So here's a challenge - in 2012 our site host (Yola) decided not to maintain blogging capability any  more.  So our old blogs are below but we couldn't add any new ones.  So we started a new blog at a different website.

The new blog "Ask Ms. Behaviour" is at Tumblr  http://dogfriendship.tumblr.com/) - the new posts show up here but look MUCH better on Tumblr...and you can subscribe to the blog by email so you get new entries delivered straight to your mailbox.  So just click the link and get the full-feature version.

You can also see the same blog material if you're a WordPress user at: http://askmsbehaviour.wordpress.com/

Ask Ms. Behaviour

Dog Friendship Inc. - dog training in Guelph, ON, Canada

5 Tips and 3 Seconds to Good Dog Greetings

If you have a dog , you have no doubt had a time when your dog had to meet another dog they did not know – on or off leash.

Here are a few key tips to help you manage those sometimes butt-sniffingly awkward moments:

1. Because your dog is great with other dogs, do not expect all other dos to get along with yours – the chemistry may not be right! 

2. Always ask the other caregiver for permission to make an introduction.  Watch out for yellow ribbons on the other dog’s leash or collar – that is generally a sign that the other dog’s caregiver wants them not to meet for medical, behavioural or other reasons.  Dog walkers, for example, may be concerned with liability.  For more on yellow ribbons as warnings, check out www.theyellowdogproject.com)

3. When you are calm and comfortable, make sure that you approach with a loose leash.  If the leashes start to tangle as the dogs circle, drop your leash and then pick it up from the ground.

4. If you are meeting a new person, if your handshake lasts for over three seconds they may start to think you are a creepy cling-on.  Three seconds is also the maximum time an initial dog-dog greeting could be expected to last without one dog getting grumpy and starting to give “get away, you creep” signals (from stiffness to growls or bites).  Count 1-thousand-and-1, 1-thousand-and-2 and then get your dog’s attention and walk away as you count 1-thousand-and-3.  Of course, if there is growling or rudeness (jumping on the other dog or barking) then walk away immediately.  Do not let a problem get worse.

5. If the other dog comes in straight towards your dog with a hard-eyed stare, just turn away and don’t let the meeting happen.  Watch the tail – if either dog has a stiff tail, tucked tail or if the very tip of the stiff tail is wagging to the left, then bail on the greeting.  That means too much tension is present for thing to go well.  You are looking for a relaxed, curvy posture with loose wagging tails, loose ears and relaxed mouths.

If the initial greeting went well and you are walking away after the 3 second mark, invite the other dog and caregiver to walk with you.  Usually any significant issues between two dogs are best worked out when walking as a pack in distracting surroundings.  

Posted 168 weeks ago

Why Won’t My Dog Listen to Me?

I spend a lot of time in training classes trying to help caregivers build strong connections with their dogs.  What seems to make a critical difference in this process is how much of their attention the caregivers are willing to invest with their pups.  It is a completely human need to connect with other people in the classroom around us and touch base with folks we have not seen in a week or so.  And I love seeing the community connections getting made when two caregivers decide they want their pups to have play-dates together, or someone says “ hey, you said you had a tough week last week - how did this week go?”.

That kind of connection makes my heart dance!  Where sometimes this kind of person-relatedness can be difficult in dog training classes is if connecting with people takes ALL or almost all of the attention away from the dog. 

If I take two caregivers, similar dogs:

- one is chatting to others but keeping an eye on their pup and treating occasionally for great attention on them

- the other is chatting away and completely ignoring their dog…

it is almost a sure bet which person is going to end up having a better connection with Fido.  The one that gives their dog their attention.

It’s the same connection that people talk about moms having with their kids.  Do you remember that famous saying that “mom has eyes in the back of her head”.  Because often, mom knew exactly what the kids were up to…even if the kids didn’t think they were being attended to.  The great dog caregivers in my classes seem to have that same awareness of what their dog is doing.

Of course it is true that sometimes your dog does not listen to you because you have punished them every time they did listen.  When “come Fido” really means “come here and let me slap a leash on you because play is over”, then Fido really won’t respond as quickly the next time. 

A lot of the time, though, having a great connection with your best friend - who wants to listen to you - is a lot easier if you are willing to invest in paying positive attention.  Attention nurtures relationships. 

