“Rescue”…. there’s more to say


We need to write a whole new dictionary in regard to the industry of “rescue”.

For example:

retail rescue (noun)
-this activity describes a person or persons acquiring animals or reptiles to sell for profit.
-web presence in several venues to advertise animals for sale.

adoption event (noun)
-big box store hosting monthly sales to bring the public into the stores.
-it may encourage impulse purchase.
-replaces animal sales in retail stores.

donations (noun)
-asking for donations to start veterinary care for an animal that is sold as “fully vetted” and includes 6 weeks of Pet Insurance.

flight angel (noun)
-tourist adds a crated dog (or two) on their airline tickets.
-they are given “papers” and told what to declare at Customs.
-added cost for the tourist is a donation to the “rescue”.

flipper (noun)
-someone who sells the animal quickly
-may use transport hubs and parking lots to transfer the animals to buyer.

foster to adopt (verb)
-a label used to make the buyer of an animal feel safe in the “adoption contract”.
-they act as free housing for an appointed time with first dibs to purchase.

kill shelter (noun)
-usually said to exist “elsewhere” or overseas; has emotional impact and urgency.

non-profit society (noun)
-claim to be a registered NP.

wholesaler (noun)
-the person finds animals to sell via shelter, mills, backyard breeders, oops litters.
-may purchase stock from other countries.

Excellent information found at:

It’s important to be an informed consumer… for the animals!


Some tips when considering adopting through BC rescue societies

  1. Many are NOT registered non-profit societies or charities.
  2. Many are individuals acquiring and selling dogs.
  3. Many import dogs from other countries (Korea, Mexico, USA, Iran, Puerto Rico).
  4. Many say they have protocols in place to approve your application.
  5. Many ask that you e-transfer funds to a personal email address.
  6. Many do not provide veterinary paperwork but you can use “their vet”.
  7. Many offer “foster to adopt” criteria.
  8. Many do not offer post-sales support (health, behaviour, etc.)
  9. Many have social media presence but the ONLY way to contact is via Messenger.
  10. Many ask to meet you at a location to give you the dog. (parking lot of pet store or vet clinic)

So let’s cover the individual items:

  1. A registered non-profit or charity may indicate that the society has a board of directors. All are liable for decisions made as a whole. Both NPs and charities have to answer to the government with bylaws, name/addresses of directors and financial statements. You can check canada.ca for charity listing and you can call the Province of BC to see if a group is registered as a non-profit.
  2. Some declare they’ve been doing “rescue” since 2018 which should be a red flag that this is an individual getting and selling product. (the dogs) They have no website but you see dozens of pictures of available dogs on the Facebook page.
  3. To import a dog from another country as a commercial venture they must have a permit. If your dog arrives via an “Escort Angel”  know that this avoids the permit process. The sad story mangey dog you saw in a picture can’t be imported in poor health according to Dept. of Ag’s regulations.
  4. Many state that after they receive your application, they will do an interview, a home visit, and check references. If they skip it because they think you’re “a good person”, then know that they skip other things like permits, vet care and transparency.
  5. Making a donation or paying for a dog using e-transfer to a personal email address should be a huge red flag. Ethical rescue societies keep financials separate.
  6. If you have not received veterinary paperwork to show care with the excuse “oh it’s coming!” prepare yourself that you may never see paperwork.
  7. What is “foster to adopt”? At one time it was a time frame for the dog to decompress and get to learn the household routine. Now, for some, it is a way to stash dogs for free and then demand payment.
  8. Got the dog, paid the fee??… and then you have a question or concern?  be prepared for silence. Seriously!
  9. Some groups have ALL your information yet the only way to contact them is by Messenger? hmmmm
  10. You’ve seen the picture of a cute dog with a sad story; you’ve sent in the application and been approved!!! (interview, homevisit, ref checks??) You may be told that your dog is arriving two weeks from now… and because of how many dogs are arriving, you will have to come to a pickup point or they will meet you somewhere…. WAIT!!!!

