We Need to Talk About Behavioral Euthanasia

This is so very important! Please read it!!

The Cognitive Canine

We–those of us who love, live with, and/or work with dogs–will all face the euthanasia of a dog we adore at some point in our lives. Most of us will face it many, many times. Usually the dog on the other end of the needle is old, or sick, or both. But there is a type of euthanasia in which the dog dying might be physically healthy; perhaps even young and vibrant. This type is the behavioral kind; the choice to put a dog to death because his behavior makes him unfit for this human world of ours. Causing a dog’s death with intention is gut-wrenching and surreal, even when it is fair. I’ve held my old dogs in my arms as they died, knowing they’d lived fully and well, and still felt as though I was flayed and left dying myself. When Kelso’s vet ended his life I wished…

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Can You Reinforce a Dog’s Emotional State?

“Although rewarding a dog with attention can reinforce a behavior, it does not reinforce an emotion”

Wilde About Dogs

woman with dog

I recently received an email asking whether I had any books that addressed how to help a dog who was grieving. Since I don’t, I searched online to find an article that might be of help. What I found surprised me. Although there was solid advice, one of the recommendations in almost every article was to be careful so as not to inadvertently “reward the behavior” by giving the dog attention. Really? Hmm.Let’s see. As it happens, my best girlfriend’s mother just passed away. I will be spending the day with her today. I expect she will be sad, and that we will discuss things, and that I will comfort her, because that is what friends do. Now, of course dogs are not people and we can’t comfort them with words, but the emotions of loss and grief are the same, to whatever extent and however they are experienced by…

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Last Chance

Our next House Dog Obedience and House Dog Advanced with Rita Ippolito start Monday, October 24th @ 6:30pm and 7:30pm. These are six week classes and both meet for an hour each week. This is your last chance to fit in a session of classes before the holidays!!

Click on the link below to register.


Is avoiding correction:”withholding half of the information?”

This is an excellent blog post by Denise Fenzi on why corrections are unnecessary and counter productive.

Denise Fenzi

I often hear it said that avoiding correction is “withholding half of the information that dogs needs to succeed.”  The idea is that by telling the dog both when when they are right AND when they are wrong, that they can learn with more clarity, and therefore be happier dogs who understand exactly what we want from them.  You can define correction however you wish.

Is this true?

Not really.

If you teach a dog with clear criteria for success (what you want) then your dog will automatically learn what is wrong, and since being wrong is perfectly fine and is part of the learning process, there’s no reason to avoid it.

Let’s consider it more closely.

On a scale of -10 to +10, with -10 as the most awful thing that you can do to a dog and +10 as being the most amazing reward, what does a dog, or a human…

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the misunderstanding of time

Wow! Well said.

Nancy Tanner

When I am asked what is the biggest problem I see in dog training today, it is the same problem I saw  fourteen years ago, and thirty years ago, it is the misunderstanding of time.
It takes time to learn how to be a teacher to another species.
It takes time to learn how to learn from another species.
It takes time to build understanding.
It takes time to learn how to observe and how to apply what you observe.
It takes time to build a relationship with trust.
It takes time to get to know one another.
It takes time teach.
It takes an enormous amount of time to build skill on both ends of the leash.
It takes time to learn.
It take time to learn about humility.
It takes time to learn how to work together.
It takes time to learn about the things in training you…

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The Problems with Remote Collars

Brilliant and succinct explanation of how using remote collars is a a slippery slope.

Paws Abilities

There are many different training methods out there, and each has its pros and cons. Today, I want to talk specifically about the use of remote collars (also known as shock collars or e-collars).

Photo by Tate Viehmann Photo by Tate Viehmann

Today’s remote collars are a far cry from early versions. Many brands now have a very wide range of shocks (called “stimulations” by collar users), which can range from virtually unnoticeable to intensely painful. “Good” remote collar trainers use the collars primarily as negative reinforcement. What that means is that the dog learns to comply immediately in order to turn off a painful, uncomfortable, or annoying sensation. While this is a far cry from the early days of remote collar use, when dogs were hurt at high levels for noncompliance (a training technique called positive punishment, for you geeks out there), it’s still not a pleasant way to learn.

So, how would…

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101 Things NOT to do With a Box

Great article.

The Cognitive Canine

It’s a common conversation in my line of work, and it goes like this:

Student: “My dog is a (fill in the blank here, shut-down, crossover, fearful, anxious, etc.) dog and we just can’t get clicker training.”

Me: “Sounds challenging! I am happy to help. Tell me how you introduced clicker training.”

Student: “I loaded the clicker, and he seems to know that the click means food. But then I played 101 things to do with a box, and he never played. He just quit.”

The sad thing is that these people have done their homework. They have read the available information about introducing clicker training to their dogs. And they are still not getting anywhere. To say that is a big problem is an understatement.
For years people new to clicker training have been instructed to play the game “101 Things to do With a Box” to get their dogs…

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Is it time for the extinction of extinction?

I love this blog…just sayin’

The Science Dog

doghumangreeting7      dog-jumping-up      jumping on boy

Each of these photographs shows a dog jumping up on a person…..with the person appearing to be quite happy about the interaction. Yet, jumping up to greet is a frequently cited complaint that dog owners make to dog trainers. While I am sympathetic to owners’ frustrations,  the underlying cause for jumping up in most cases is simply a dog who is exuberantly saying “Hello! How are ya! How about some lovin?” And of course, a contributing cause is that, as seen above, we are frequently inconsistent in our responses; some of the time we enjoy it and encourage it, and in other circumstances (such as when Muffin knocks over Grandma or places muddy paws on a visitor’s white dress) we are not quite so happy about it.


Although trainers’ opinions certainly vary, my general…

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Dog Park People

OMG! I have had enough, too! Could not agree with you more! When speaking to my clients I also use caution when advising choosing daycare situations. One of my own dogs failed her daycare assessment and that was fine by me. Clearly she would not be comfortable in such an environment and I trusted the folks at the day care enough to expect and respect their honesty.

The Science Dog

Dog Parks are a relatively new cultural phenomenon, and have increased in both number and popularity over the last 15 years. It is an understatement to say that people are rather polarized in their views of dog parks. Advocates maintain that these designated areas provide invaluable opportunities for dogs to enjoy off-lead exercise, socialization and play with other dogs, and for owners to meet and befriend like-minded people in their communities.
Dog Park Comic 2


At the other end of the spectrum, critics argue that off-lead dog areas are often poorly managed and supervised and present unacceptable risks to dogs. These risks include aggressive (or predatory) attacks,  physical injuries caused by large groups of dogs running together, and the transmission of parasites and disease.

Dog Park Comic


Full disclosure: I should admit at the forefront that I am personally not a fan of dog parks. My reasons include all of the aforementioned plus the fact that I…

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out What it Means to Me—in Dog Training

THIS…read it.

Wilde About Dogs

recall part 2
A woman I know once told me, “I’d rather be feared than respected.” That was her honest opinion, whether it involved people or animals. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to share her view. Take the boss who threatens his employee that if he doesn’t have a report in by the end of the day he’s fired. Or the parent who threatens that if his son doesn’t clean his room he’ll slap him into next week. Sure, the report is likely to get done, and the room cleaned. But what kind of feelings do you think those acts create?

Of course there needs to be consequences for actions. In dog training, we talk about antecedent, behavior, and consequence. But there are way too many people who still subscribe to that old, timeworn philosophy that to get a dog to listen, you need to “show him who’s boss.” Look, it’s a…

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