Posted 169 weeks ago


Stores selling to dog parents have large numbers of inexpensive harnesses. This is good news as a harness is a great choice if you need to add more control during walks.  It is especially good news if you are a small dog owner as harnesses lower the risk of damage to your dog’s eyes and trachea.  
But not every harness is a great choice.  There’s a reason sled dogs use a back clip harness…it encourages pulling!  You see, dogs have four legs and when they pull even slightly against a back-clip harness, it slightly lifts their front legs off the ground.  Their natural reaction – called the oppositional reflex – is to pull harder to get their front legs back on the ground and balance themselves.

A harness with a front connector helps to reduce pulling when used correctly, turning the dog back around to face the person holding the leash when the dog pulls.  Dogs seem to dislike the front clip harness LESS than a nose halter, and although there are some downsides you and your canine companion will be happier.  The downside can be that poorly fitted harnesses can be easy to slip out of or cause discomfort, poor muscle development or even shoulder injury with prolonged wear.

So I suggest clients only use the harness while they are training a better loose leash walk – or your dog learned to pull at an early age and will revert to pulling when “over the top excited”.  In that case, a front clip harness or nose halter are my go-to pieces of equipment.

Here are the three harnesses in the order I recommend them to my clients:

1. The Freedom No-Pull Harness <- a great choice!

This is my favorite harness at the moment – and I find it a wonderful choice for most breeds (their sizes are very good).

• They have both front and back clip for when you want to use a double leash
• The bottom strap is of a softer material to reduce rubbing on your dog’s legs
• It doesn’t slip off the front like the Easy Walk.
• It sits in a better position on the dog’s shoulders.

I carry a selection of them for sale because they are hard to FIND in Canada - but that’s is NOT why I am recommending them.  I just knew if I asked my clients to have to order ONLINE from the U.S. that they might balk at the idea - especially with the current value of the Canadian dollar!

Manufacturer website: www.2houndsdesign.com

2. SENSE-ation Harness

This is my second choice. It is a well-built and comfortable front-clip harness.

• It has only a front clip
• The front does not sit as well on the shoulders

What I don’t like about the SENSE-ation harness:
• Front clip only

Manufacturer website: www.softouchconcepts.com/index.php/product-53/sense-ation-harness

3. The Easy Walk Harness

This is my last choice when it comes to a harness. Particularly because the sellers also sell anti-bark shock collars and electric fencing systems (if you’re interested, ask me why I don’t like these). 

What I do like:

• Front clip harness
• Inexpensive
• Available in many pet stores

What I don’t like about the Easy Walk:

• It slips off the front of the dog and often needs a couple of stitches in the webbing to keep the buckles from loosening
• Material is a bit rough and can rub
• Constricts the shoulders and may cause longer-term damage

If you use an Easy Walk, I suggest you connect your leash to both the dog’s collar and the Easy Walk connector. This keeps the front from drooping and provides extra security if the dog tries to slip out.

Manufacturer website: http://intl.petsafe.net/en-ca

Posted 170 weeks ago

Is My Dog Trainer Certified - Or Any Good?

There can be lots of letters after your prospective dog trainer’s name:
AAB CTB  CDT.CCS  CDBC    ABCDT   CPDT   CBCC   IAAB     IPDTA-CDT - these are but a few.  How do you know what they mean and what to look for in a certified dog training professional?

You may want to look at the list below and check out what these “letters” mean when you’re trying to decide who to trust to work with you and your dog.

Historically, dog behaviour professionals and dog trainers tended to get qualified in one of two ways – they apprenticed with someone who did dog training and behaviour work or they learned dog training in the police force.  Formal degrees and certifications either did exist or weren’t widely advertised.

Currently, you have a mix of trainers who have those “multiple letters” after their names – people who learned from other trainers (worked in animal shelters or competed their dogs in sports), some who have degrees in animal behaviour from universities, others who have taken correspondence programs or short one or two day courses and some – by simply paying a membership fee.  

There is no required or mandatory certification or license needed to be a professional dog trainer or dog behaviour specialist in Ontario.  

Because multiple certifications are allowed and there is no provincial dog trainer licensing system you must do you homework and “buyer beware”.  In fact, here’s a link to a great article by dog writer Eileen Anderson, describing why trainers using outdated clients still have people who believe in their methods.

No doubt professionals with the letters on their business cards are likely hoping that the certification will reassure you and imply they are qualified.  And certifications can show you’re dealing with someone who has studied and worked with dogs for many years and has been independently examined on their knowledge and skills.  Some of the letters after your potential trainer’s name may simply indicate they are a member of a industry trade association or group of like-minded friends.  

