Dog training methods circle again!


The internet is a wonderful way to find information quickly and efficiently. You can find the closest gas station or the best price on milk. You can look up contraindications of medications. You can order just about anything online and have it delivered. Thank goodness for the internet when you lose a recipe and company is coming!

Opinions are everywhere. References for services are rare, but some consider vital, in information searches.

If a water pipe bursts and I need a plumber, I likely won’t be too happy if the person who shows up has no tools and hasn’t earned the journeyman’s ticket.

Dog training is neither managed or legislated. Experience and skills should not be taking a back seat when finding a trainer… but it does. Some say certification is just a piece of paper but it’s my opinion that it is the basic line of knowledge to be applied hands-on.

  • Someone might suggest removing a flat collar and use a prong collar. (A prong collar is fitted to the dog so any pressure on the leash and the dog experiences pressure, and possibly pain, on the neck.)
  • Someone might suggest removing a prong collar and learning to use a clicker. (A clicker marks a desired behaviour with a promise of a reward.) 

Does aversive training work? YES it does.

We see it daily in our everyday lives. You get a ticket for speeding or running a red light. The fine is “painful” enough that you avoid speeding or running red lights… for a while. Does the fine eliminate the behaviour? NO.  The next day you speed and get another fine… likely more money than the first. So the first fine doesn’t eliminate your speeding and the second is more painful to your wallet. Have either fines eliminated your behaviour? NO.
Does your behaviour have fallout?

Does positive reinforcement training work? YES it does.

Does anyone remember the gold stars given by a teacher? Given in recognition of good effort, it is a reward. 
Does your behaviour have fallout?

The ABCs of behaviour can be explained by understanding:

  • A (antecedent): what occurred to bring on the behaviour?
  • B (behaviour): what behaviour is observed?
  • C (consequence) what are the consequences for the observed behaviour?


I would suggest that folks looking for a dog trainer, do some research.

  • Read reviews and ask to audit a class.
  • Ask for experience, skills and knowledge.  (You should expect to pay for those three things.)
  • Keep open communication with the trainer so your understanding grows and they can adjust their presentations if necessary. Trainers write curriculums and feedback is important.

Ask questions! my colleagues and I are happy to answer valid questions about methods and expectations. If a trainer says they are certified, ask if they STILL hold certification… because losing those papers can be for many reasons. If certification was removed, ask why!

If you read unbelievable statements on a website, they are likely un-believable.

Hug your dogs!



Reflections on 2020


Like a runaway train, March 15 was the first day of cancellations that affected RPS in 2020. The pandemic grew and continues to grow internationally as we prepare to say goodbye to a year like no other.

I reflect back on the advice given (and urged!) by the health authorities. We were safe until we were not. The influx of the Covid-19 virus didn’t move from east to west but came from the south and overseas from Asia. Canada closed the north-south border as a way to protect the citizens.

* * * * *

When the border closure was declared I recognized how those who screamed “I am essential”, continued to cross the US border and import dogs. Thousands of dogs. Dozens of BC brokers selling dogs from Mexico, California and Korea to people in BC. Sold online to those who submitted a well written application. Brokers entered the US to pick up dogs, trucked north from Mexico, at Washington state locations and immediately sold the dogs in BC parking lots of government agencies, local schools and veterinary clinics.

No government agency responded. Videos show dogs coming out of the back of rental trucks and put into buyer’s vehicles. Some dogs held up at Customs because of forged paperwork. Some dogs show signs of Parvo, Lepto and Kennel Cough days after buyers took them home. Some dogs are unsocialized and have serious behaviours. Caveat Emptor.

* * * * *

I reflect on the numbers of dogs imported and the revenue made by individuals. The number of dog training calls increased and my colleagues and I heard complaints of bites, fearfulness, dog and human aggression and health issues. Abandoned by the brokers, buyers were forced to euthanize or rehome.

I reflect on the world in turmoil. I am more aware of entitlement, historical fights and political comedy.

I reflect on personal growth. I enrolled in many online courses with international canine scientists. The common theme was applied behaviour analysis and working together to change the industry.

I reflect on time. How best laid plans grind to a halt. How procrastination lengthens like morning shadows on autumn days. How patience is tested… and tested again with lineups to buy essential items and the weariness that comes from the impatient. A year in life is not to be squandered and yet the pandemic slowed the beat of the days and increased the length of naps.

I reflect on the challenges… the unexpected expenses and the government deceit.

Survival of 2020 and knowing that the reflection is a gift.


Too much time contemplating things.
  • Wondering how Canadian dog brokers are still given free back and forth access to the US with no self-isolation during a pandemic.
  • Wondering why dog brokers are essential service when the already sold “import dogs” are finding their way into Canadian shelters… because the dog was not as advertised. This isn’t animal welfare.
  • Wondering how the broker can import 20 dogs, meet the buyers — in public places — who usually show up in family groups and have pictures taken without masks or social distancing.
  • Wondering why the public is so blind to this industry… willing to PRE-buy a live sentient being by a picture, a sad story and be content with questionable transports… when they would normally research a plumber more!
  • Wondering how the dog broker’s financials look to Canada Revenue Agency.
Wondering why FB people support this vile industry and debate what are “good” and “bad” brokers when they both use the same protocols of finding and selling “stock”. The same people scream at breeders yet support foreign puppy mills.
Wondering… and challenging you to wonder too.
#speakforanimals #stopthedogbrokers #contactMPs

Covid-19 and a season of carpetbaggers


Dear Friends

Many of you own canine companions. You understand how canines improve your quality of life.