People want to add a companion animal to their homes and when the social media opportunity is available, it’s easy to forget common sense. Good breeders will want to meet you and have you meet puppies and parents to gauge the meeting and see how you interact. Shelters will encourage that you spend some time with the dog on a walk or in a visiting room. They will tell you everything they know about the dog. You likely won’t get a dog on the same day in either case.

A retail rescue may say the dog is 3 years old but it’s really 8 years old. They say a dog is good with other dogs or cats… but it isn’t. It’s a healthy dog! but it’s blind and deaf and has separation anxiety.  Your messages are not returned and your dream dog is a bit of a behavioural and financial nightmare. They won’t take back your dog because there is no foster home system in place. What do you do?


  1. Federal Government for Charity status
  2. BC Government
  3. Better Business Bureau
  4. The Media



Many people…


As trainers we meet many people. Like doctors at a cocktail party, we entertain many questions about our profession.

Last week, my colleague shared with me a journey she is having with a student. Not that it is right or wrong but the student started a training course with another person and was taught to correct behaviour with leash pops. This is a nagging, no-info exercise that may lead to a fearful dog’s shutdown… and that is what happened.

I witnessed the student taking my colleague aside to speak privately.

The exchange, I am told by my colleague, was emotional. Prior to this class, the student was losing hope that her fearful dog could ever live a happy life without reacting. She thanked my colleague for opening up a new window of understanding by showing her that her dog was growing in confidence by attending such a fun and kind class.

There is no secret to this kind of success. When a “being” is in a content and relaxed state, it can learn. I struggle with the human construct that humans must dominate and command for obedience.

I’m looking forward to the next class with my dog because fun and kind is the best way to learn. Many people agree.

Ron Gaunt



It is with great personal sorrow that I share Ron’s passing on December 30, 2017.

He was a mentor and a friend to me. He was an advocate when we needed further clarification in training or wandering the maze of personalities.

He was a stellar guest who would share amazing life stories and profess his deep love for his family and dogs.

He had a fascinating way of eating… studying food as an ally to his nutritional health with visual and olfactory inspections. Workshop hosts prepared for his seminars by having hot, dark coffee always available. He did not suffer fools gladly and spent no additional words when he knew they would be wasted.  He was a man of faith.

His influence and knowledge have touched thousands of lives… firstly for the dogs and by ashes, for the handlers who acquiesced to watch and learn.

We will always be thankful for the “Ron-isms”… those gems that illuminated understanding.

Joans nose class pictures day 2 077

Thank you for the journey, my friend. Edge and I will miss you.

Let’s talk about research!


I recently attended the CNCA-NACSW Joint Educational conference in San Diego, CA with other K9 Nose Work® fans, I was delighted that two scientists were invited to speak at the conference and share their current research with the room.

The first was Alex Rygg, PhD whose presentation was “The Anatomy and Fluid Dynamics of Canine Olfaction”. Dr. Rygg used static pictures and videos of high resolution MRI scans to provide a 3-dimensional model of the canine nasal cavity.

Some of what we learned:

  • In comparison to chemical detectors, dogs can find odour to the tune of 1 part per trillion
  • Rabbits, rats and dogs have a similar nose physiology and show how the nose is relaxed on the intake of air and is flared on the output of air which affects air flow.
  • Dogs smell in stereo.
  • All breeds are equally good using their noses… but brachycephalic breeds may have an advantage with their olfactory receptors being closer to the nose.
  • Humans don’t have an olfactory recess.

This research included the creation of a flow meter attached to a muzzle as it was important to measure flow rate between breeds. Oscillation was similar across seven (7) breeds but quantity of air varied.

Most research was done using canine cadavers.

On the second day, Andrea Tompkins PhD from Auburn U spoke on “Neuroscience of Canine Vision and Olfaction”. With the presentation using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), she shared the research done with canines regarding dog-human bond and dog olfactory capabilities.

There are four (4) laboratories in the world collecting data and exchanging information with each other to produce ongoing and future research. The data is presented in terms of contrast to yield activation regions… meaning they observed which parts of the brain were activated during the tests.