They also might indicate the professional is a vet (DVM) who may (or may not) have had training in dog behaviour.   Regardless of vet behaviour expertise, it’s really important to have your vet as part of your dog care team – to look at the whole of your dog (a holistic or “whole” view that looks at their physical and emotional health as both areas are related and influence each other).

This review of qualifications should help you be aware of the background of your trusted dog professional.  It is quite long! 

If you find any inaccuracies, please understand that the article was carefully researched and was accurate to my knowledge at the date of publication although mistakes may have happened. I am happy to post updates as I learn about changes to certification and correct mistakes, so please share new information as it becomes available so I can update the list.


Member’s Acronym

Full Name


Animal Behavior Management Alliance


The Animal Behavior Society


Association for Pet Dog Trainers


Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers


Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers


International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants


International Association of Canine Professionals


International Positive Dog Training Association


National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors



Full Name

Owner of Certification

Certification Requirements


Associate CAAB

Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist

The Animal Behavior Society

Must have a Master’s or Ph.D. degree in a behavioral science with specific courses in animal learning, and ethology (behavior) from a university. Earning a DVM or VMD, with advanced training in animal behaviour also allows certification.


Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists  (professional organization of veterinarians who have achieved board-certification in the specialty of Veterinary Behavior)

Veterinary degree and two additional years of coursework, but especially hands-on training with a board-certified veterinarian



Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (covers all species including dog)

Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

A minimum of 3 years and 1500 hours in animal behavior consulting; 500 hours minimum of coursework, seminars and mentorship related to the core areas of competency; the ability to communicate clearly through written work and case studies, and demonstrable knowledge of all 6 Core Areas of Competency. Veterinary Behaviorists and ACAABs and CAABs are granted membership with the submission of three (3) applicable case studies





Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Certified Behavior Consultant Canine – Knowledge Assessed

Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers

5 years of training experience plus a passing score on a national well-respected exam administered by an independent testing agency (may add – Knowledge Assessed when completed practical work of over 300 hours and exam)


Certified Clinical Behavior Consultant

Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour

Must be currently-active practitioners with extensive clinical experience who demonstrate that they possess appropriate skills, knowledge and abilities - including an Honours or higher degree in a relevant subject, appropriate specialist courses, and at least three years of regular clinical experience.


Certified Dog Trainer (may add Advanced)

International Association of Canine Professionals

Written exam including case studies and client/colleague references, practical evaluation via video, being a CDT for one year, having 5 years experience for advanced certification.


Certificate in Training and Counselling

San Francisco SPCA Dog Training Academy

Six-week program on-site in San Francisco


Animal Behaviour College Certified Dog Trainer

Animal Behavior College

 (private school)

Correspondence courses


Canine Correspondence Studies

Norma Jeanne Laurette  (private school)

Correspondence courses as of Mar, 2010 .  Must also pass written exam with a minimum 90% score and successfully complete the practical requirements

Certificate or Diploma - CBST, CF, CN, DDC, DT, PDTST, SRW

Certificates in:

- Canine Behavior Sciences and Technology

- Canine Fitness

- Canine Nutrition

- Dog Daycare

- Dog Training

- Professional Dog Training Science and Technology

- Shelter and Rescue Work

Companion Animal Sciences Institute

Correspondence courses


International Positive Dog Training Association – Certified Dog Trainer

International Positive Dog Training Association

A minimum of 100 hours training experience including at least 50% of the experience as a private dog trainer and/or classroom instructor.

References from each of the following; an animal health care professional, a client and another dog trainer, agree to Code of Conduct.  Must also pass written exam with a minimum 90% score and successfully complete the practical requirements.


American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator

American Kennel Club

Must be at least 18 years of age.

Have at least 2 years of experience working with owners and their dogs

Have experience working with a variety of breeds and sizes of dogs.  Application evaluated, online test, $50 for two-year certification.

NADOI  Endorsed/Provisional

/E - Certified
/C - Companion
/N - Novice
/O - Open
/U - Utility
/P - Puppy
/T - Tracking
/A - Agility
/L - Lifetime Member
/R - Retired Member

Endorsed member of NADOI

National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors

At least five years’ experience in dog obedience training, two years as a full-charge instructor, worked with a minimum of 100 dogs, group instructors must have taught at least 104 class hours; private instructors 288 hours, written test which may be supplemented by personal interviews, observation, or a video (DVD or Online) which the applicant may be asked to provide, added certifications require, 52 weeks of instructing experience at the level of the sought-after certification

