previously was excited about dogs comes to learn that the presence of other dogs causes their owner to jerk the leash, which causes them pain or discomfort. This dog can easily be convinced that other dogs aren’t good to have around and will develop an aggressive response to other dogs due to this association.

So what can you do instead? We’ll use an example of other dogs as distractions, but this is applicable to people or anything else that excites your dog in a happy way.

  1. Teach your dog “Say Hi!” When you say this, it means your dog is allowed to engage in a social interaction with the dog. After you say, “Say Hi!,” you can usher your dog in to greet on a loose leash or off leash. Of course, take appropriate precautions about who your dog is greeting, particularly regarding finding friendly dogs who also are allowed to greet, etc.
  1. Teach your dog that when you don’t say, “Say Hi!,” it means that social interaction is off limits. This is a critical distinction for your dog to understand and requires a lot of consistency on your part!

This can be achieved using a combination of factors:

Keep Your Distance

If your leashed dog is too close to the dog, she will be frustrated. It is as simple as that! How close is too close will depend very much on your dog, the dog she wants to greet, and the environment. Generally, you will be able to tell if your dog is too close because she orients fully away from you and toward the dog, blinks less or has wider eyes, leans into the leash, either stands very still or moves rapidly, and is less responsive to an offer of a treat. If she does this, move away 5 to 10 feet.

“Look, Don’t Touch”

You’ll need to prepare a baggy of treats that your dog loves – don’t be stingy! – and have these at the ready in an easily accessible pocket or training pouch. Begin at a distance where your dog notices the other dog but doesn’t display the above body language.

Notice when your dog looks toward the other dog and immediately say, “yes!” and feed a treat. It can be helpful to show the dog the treat and place it on the ground by your foot so she turns around to take the treat.

Repeat this for as many times as your dog glances at the dog. Always time “yes!” with the moment she looks; there’s no benefit in letting her stare! You will soon notice that she gives a quick glance and looks back to you before you even have a chance to say, “yes!” This is perfect! Continue to reward this! If this isn’t happening, you’ll need to begin at a longer distance or use tastier treats. It can be helpful to practise with a friend and their dog so you also get some practise before training out on walks.

“Say Hi!”

Practise “Look, Don’t Touch” without greeting the large majority of the time. This will help set an expectation that your dog is to continue past dogs and people, and it will go a long way to prevent frustration from re-emerging. When you are going to allow a greeting, for example with a neighbour or dog friend, begin with “Look, Don’t Touch” until your dog is settled and functional. You can then tell your calm dog, “Say Hi!” and allow her to greet her friends while maintaining a loose leash.

If that doodle had been put though these paces and, instead of leaning into the leash and staring, was quietly standing with her owner, I may have allowed a greeting with Arlo. While I didn’t have the impression that this dog had any aggressive intention, it’s very likely that his strained body language would have translated into a very forward, pushy introduction. This wouldn’t be fair to either dog, particularly as Arlo, at the age of 15, easily falls off balance.

Many other dogs will assume the worst if a dog pushes into their space and may react defensively to that approach. Help your dog maintain her friendly demeanour by preventing frustration.

Are you having some trouble with your pooch’s behaviour around people or dogs? Check out our group classes or private training, or contact the office and we’ll be happy to help!

What to Bring to Class

You can also find this list in your program manual (see confirmation and reminder auto-emails), as well as in the Group Class Information Document.