Dogs chosen for the research were mostly dogs bred for training in the service dog industry. They were trained with hand signals to remain still during MRI scans AT THE SAME TIME, reacting to stimulus.

Some of what we learned:

  • Dogs have a special area in the brain for human faces!
  • Lexical processing were similar in humans and dogs however, for dogs words and intonation need to match.
  • Zinc enhanced olfaction.
  • Four distinct areas of the canine brain reacted during introduction of odour.

The science of odour and working with canines is specific. We can observe and we can speculate on what we see during a search, however we need to be cautious with making statements about canine performance that have human labels.

Let your dog be your professor… and the science will come.

Pick the right pay cheque!


I’ve been reading recently, on social media, frequent requests for reward ideas. For some, they need input for toys for a shy dog; for others, they request ideas for hard chewers or things to teach a retrieve.

My answer to these requests is: Ask the Dog!

Food rewards are likely the easiest things to observe. It takes little engagement for a pooch to gulp down a yummy treat. Toys can be more of challenge as the dog may associate YOU with the toy. The ball is only exciting when you are throwing it. You can be less tolerant of a squeaky toy because of the noise… and oftentimes remove it.

A student claimed that her dog’s
favourite food reward was cat kibble
but when there was a choice between
cat kibble and roast chicken,
the dog was eager to work for the roast chicken
without a backward look to the kibble.

Many students come to class with their dog’s dinner kibble because they “always eat it!” and what they often discover is that the activity of learning requires a higher value of reward than the norm.

If your dog does not have food allergies or a nutritional condition to avoid certain foods, your choices will be abundant. If your dog needs special consideration, you can still make choices based on what your dog tells you from a smaller selection.

There is an ebb and flow to high value rewards. Too much of a good thing can lose its lustre. Too little and the dog can wander off to more exciting things.

You will need to do some research.

I discovered that one of my dogs is thrilled with green beans as a reward and I found this out after he stripped the bushes of all ripe beans. His choice for green beans may not last forever as high value rewards can lose their élan with regular use. Tomorrow or next week, it could easily be baby carrots or packaged treats.

  • Think about 5 food rewards your dog loves.
  • Think about 5 toy rewards your dog loves.
  • Then test your theory of favourites.

Revisit your list often and your dog will know you are paying attention!


Moments of Clarity


During our journeys with our dogs, there are moments of clarity. For example, those times when your training sparks with communication. You say “sit!” and the dog sits. There are also those moments when you cue “sit!” and the dog starts sniffing the area and moving away.

I’ve met many delightful dogs in my journey of offering classes. This dog is unlike any other dog and I can’t quite put my finger on what I’m seeing.

During a recent class teaching K9 Nose Work®, I watched this dog go through the searches in his own way. I could tell he located odour but resisted stopping to smell the article. His handler tried to get him “back into the game” but his oppositional reflex was so strong, he found a blade of grass to leave his mark.

“So there!!!” he communicated as he trotted away.

We’re flexible so we adjusted the hides to be noseworthy AND visual. We immediately had more success. The dog dragged the handler across the parking lot to the search area. This dog, who never takes food from a stranger’s hand, gobbled it from my fingers and it was a food at which he normally turns up his nose. These moments made us laugh with delight and relax. And there was our moment of clarity.

Today I received this email from the owner:

good evening Donna

Just thought id share I think you would appreciate. As you know, Rocky can be fickle about eating. I know he feels content and happy when he eats his dinner without sneeking up on it, stalking it or turning his nose up at it and leaving it. When Rocky has had fun and got some energy out of him like when he  gets a good run and has fun in the park, long 1hr walks or all day hikes, a day at the beach and after class.  Today he was content and happy and ate all his food like any other dog…he gobbled it up and didnt hesitate! He worked hard today, he is content and happy and so I am happy. Remembering what the point is for class, to have fun, is the goal. All other goals are secondary. To rocky I can see he is happy and content and fulfilled. This is really my first most important goal for us both in this course, the reason for taking the course! This is what I learned today in class.

The dog had fun!

Keep sniffing and be the reflection.