CAP1, 2, 3, 4

Clicker Trainer - Competency Assessed Program Levels 1 – 4

Kay Laurence – England

In person assessment by previously certified trainer (prices unpublished)


Certified Trick Dog Instructor

Kyra Sundance – author and DVDs - Do More With Your Dog! (private school)

(prices not published)


Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner

Karen Pryor – US originator of clicker training) (private school) and her Karen Pryor Academy

Correspondence online and online certification exam, 10-day in person workshop, about $5000


Victoria Stillwell Positive Dog Trainer

Positively Dog Training – US  (Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” TV host) (private school)

Be a practicing positive-methods, dominance-avoiding trainer with insurance and purchase a licence (price unpublished) after a one-hour interview, evaluation


Brad Pattison Certified Training Educators

Brad Pattison – Canada (BC) (TV host of “At the End of My Leash”) Hustle Up School of Dog Training treat and talking-free (private school)

3 days/week for 6 weeks, 30% theory, 70% outdoor practice, privately-administered exam, once a year conference attendance to recertify (prices unpublished)


Professional Dog Trainers Program

Ben Kerson – Canada (BC)

(private school)

7 hours per day, 5 days per week for 12 weeks with evening classes for 4 weeks during the program which run for an additional 2 hours, work with 35 dogs minimum for practical experience (prices unpublished).


Pat Miller Certified Trainer

Pat Miller’s Peaceable Paws (private school)

Several levels of intern/apprenticeship, e.g. Level 1 – 6 days in-house, about $1600

CF1 & CF2

Certified Freestyle Instructor

Canine Freestyle Federation

(non-profit incorporated firm)

Details available by contacting CFF,


Certified Nose Work Instructor

National Association of Canine Scent Work

Classroom coursework taught by one or more of the founders, application of key concepts in practice groups and classes, on-going training of a dog in K9 Nose Work through the advanced level, emphasis on positive experience

M.Sc. or Ph.D. –  Companion animals, lab animals, livestock and wildlife(MS)

UBC’s Department of Animal Science courses in animal behaviour and management

University of British Columbia

See University calendar for individual course tuitions and pre-requisites.

Link to list of American universities and colleges offering certified applies animal behaviour courses: http://www.certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com/school.html

Posted 183 weeks ago

Feeding Raw

Ontario vets are pretty much required to discourage feeding raw, and yet the practice is growing and many of our clients feed raw. 

Clients have told me that they feel big companies are just filling their foods with cheap, poor quality fillers with little nutritional value (usually they mention grains), that there have been recalls for ingredients that are contaminated, or the foods are contaminated with - for example - salmonella.  They tell me that they don’t trust the high temperature cooking manufacturers use, that they believe raw keeps more natural nutrients in foods and is better for a dog’s teeth.  They tell me they want to support small, local companies and use less packaging. 

Here at Dog Friendship we can completely understand wanting to feed your beloved dog the best food you can – and hopefully avoid long-term illness from poor quality nutrition.

At the same time, vets note that feeding raw has some problems - for example, cooking dog food kills pathogens like the salmonella seems fairly common in chicken these days.  If your dog eats raw salmonella-laden chicken, it can then shed that pathogen into the environment, making living around this dog dangerous for children, the elderly, pregnant people and people with compromised immune systems.  This concern also applies to raw meat treats that many people give their pets whether or not feeding raw - things like pigs ears and bully sticks.  Vets also mention that some puppies and dogs are not getting all the nutrients they need from raw food - so they are seeing more problems with bone formation (osteodystrophy) in puppies and hyperparathyroidism (a nasty disease where a tumour on the thyroid starts a build-up of calcium in the dog’s system).  Finally, they note that raw meat-based diets that contain bones can pose a risk of intestinal obstruction or perforation or can break a dog’s teeth.

Did we mention that at Dog Friendship we support feeding dogs the best food an owner can – and avoiding long-term illness from poor quality nutrition??? 

As a person working with dog behaviour, I also know that in some cases, aggressive dogs who are fed a raw diet can become even  more “hyped up” because often these foods are high in protein.

So what do we suggest at Dog Friendship when advising our puppy clients on what to feed their dogs?  We suggest they use the best food they can, avoiding raw if there are around people with compromised immune systems.  And, if they intend to feed raw, to make sure they are using recipes or a brand that is nutritionally balanced (hint - feeding just raw chicken backs is not balanced)!  Here are a few good books listed by Whole Dog Journal: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/news/Great-Books-On-Homeade-Dog-Foods-20219-1.html.  Also, be sure to take any transition period from kibble to raw carefully, dogs may experience the runs and their poop will likely change consistency.