You will need to prepare the following prior to every class:

  • Health Form (puppy class only) is critical for admission into class. Send this documentation in advance, or at the latest give it to your instructor at the start of your first class. For safety reasons, puppies without proper documentation will not be allowed in the school.
  • Treat pouch Purchase a pouch from the school or a pet store. A fanny pack or a rock climbing chalk pouch will also work. This is important.
  • Clicker This is included with the class.
  • Moist or semi-moist treats – Approximately 300-500pcs.
    • Cut all treats to about the size of a large pea, or smaller for smaller dogs.
    • Store-bought treats: Rollover logs, dehydrated organ meats, etc.
    • Cook and chop meat from the grocery, such as: chicken breast, steak, pork chop, chicken hearts/gizzard, beef/pork heart, pre-cooked hot dogs, cheese, ham, etc. 
    • Do not bring vegetables, kibble, or hard crunchy biscuits.
  • 6ft leather or nylon leash – no flexi leashes
  • Tug toy – Long braided fleece toy or ‘stuffless’ toy.
  • Body harness
    • There are harnesses available for purchase at the school (please arrive early), or find another from a pet store.
    • Choke, prong, e-collars or similar equipment is not permitted.
  • One or two food-stuffed toys 
    • This will be necessary to help your dog settle on a mat at the beginning of every class. Bring only food-stuffed toys (e.g. Kongs) or chews that may be eaten in a stationary position.
  • Small mat. Begin each class by helping your dog to settle on their mat with their food-stuffed toy, see exercise handout. If you are consistent, your dog will be much calmer coming into class!
  • Change of shoes. Socks are also fine!

 

Cooperative Care: Fear Free Vetting, Grooming and Husbandry

Is your dog terrified of the vet? Won’t let you brush him, or cut her nails? Do you have a constant fight over eye drops or ear cleaning?  Can’t get that tick off of him without him hiding under the couch? Or maybe you have a puppy and you just want to prevent these common problems?

Did you know that just holding him down to “get it done” can actually make everything worse?! Did you know that you can only “trick” a dog into sitting still so many times before she’s “on to you”?

This program will establish a routine where your dog actually chooses to “opt-in” to these procedures so her routine care is no longer a fight. We will also look at management strategies, such as teaching your dog to file her own nails, while learning strategies for long-term cooperative care.

This is a class for all dogs, because all dogs need to be vetted, groomed, have their nail trimmed, and have medication applied. Perfect for dogs with existing stress, or to prevent these problems in the first place!

Taught by Fear Free Certified Professional trainer through Fear Free Pets (specific to veterinary and husbandry care), also holding Certified Dog Behavior Consultant certification through the IAABC and Certified Professional Dog Trainer certification through the CCPDT.

Coming Fall 2018, check back soon for additional details!

Requirements

  • No pre-requisite training is required, however previous experience with positive training is beneficial
  • Dogs must be settled and able to work in a group class environment, dogs will not be visible to each other and will not interact. Unmanageable reactivity to dogs or people, and frequent/excessive barking cannot be accommodated in this class.
  • Dogs who bite badly and/or with very little provocation will be best served by private training.
  • Participants must watch both the Orientation Webinar AND the Intro to Cooperative Care Webinar, and send all secret codes to the office in advance of your first class. Failure to meet this requirement will result in a forfeited first class.
  • If your dog does not meet prerequisites, private training is available to you

 

Join our mailing list for a notification when enrolment opens!


Paint Your Pet!

Next class: Check back Fall 2018!

For the first time, Scratch and Sniff Canine Services is hosting a Paint Your Pet workshop with the fabulous and versatile artist, Shannon Darch!

Spend an afternoon with other dog-lovers (and cat-lovers, and hamster-lovers, and fish-lovers…), painting a portrait of the animal you love most – your pet!

No artistic skill is required. Just send in a digital photo of your pet, and Shannon will be hard at work to create a beautiful sketch for you to complete in the workshop with the paints and tools provided.

Shannon will coach you in technique and other artistic decisions as you complete the painting.

Your choice of a cartoon-style, or a realistic rendering of your pet. See the gallery below for examples!

 

Shannon has been a professional artist, cartoonist, illustrator for over 25 years. She has created dog caricatures and portraits for clients across North America and a few in Europe. Shannon has done artistic work for some large dog companies like, Iams, Purina, Dogs in Canada, Superdogs, etc. as well as illustrating several children’s books. The Holly the Deaf Dalmatian series, The Davy Rule, and a few others.