Some of you wish to add a canine to your home. So you go on a well intentioned search to find a dog… you have a list of “needs” and anticipations are high.

“Good with children”

“House trained”

“Not a (fill in the blank) breed”

Through social media you come across a “rescue” with lots of pictures of dogs who are available for adoption. The bios mention age, sex, breed and ALWAYS a sad, sad story of why the dog is being saved. Dogs’ origin mentions other countries and an army of volunteers who SAVE these dogs from certain death.


Yes there ARE good people saving dogs from dismal circumstances. But there are far more people who are cogs of an industry where dogs are commodities for sale. The suppliers can be roadside shelters who take in all dogs whether they are relinquished, stolen or stray. The dogs may be part of the puppy mill industry. The network includes buyers and transporters who may or may not use an umbrella of Charity status to appear as doing the best animal welfare. The prices to buy a dog are (ahem) high.

“You cannot tell the wheat from the chaff” to quote my farming grandfather.

So how does someone know they are dealing with a group who is doing the best animal welfare? The public needs to grab their magnifying glasses and a big bowl of common sense to knuckle down and do some dirty, sweaty research.

“Who orders a dog online and pays a stranger for it by etransfer?”

When the “rescue” has a very public social media presence and then goes underground… ask why?
When a buyer shares health concerns and the “rescue” says it’s just kennel cough… ask why?
When the “rescue” publicly curses, shames people with questions, threatens people with concerns over vet care… ask why?
When the person is only concerned with themselves… ask why?
When the “rescue” demands that you must take the dog to their vet (yet sold the dog to you in another city!)… ask why?

When you don’t know the last name of the person selling you the dog… ask why?
When you are asked to pick up the dog in a parking lot at night… ask why?
When the person tells you to remove neuter stitches… ask why?
When the sales contract is one page with no specifics to protect you and the dog… ask why?
When the dog comes with no or simple “vet papers”… ask why?
When the shipment of dogs is delayed at the border because they didn’t have paperwork… ask why?

When the person ignores international border rules and Health Guidelines during a pandemic… RUN!!!


The Journey of Two


Back in 2009 I was wandering around the web and came across a video of dogs doing a new sport called “nosework”. I was fascinated. I looked for more info and discovered that there would be a seminar held in WA state in January 2010. I contacted the host and asked if a “5 month old puppy would be allowed”. The answer was yes so I registered for the seminar and made my way south to Woodinville WA.

This seminar was led by Ron Gaunt with whom I later spent many seminars…. learning and questioning and hearing “it depends”.

I spent 4 years taking classes in WA state and when a trial was offered within a day’s drive, I entered. This first trial required that I take an Odour Recognition Test which I found in Lake Oswego, OR. It was a 7 hr drive for a 01:27 min test after which we happily jumped in the car and drove another 7 hour trip home.

I invested in a Nexus pass so border crossing was more efficient and quickly learned that I was noted in their computer…. sometimes crossing quickly with “on your way” and other times, being questioned about dogs, dog food, equipment and length of stays. A favourite crossing was when Ron Gaunt was in the passenger seat. Not knowing of his high level of “security clearance” I was slack-jawed as I witnessed salutes, heel clicks, “sir, yes SIR!” on that trip. For a year afterwards I quickly crossed the border with nods.

Edge&I2011The first trial is a bit of a blur except to say it was held at an armoury where dogs and handlers wove in between military parades, the arrival of the general by helicopter and lawn ornaments of life-like coyotes. At the awards ceremony they called my name over and over to come get speed ribbons and our title ribbon. What a “piece of cake!” I thought. Future trials were never that easy as the searches were more complex and a challenge of nature.

What fun it was to accompany friends to trials. Volunteering and competing, the awards ceremonies were a special time to cheer each other on. Until the stats were tallied, we didn’t know who would win the ribbons or take home the coveted title ribbons. It was a time of excitement and cheering while friends retrieved their ribbons and had their pictures taken. Nosework friends came together to practice, to travel to events and learn from detection experts.

Now years later and a good amount of whining about NOT getting into trials, we struck gold and found ourselves in three consecutive competitions. Familiar faces of friends with their wonderful seasoned companions or new, spunky canines excited to find “stink” and we delighted ourselves in sharing stories and encouragement in the parking lots.

The Stats (minimum)
35 trials ($127 USD avg = $4445 USD)
15425km (9584 m) and approx 260 driving hrs.

Classes taken
31930km (19840m) over 4 yrs. $1200 USD
Classes given
19220km (11943m)

4464km (2773m) minimum $2700 USD

I dedicate the ELT-CH title to my dog Edge! who is the best partner and teacher. Side by side. PRICELESS!

And to Ron Gaunt… with deepest affection and respect!




“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.
-encourages 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”.
-they act as mules in the industry.

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.
-if registered with government authority there is no public review of financial statements.


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 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.