Finley R, Reid-Smith R, Weese JS (March 2006). “Human health implications of Salmonella-contaminated natural pet treats and raw pet food”. Clin Infect Dis. 42: 686–691.

Freeman LM, Chandler ML, Hamper BA, et al. (2013) Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 243:1549-1558.

Freeman, Lisa; Kathryn E. Michel (2001-03-01). “Evaluation of raw food diets for dogs”. JAVMA 218: 705–709.

Hendriks, W.H.; M.M.A. Emmens, B. Trass, J.R. Pluske (1999). “Heat Processing Changes the Protein Quality of Canned Cat Foods as Measured with a Rat Bioassay” (PDF). J. Anim. Sci. 77: 669–676.

Joffe DJ, Schlesinger DP (2002). “Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets”. Can Vet J. 43: 441–442.

Morris, Audrey; Audia Barnett, Olive-Jean Burrows (2004). “Effect of Processing on Nutrient Content of Foods” (PDF). Cajanus 37: 160–164.

Schlesinger DP, Joffe DJ. (2011) Raw food diets in companion animals: a critical review. Can Vet J 52:50–54.

Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)Weese JS, Rousseau J, Arroyo L (2005). “Bacteriological evaluation of commercial canine and feline raw diets”. Can Vet J. 46: 513–516

Posted 236 weeks ago

Do ThunderShirts and Wraps Work?

Caregivers of dogs with behaviour issues – including dogs with stereotypical behaviour patterns, separation anxiety or highly anxious dogs who often react strongly to loud noises like fireworks and thunderstorms  – are often told by trainers and marketers to use a anti-anxiety wrap (for example a tight T-shirt or tensor bandage) or commercial wraps such as the ThunderShirt ™ to help their animal cope with their stressors.

So is there evidence these wraps actually work or not – or perhaps is there something else at play? 

The initial suggestion that pressure might help dogs with behaviour issues came from research into how humans respond to touch.  This makes sense because like humans, dogs are mammals and have many of the same sensory systems.  And it makes intuitive sense to the dog owner whose dog has leaned into their leg when anxious or responded by leaning into petting or massage.  We know that contact with a living being is critical for the normal development of children (as well as young rats and monkeys) and a lack of touch and contact significantly changes how youngsters deprived of contact relate to their peers later in life – and we know that friendly contact such as a hug can cause the ‘huggee’ to release endorphins such as oxytocin that increase feelings of well-being, relieve pain and reduce self-reported symptoms of depression and compulsive disorders.  There is not a clear consensus on whether it reduces anxiety in people although people with autism have self-reported feeling at ease when experiencing pressure from inanimate objects. (1, 2, 3, 4).  The beautiful thing about touch as therapy is that it is usually a non-invasive procedure that is safe and – at worst – will likely do no harm (although of course wraps need to be carefully monitored while being worn and there is always a chance that an animal will react badly to being wrapped and panic as if they were being tackled by a predator).

There are a few challenges in trying to figure out if the benefits of touch extend to dogs.  One is, of course, that dogs cannot tell us how they are feeling when they are touched.  The other challenge is that it is not clear whether a dog gets the same benefit from being touched by a ‘thing’ vs. another dog or even a human.  It is possible that touch only makes a dog feel better when it comes from another being or is part of an overall amount of ‘caring’ received (for more on caring or treatment as a placebo effect see http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/the-placebo-phenomenon).  There also is no data on whether having a dog’s caregiver believe something is working is enough to cause a place effect in a dog!

There are, however, a few studies that have tried to look objectively at anxiety wraps and have tried see if they actually have a direct effect.   The first set of studies had very small sample sizes:

  • In 2003 three aggressive Great Danes were individually restrained in large wooden boxes and 275 kg of oats were poured over them so they were standing completely immobilized with their head and necks uncovered.  Each of the dogs were then exposed to something they would react badly to.  It was noticed that the dog’s aggressive behaviours decreased while they were being restrained to the point they seemed calm (5).

The next set of two studies was based on how owners reported their dogs appeared to respond:

  • In 2009, 23 dogs afraid of thunder were tested using a clothing product with an antistatic lining called the Storm Defender.  They found that dogs wearing the Defender (AND a placebo Storm Defender without the antistatic lining) showed an over 60% reduction in anxiety score by the fourth use of the product with 70% of the owners reporting some improvement in their dogs over time (6).
  •  In 2013 the folks at Tufts had 18 people report how their dog was doing after applying a ThunderShirt.  Significantly more owners reported that the ThunderShirt reduced panting and shaking in their dogs than those that reported no effect.    Yet this still could be the dog’s caregiver wanting something to work and looking for evidence it does (a real phenomenon called ‘confirmation bias’) (7). 