Shannon started Paint Parties a year ago as a charity fundraiser and they’ve taken off! In her ‘other life’, Shannon is a dog trainer and works at a training school in Burlington, and performs with her dogs in WoofJocks Canine All-Stars.

Check out more of Shannon’s work and participant’s finished paintings through her Facebook Page and the gallery below! Registration at the bottom of the page.

Registration Info

You’ll be provided with a custom sketch of your pet, paint and supplies, artistic instruction and snacks.

This is a “people-only” event, thanks for leaving your pets at home! There will be snacks and refreshments provided. Refunds are not available for this event, double check your schedule prior to registration!

  1. Complete registration below and review your confirmation email
  2. Send a digital photo of your pet to the office at the absolute latest.
    • Photos should be in focus, well-lit and close-up. This is the image you’ll be painting!
    • For a cartoon painting: Send a clear head shot and full body profile
    • For a realistic painting: Send a clear, close up head shot.

Next class: Check back Fall 2018!


“My Dog is SO STUBBORN!”

How often do you think “My dog is so stubborn!”? Or maybe you hear that from friends and family. Usually we describe dogs as being “stubborn” when things don’t go our way or the dog doesn’t immediately do what we want him to do.

But is this really a helpful way of describing a pet’s behaviour?

“Stubbornness” is a character trait or temperament, and it is far more applicable to human behaviour rather than animal behaviour. In terms of developing a strategy to train your dog, it’s a dead end. When you think to yourself “my dog is so stubborn!,” just put down the leash, step away from the dog, and hit the drawing board to think through what is actually happening.

Confusion

Think back to a time when you were given instructions and were left feeling unsure of exactly what you were supposed to do. Or maybe you confidently proceeded to do what you thought you were instructed to do – only to find out that you had done it completely wrong! How helpful would it be if your instructor had blamed you and called you stubborn? If your dog doesn’t comply with your request, she may simply be confused about what you want from her.

Motivation

Behaviour always serves a functional purpose. This means that dogs always have a reason for what they do — even if you’re unsure of what that reason is. This might mean that your dog has a good reason not to comply with your instructions – and it’s your job to find out what is motivating that undesirable behaviour. Similarly, if you don’t provide any motivation for your dog to do what you ask, your dog is unlikely to comply.

Problems with motivation can also be linked back to confusion. Even if you’re using the best treats, you will find that your dog will stop working with you or even show problematic behaviour like barking or jumping if she’s confused. Confusion is an unpleasant feeling, and most of us want to avoid feeling that way. This may come across as your dog appearing “bored” or “stubborn.”

Health Issues

It’s not always obvious when a dog is feeling unwell. Many owners don’t consider that their dog’s problematic behaviour is caused by pain or another physical ailment because the ailment is not immediately apparent to them.

Consider the following: “My puppy can’t have a urinary tract infection. He can hold it all night and there’s no blood! He just gets mad at me and pees on the floor when I leave the house.” Or “I know my dog isn’t in pain because he doesn’t whine or yelp. He stops on walks because he’s stubborn.”

Medical problems in dogs very often show up as behavioural symptoms. Training can never fix a medical issue, but sometimes health care can fix a behavioural problem.

Sometimes feeling unwell isn’t as serious as an infection or pain. Sometimes a dog is hungry, tired or even just mentally fatigued. While most dogs always seem to be hungry, there is a difference between eating food because it’s delicious and eating food to relieve the discomfort of a growly stomach. Over-training can be a problem for some people (and their dogs). Working a dog for too long will result in mental fatigue, which can sometimes make an owner think that their dog suddenly doesn’t want to work, that she isn’t trying hard enough, or that she is “stubborn.”

Now that you know some of the reasons why your dog my appear to be acting stubborn, what can you do instead?

Find Out What Is Reinforcing to Your Dog

Think about motivators as a “pay scale.” Would you go to work if you didn’t paid? Even if you love your job, you still need to buy food, pay rent – and buy dog food. Your dog will have a similar pay scale when you’re asking her to do something that is otherwise not appealing to her.

Here are two things to keep in mind: First, have you used reinforcers that are valuable for your dog? Or are you asking your dog to do something without giving him a reason to do it? Second, what is motivating your dog to do the problematic behaviour? What is he getting out of doing that behaviour or, alternately, what unpleasant thing is he avoiding by doing that behaviour?

Learn About Body Language

Don’t jump to conclusions about how your dog is feeling or why she’s behaving a particular way. When you find yourself throwing around a label like “stubborn,” pause for a moment and think critically.

What body language are you seeing that makes you want to call your dog stubborn? Often, dogs who are showing appeasement behaviour are labelled “guilty.” (Dogs show appeasement behaviour to prevent aggression in the other person or dog by indicating “I am not a threat.”) Dogs who are highly stressed and lack social skills are often labelled “dominant.”

Owners sometimes grossly misinterpret their dog’s body language, leading them to mislabel their dog’s behaviour. As a result, they may take the wrong actions to solve the problem.

Control the Environment

You can control your dog’s behaviour by controlling the triggers that cause the problematic behaviour. For example, if your dog greets people crazily on the street, can you give him more space while you work on the problem? You and your dog will succeed more quickly if you tackle the problem while it’s still minor, rather than ignoring the early signs and throwing your dog into a situation he can’t cope with. If you can control your dog’s triggers, you’ll find that the “stubbornness” will dissipate.

Change Your Dog’s Emotional Response

“Stubborn” dogs are often experiencing lots of feelings that they don’t know how to handle. Misinterpreting this emotional state as the dog intentionally trying to get your goat is unhelpful at best, but it may actually escalate the problem. Your dog isn’t trying to give you a hard time; your dog is having a hard time. A little empathy can go a long way to helping you find a solution.

Seek Help

Seeking help from a qualified professional shouldn’t ever be a last-ditch effort. Find a positive reinforcement–based trainer to help you wade through your dog’s problematic behaviour to find a practical solution. Also, your veterinarian may be able to identify a health problem that could be contributing to behaviours that you may interpret as stubbornness.

Our dogs can be frustrating at times, but labelling a dog “stubborn” will never lead you to a solution to a behaviour problem. Leave the labels at the door and take a step back. Assess why your dog might be doing something, don’t disregard the potential of a health problem, and look closely at how your dog is feeling. Critique your assumptions about your dog, and you’ll have a much easier time actually fixing the problem!

Orientation Webinar

The Orientation Webinar is a free, no-obligation webinar that is open to everyone.

View as the prerequisite for group classes, a supplemental class for private training – or simply to see what we’re all about!

Register below to receive an email immediately with details and links to view, and you can get started in class immediately!

Get Started!

Register below by clicking on the bold date and receive full instructions via auto-email.  Contact the office if you don’t immediately see an email.


Note: The date noted is for admin purposes only. Select the bolded date and register to receive an email with full instructions on how to get started in class.

More Than Obedience

A young woman came to me with her German Shepherd, Wheels. At less than a year old, Wheels had already bitten a half dozen times, with increasing severity. Wheels’s owners called up her breeder to seek help and express concern at his behaviour. Her breeder told her, “Wheels just needs to learn to stay and heel, if you teach him better obedience he won’t bite.”

This ill-conceived advice is ineffective, at best. At worst, it’s downright dangerous.

Obedience training is like woodworking: taught properly, it’s enjoyable, enriching, and has some useful results (a pretty table leg, a dog who walks politely).

Behaviour modification is like therapy. The objective is to manage and resolve deep-seated issues like anxiety and depression. Carving a nice table leg is of minimal benefit!

Just as you wouldn’t sit down with your woodworking instructor to talk about past traumas and current struggles, dogs in need of behaviour modification work can’t fully benefit from obedience training. Wheels needed a very different approach.