Most recently in August, 2014 a study tried to understand what 90 dogs with separation or generalized anxiety were experiencing using both video analysis of behaviour and heart rate monitoring in x dogs.  The dogs were divided into three groups (wrap with pressure, no wrap and wrap without pressure).  While it was hard to get a good read using the behaviour data (because some dogs were already being given medication to treat their issues), the study did show a significantly small increase in heart rate when using the wrap with pressure, along with slightly less likelihood of looking toward the door for their owner, fewer loose stools and a trend toward reduced yawing and tongue flicking (behaviours said to be associated with negative stress). The authors also made a point of noting that they did NOT test the shirt for thunderphobia specifically (8).

So it appears as if the evidence is slowly growing and suggests that using pressure from an inanimate object may well help a dog with ‘issues’.  And, while most folks say “it cannot hurt” to use a wrap there a still downsides.  One is that the wraps can be slightly challenging to put on or fit correctly.  Of course, cost is an issue for some, leading to creative solutions like using a child’s tight T-shirt.  A key downside is that dog caregivers may make or buy and use a wrap and see enough of a reduction in symptoms that they think the dog is ‘better and fixed’ and not continue with treatment to actually solve the root problem. 

As a trainer, have met several dog caregivers who said they had “solved their dog’s fear”’ by using a ThunderShirt and yet, when asked, noted that their dog still hid and trembled during storms.  This indicates that the dog’s underlying fear and anxiety has still not been resolved and that the dog may STILL be suffering.  As one pundit put it – this would truly be the example of putting a Band-Aid on an infected sore to mask the visible symptoms without curing the underlying infection.  For these dogs, trying behaviour modification and systematic desensitization or anti-anxiety medications might provide them with increased relief and improve their welfare. 

So – bottom line – based on the current scientific evidence I would encourage trainers and caregivers to use wraps and the ThunderShirt as ONE tool in their toolkit that can help reduce a dog’s symptoms….while they continue to use other tools to eliminate the root causes of the dog's fear or anxiety. 

Have you used wraps for helping a fearful, anxious dog?


  1. Fields, T.M. (1998).  Touch Therapy Effects on Development.  Intl Journal of Behavioral Development 1998 22: 779-797.
  2. Haans, A. and IJsselsteijn, W., (2006). Mediated social touch: a review of current research and future directions. Virtual Reality 9(2-3): 149–159.
  3. Field, T., (2010). Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: A review. Developmental Review 30: 367–383.
  4. Grandin, T., (1992). Calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology 2(1): 63-72.
  5. Williams, N.G., Borchelt, P.L., Sollers, J.J., Gasper, P.W., Thayer, J.F., (2003). Ambulatory monitoring of cardiovascular responses during behavioral modification of an aggressive dog. Biomed. Sci. Instrum. 39, 214-219.
  6. Cottam, N., Dodman, N.H., (2009). Comparison of the effectiveness of a purported anti-static cape (the Storm Defender) vs. a placebo cape in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia as assessed by owners’ reports. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 119, 78-84.
  7. Cottam, N., Dodman, N., Ha, J., (2013) The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia: An open-label trial.  Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(3), 154-161.
  8. King, C., Buffington, L., Smith, T., Grandin, T. (2014). The effect of a pressure wrap (ThunderShirt) on heart rate and behavior in canines diagnosed with anxiety disorder.  Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, In press.
Posted 243 weeks ago

Common Sense Dog Training

I always find it interesting when I see someone do something that I would usually try to avoid doing.  “Don’t they know better?” I sometimes wonder (not out loud thankfully) “it’s just common sense”.  I’ve managed to insert a filter into that type of thinking in the last few years - and it helps me avoid being judgemental (a huge flaw that gets in the way of how relating to people and dogs).

I remind myself that “common sense” can be determined by a math equation that looks like this: 

(LWE+TK+FA) x SS = Common Sense 

OK, not really.  There’s no specific numbers that can be plugged into the formula, or a standard average per person **or DOG**.

Yet thinking about common sense in this way helps you remember that it is composed of:

  • LWE=Life and Work Experience
  • TK=Training and Knowledge
  • FA=Focus and Attention
  • SS = Surrounding Structure

Increasing or decreasing any one of the variables (like LWE or TK) has a significant impact on common sense. So let’s see how this might work for a dog handler and their dog.