Understanding the difference between behaviour modification and obedience lies in understanding the mechanisms through which animals learn. Consequences are critical to learning, but we often place too heavy an emphasis on them and don’t fully understand how they function. Consequences are defined by their results – in other words, if you attempt to punish a dog and the dog continues to do the behaviour you intend to stop, you’re not actually punishing the behaviour! Whatever you’re doing as “punishment” – shouting, collar corrections, pinning the dog – is likely scary or painful, yet the dog isn’t making the necessary correlation for it to be an actual punishment.

Obedience training is based heavily in consequences. Obedience training that is enriching and valuable for a dog is based in positive reinforcement, such as dispensing food or toys or providing access to something your dogs wants as a reward. There is no punishment. However obedience training’s value is limited by its specific focus on the dog’s behaviour – whether  to reinforce “good” behaviour or punish ”bad.”

Understanding how behaviour fulfills an emotional need is critical to assessing problem behaviours and assembling an appropriate training plan. All this rests primarily on how associations are formed and, most importantly, understanding this as a largely unconscious and uncontrollable process. Behaviour that is born of emotional turmoil is not behaviour the dog can easily control, and thus is not subject to “obedience training.”

This explains why Wheels can have excellent leash manners when walking down the street with no other dogs around, but when he sees a dog he barks, lunges, and drags his owner down the street and continues to do so even after the other dog is long gone.

Wheels is triggered to an uncomfortable emotional high by the sight of the other dog, and even after the dog is gone his sympathetic nervous system remains engaged in a “fight or flight” response. This leash pulling may look like an obedience issue, but really it’s a much deeper issue.

A woodworking instructor can help you detail your table leg just so, but she can’t help you overcome OCD or an addiction. Woodworking can also be an enjoyable hobby to help you de-stress, but it is not the root of a therapeutic approach. Obedience training can help an owner give their dog valuable structure, but it does not, in and of itself, resolve behaviour problems.

A behaviour consultant, just like a therapist, understands how behaviour is a reflection of an emotional state as well as the intricacies of how that emotional state is reflected in an animal’s behaviour. Just like a therapist recommending woodworking as a hobby, a behaviour consultant may use obedience trained with positive reinforcement as a secondary strategy to get to the emotional root of the problem, but that will not be the sum total of the training.

Rather than focusing on stay and heel with Wheels’s owner, we focused on developing his ability to emotionally self-regulate in the presence of dogs and implemented strategies to help him recover after the turmoil of encountering a dog, creating a relaxed, calm, and positive association, and cultivated a sense of safety. We didn’t punish any “bad” behaviour; instead we got to the root of the problem behaviour through changing Wheels’s emotional state and associations with other dogs.

 

Do you need help with your dog? Let us know!

Canine Tutoring

If you:

  • Are feeling over-whelmed by training responsibilities
  • Have more intention to train than time and energy to do it
  • Want to kick start your training, but need more support than coaching alone
  • Have a new puppy and are feeling over-whelmed by the pressure of socialization duties
  • Or maybe you just want your dog to learn new things and experience the enrichment of training while you’re at work!

… Canine Tutoring is right for you!

Also known as “Day Training” or “Walk and Train”, a certified professional trainer and behaviour consultant will work one-on-one with your dog while you’re at work, out with the kids or running errands. Transfer Sessions will keep you up-to-date and coach you on how to maintain and apply your dog’s new skills in day-to-day life.

Canine Tutoring can take place in your home, in parks, in your neighbourhood – where you need your dog to respond! A review of your concerns and goals will allow us to lay out a schedule that best suits the assessment.

Canine Tutoring can address:

  • Puppy needs, including socialization experiences
  • Manners and Obedience, such as pulling on leash, recall, general distractibility, learning basic obedience behaviours
  • Enrichment and “brain training” to give busy dogs a productive outlet

At this time, Canine Tutoring is not available for behaviour modification for issues of reactivity/aggression. Training for this type of issue is available through private behaviour coaching.

What Canine Tutoring IS:

  • A quicker route to the training results you want to see in your dog
  • A certified, professional trainer and behaviour consultant will work directly with your dog to help you reach your training goals
  • Giving a bulk of the leg work of training to a professional while you work on application and maintenance in day-to-day life
  • Transfer Sessions will teach you the skills your dog has already learned and are a critical aspect of keeping your training on track

What Canine Tutoring IS NOT:

  • It is not a dog walking, pet sitting or potty break service
    • Your dog will have opportunity to relieve him/herself, however scheduling will be based on trainer availability
  • It is not a total escape from all training responsibilities
  • It is not a suitable service for management-intensive or owner-directed problems (e.g. separation anxiety, owner-directed aggression, or management-based issues of housetraining, etc.) See Private Training and Behaviour Modification options.

How to Get Started

  1. Contact the office with your address (where your dog will be located for sessions) and an overview of your goals for Canine Tutoring.
  2. Review the Canine Tutoring Program Information Document and Contract and Fees Document.
  3. Complete the Intake Questionnaire. This link will take you to a Drop Box file where you can select a Pages or Word document to fill out.
  4. Book your Intake Session by emailing the officeThe fee from this session will act as a deposit toward the cost of the Canine Tutoring Package.

Contact the office if you have questions about whether the Canine Tutoring program will be a good fit for your needs. This service is available only to residents within Guelph city limits.

Which Program is Right For You?

Check out the information below, and view the Orientation Webinar – as your first class of a group program, a supplement to private sessions, or just to check us out.

Look at these testimonials from past students, and learn more about our unique and flexible class enrolment.

We’re MOVING November 1st! Our new location will be 340 Southgate Dr #3 Guelph.

I HAVE...PROGRAM SUGGESTION
I have a puppy LESS THAN 5moThe Puppy Socialization Program is right for you! We cover manners, obedience, and – most importantly – socialization activities to prepare your pup for a smooth transition into adulthood. The flexible class schedule allows you to mix’n’match your class days.

Those in the Puppy Program are eligible for a 20% discount on Private Training for the duration of their program.
I have a FRIENDLY dog over the age for puppy class The Life Skills Class is right for you! Manners and obedience, with a flexible curriculum that allows you to build on prior training or jump right into your first class. Prevent embarrassment from jumping on guests, teach the ever-important come-when-called, and more. The flexible class schedule allows you to mix’n’match your class days.

Do you prefer one-on-one instruction, or you have a very specific training goal? Private Training is the best route for you.
I know the basics, and want to do fun stuff with my dog! Check out our Specialty Classes. These classes are all about training for fun and enrichment - including Training for Distractions, Sniffer Dogs, Rally Obedience, the Brain Training Series and more. Keeping your dog's brain active is as important as keeping her body active, which means your dog can settle more easily and not make "her own fun"... we all know what THAT means...
My dog is fearful, aggressive or reactive toward DOGS Private Behaviour Consultations with a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant will get to the root of the issue and relieve you from embarrassing or even dangerous behaviour form your dog.

The Control Unleashed Group Program may be an option for dog-reactive dogs. Let’s talk and see if this program could be right for you!
My dog is fearful, aggressive or reactive toward PEOPLE A Private Behaviour Consultation with a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant is the route to go so we can pinpoint the issue and train in the locations that matter most. Minor problems can quickly grow into major problems, so let's get to work to ensure everyone's safety and comfort.
My dog is fearful of or aggressive toward me or my family Private Behaviour Consultations with a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant will allow us to keep everyone safe, and thoroughly assess and treat the underlying causes of your problem. Aggression toward family can be scary and hurtful, even when no one is physically hurt. Let's make your dog a loving part of the family again.

Don’t see your issue here? Contact the office and outline your concerns, we will help!