Life and Work Experience:   People learning new things have “fragile” skills - most people today grow up in urban areas and many do not have pets or even animals they know.  As a trainer, I’ve been fortunate enough to have lots of experience with animals.  Remembering this helps me realize it’s not just common sense when – for example - new dog handlers do not  know their new puppy does not have the social skills and ability needed to keep themselves safe in a crowded dog park.

Training and Knowledge: Imagine if I gave you a partially knitted sweater, needles and a basket of wool - but not instructions.  Unless you are an accomplished knitter, you probably would not be able to finish the job.  YouTube and online training articles might help, but there is no substitute for being shown in person while you learn just how to knit.  In dog training, it takes time to learn how to train - including how to hold a clicker or manage a scared dog – and it also takes time to learn what you are doing wrong!  In the same way, the dog needs time to learn what a signal means or that “this” is the environment in which they are allowed to sit on the couch.

Focus and Attention: Dogs have been shown to be capable of responding to human body language and verbal commands to a degree that has equaled, or in some cases topped the skills of  the closest primate relatives to humans – chimpanzees (2).  Because they are like us, it is probably assume that both humans and dogs have off days - when they feel sick or their sleep was disturbed.  On off days, no person or dog’s attention is fully present…regardless of their best efforts.  These are the days that trainers need to “read” their dog’s focus and perhaps choose lower-skill tasks for that day so they can stay attentive.  Because of their keen senses of smell and hearing, dogs are often easily distracted, have trouble maintaining focus for long durations or keeping a focus at great distances.  As Stan Coren noted in his recent Psychology Today blog post about dogs (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201407/self-control-in-dogs-is-limited-resource), self-control may be the key to this focus – dogs who have recently used lots of self-control may be easily distracted afterwards.

Surrounding Structure: This last multiplying factor in the Common Sense equation is the level of safety and the structure of the environment around the person or dog.  This structure supplements the personal factors (LWE+TK+FA) relating to Common Sense. The surrounding structure includes capable and “present in the moment” dog handlers, a lack of drama in the environment (from family arguments to dog-dog aggression) and a regular program of training for the dog so they understand “now is for learning”.

So here’s my challenge to myself – to keep this equation even more present in my mind at times when I might be tempted to judgementally think “where is your common sense”.  And my question for you is, when have you had times when Common Sense was totally ignored in working with dogs and which factors could you see that contributed to the problem???


1.  Dickerson, Bill (2011).  Where to Find Common Sense.  Blog posting on www.safetysmart.com.

 2. Reviews on dog social cognition:

 Hare, B and Tomasello, M. (2005). Human-like social skills in dogs? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 439–444. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2005.07.003.

Miklósi, A., Topál, J. And Csányi, V. (2007).  Big thoughts in small brains? Dogs as a model for understanding human social cognition. Neuroreport , 18, 467–471. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e3280287aae.

Udell, M., Dorey, N. And Wynne, C. (2008). Wolves outperform dogs in following human social cues.

Animal Behaviour, 76, 1767–1773. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.07.028.

Posted 248 weeks ago

Should my dog go to daycare?

So you have a busy lifestyle and your dog is spending more time at home than you like.  Or you’re worried about the extra pounds pup packed on this winter when it was really too icy and cold to walk daily.  And you have seen the local ads that suggest a dog daycare might be the way to go.  Is now a good time to enrol your canine buddy in the equivalent to a children’s daycare center?

Daycares suggest they offer social play, exercise, mental stimulation and some supervision…and as a bonus will let you drop off pup before work and pick up afterwards.  And indeed, articles on daycare have quotes vets like E’Lise Christensen, DVM, and board-certified veterinary behaviorist in New York, who noted that “For healthy, active, social dogs, daycare can be a great outlet for getting exercise and social enrichment.”  It is true that dogs are descended from pack animals and were never built for life alone (that’s why they hang out with us).

At the same time, dogs didn’t evolve to play all day, all the time, either!   A tired dog is not always happy - just like a person who just wrote an exam they did badly on may be exhausted but not overjoyed. Dogs most enjoy playing with one buddy at a time and studies have shown most play is done is between two dogs only (1) (2) and usually between a male and female dog who are friendly (3).

 Play that is well-supervised, fun and in smaller groups is probably the best bet for your dog.  Staff at the daycare should be well-trained (preferably certified dog trainers themselves) and offer intervention when dogs in their groups are giving each other a hard time.  Groups should be made up of dogs roughly the same size and age as well - a grumpy arthritic senior lab may not be delighted by the attentions of a Yorkie puppy who keeps jumping on their sore hip.  It’s also important your dog has the option whether to play, relax or just have some private time.  It has been reported by some of the folks we have dealt with that their dogs became MORE aggressive in daycare.

Unfortunately, doggie daycares are not regulated in Ontario.  Bring your daycare's daily play and rest schedules, handling techniques, procedures for introducing new dogs to the group, criteria that determine how dogs are grouped, handler-to-dog ratios, access to outdoor space and staff first-aid training information (or as much as you can get) to Dog Friendship Inc.’s trainers and we’ll help you understand whether daycare is right for your particular dog.  Your dog may do better with a long walk with a dog walker or some of the in-house training games we can provide to tire their brain. 


(1) Adler, Carina, et al. 2011. Social play behavior of group-housed domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). J. Vet. Behav. Vol. 6, 98.

(2) Horowitz, Alexandra. 2009. Attention to attention in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) dyadic play. Anim. Cog. Vol. 12, 107–118.

(3) Trisko, R.K., 2011. Dominance, egalitarianism and friendship at a dog daycare facility. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses .

Posted 257 weeks ago

I reward my dog by petting them!

It’s a comment we hear a lot when talking with our clients about how to reward their dogs.  And yet a recent study in the May/June issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (excuse the American “no u” spelling) shows that dogs care about where they are petted and probably do not like some types of petting at all (and likely prefer food to petting) (1) (2).  Twenty-eight dogs had nine types of touch done to them by a person (like petting the dog’s shoulder, under the neck or head, petting and holding the lying dog on the ground, holding the dog's  front paw, scratching at the base of the tail, holding the collar and covering the dog’s muzzle with a hand).  The dogs were videotaped and observers watched for five categories of response (freezing, withdrawal, redirected and social approach behavior, displacement and appeasement).  How the dog’s heart rate changed and heart-rate variability (how much each beat was different from the others) was also measured at the same time.  Dogs found some types of petting and holding fairly disturbing (around the head and neck - especially the top, by the front paw)  and generally seemed more comfortable being petted mainly at the chest, under the chin or the base of the tail.  So if you are planning to reward your dog with touch, take care where the touch is.  This also explains why at Dog Friendship we spend lots of time in puppy classes making sure that puppies associated collar grabs and head touches with tasty treats - so later in life they respond more positively when they are touched in this way. 

If you’re a science buff, you can check out the original articles at:

(1) Kuhne, F., Hößler, J., Struwe, R., 2014. Behavioral and cardiac responses by dogs to physical human–dog contact. J Vet Behav 9, 93-97 doi: http://dx.doi.org.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/10.1016/j.jveb.2014.02.006.

It was also nice to see Hanno Wurbel’s input, Hanno met with our lead trainer last year!

(2) Feuerbacher, E., Wynne, C. D. L. (2014), Most domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer food to petting: population, context, and schedule effects in concurrent choice. J Exper Analysis Behav, 101: 385–405. doi: 10.1002/jeab.81

Posted 258 weeks ago

Showing Tag: " freezing" (Show all posts)

Booties Aren't For Cold - But For Salt

Posted by Dog Friendship on Friday, January 20, 2012, In : dogs in winter 
Good news for folks whose dogs don't keep boots on their feet easily -- often you may not need them.  

Dog feet are rather like penguin's beaks - they stay warm in freezing temperatures because of the unique way they circulate blood.  

An article from Japan in Veterinary Determatology confirms that dogs have an intricate network of blood vessels in their feet that keep warm blood flowing in their paws even in cold climates (though they don't specify how cold.)  They found that because the arter...
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Blog posts are generally written by our lead trainer, Helen Prinold.  While original posts on a topic may have an older date, here at Dog Friendship we are dedicated to keeping the information up-to-date as new info is available.  If you see anything in a post that needs updating, use the contact us form to let us know. 

So here's a challenge - our site host (Yola) has decided not to maintain blogging capability any  more.  So our old blogs are below and happy tagged and archived but we can't add any more.

 new blog "Ask Ms. Behaviour" is at Tumblr (posts still show up on this page, but are not tagged, and look MUCH better at http://dogfriendship.tumblr.com/). 

You can also see the same blog material if you're a WordPress user at: http://askmsbehaviour.wordpress.com/