Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

"One of my favourite books and I love this excerpt from it. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. We have it available for purchase in the store and to borrow from our library. I have been thinking about this whole concept a lot lately, and just how much better life would be for dogs if humans took the time to understand them and look at things from their perspective as well"

Imagine you live on a planet where the dominant species is far more intellectually sophisticated than human beings but often keeps humans as companion animals. They are called the Gorns. They communicate with each other via a complex combination of telepathy, eye movements and high-pitched squeaks, all completely unintelligible and unlearnable by humans, whose brains are prepared for verbal language acquisition only. What humans sometimes learn is the meaning of individual sounds by repeated association with things of relevance to them. The Gorns and humans bond strongly but there are many Gorn rules which humans must try to assimilate with limited information and usually high stakes.

You are one of the lucky humans who lives with the Gorns in their dwelling. Many other humans are chained to small cabanas in the yard. They have become so socially starved that they cannot control their emotions when a Gorn goes near them. Because of this behaviour, the Gorns agree that they could never be House-Humans. They are too excitable.

The dwelling you share with your Gorn family is filled with numerous water-filled porcelain bowls, complete with flushers. Everytime you try to urinate in one, though, any nearby Gorn attacks you. You learn to only use the toilet when there are no Gorns present. Sometimes they come home and stuff your head down the toilet for no apparent reason. You hate this and start sucking up to the Gorns when they come home to try to stave this off, but they view this as increasing evidence of your guilt of some unknown act.

You are also punished for watching videos, reading certain books, talking to other human beings, eating pizza or cheesecake, writing letters. These are all considered behavior problems by the Gorns. To avoid going crazy, once again you wait until they are not around to try doing anything you wish to do. While they are around, you sit quietly, staring straight ahead. Because they witness this good behaviour you are so obviously capable of, they attribute to "spite" they video watching and other transgressions which occur when you are along. Obviously you resent being left alone, they figure. You are walked several times a day and left crossword puzzle book to do (you have never used them because you hate crosswords; the Gorns think you're ignoring them out of revenge).

Worst of all, you like them. They are, after all, often nice to you. But when you smile at them, they punish you, likewise for shaking hands. If you apologize, they punish you again. You have not seen another human since you were a small child. When you see one on the street you are curious, excited and sometimes afraid. You really don't know how to act. So, the Gorn you live with keeps you away from other humans. Your social skills never develop.

Finally, you are brought to "training" school. A large part of the training consists of having your air briefly cut off by a metal chain around your neck. They are sure you understand every squeak and telepathic communication they make because sometimes you seem to get it right. You are guessing and hate the training. You feel pretty stressed out a lot of the time. One day, you see a Gorn approaching with the training collar in hand. You have PMS, a sore neck, and you just don't feel up to the baffling coercion about to ensue. You tell them in your sternest voice to please leave you alone and go away. The Gorns are shocked by this unprovoked aggressive behaviour. They thought you had a good temperament.

They put you in one of their vehicles and take you for a drive. You watch the attractive planetary landscape going by and wonder where you are going. The vehicle stops, you are led into a building filled with the smell of human sweat and excrement. Humans are everywhere in small cages. Some are nervous, some depressed, most watch the goings on from their prisons. Your Gorns, with whom you have lived your entire life, hand you over to strangers who drag you to a small room. You are terrified and yell to your Gorn family to help you. They turn and walk out the door of the building. You are held down and given a lethal injection. It is, after all, the humane way to do it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

We should brush our dog's teeth regularly and it can be a bit frustrating for both us and our dogs to start. You will want to ensure that you take the time to positively introduce this so that it can be stress free for both of you. I recommend that you first start by having your dog comfortable while you handle their mouth (you should do this for overall handling, not just their mouths). To do this, follow the below steps:

  1. Stroke the dog and give them a treat for being calm.
  2. If they become excited and start mouthing, use a treat as a distraction to start.
  3. Start on their back, move down their tail and under the belly. Touch their legs and move down to their paws.
  4. Touch the top of their head and their ears, moving to touch around their mouths.
  5. Do each body part multiple times ensuring your dog is calm and accepting the touch.
  6. Then start picking up paws, looking in ears and opening their mouth while rewarding.
  7. Add more pressure and prolong each touch while rewarding.
  8. If at any time your dog becomes fussy, go back to where you last as success and slowly build up.
  9. Keep the sessions short and positive. Quit when your dog has complied, for even just a few moments, and slowly increase the length of your sessions. Reward the dog immensely for all cooperation.

Once your dog is comfortable with having their mouths handled, you can begin to introduce brushing their teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specific for dogs – you should never use a human product. The toothpaste is flavoured, so that dogs actually enjoy it. Before putting the toothbrush to your dog’s mouth, let them investigate the brush for a minute, allowing them to lick the toothpaste. At this point all you are trying to do is introduce the toothbrush, the toothpaste and the experience itself to your dog.

At first, start to lightly brush a few front teeth and even a couple back teeth. Do this in short sessions, every day to get the dog comfortable with having the toothbrush in their mouth. Stay calm and praise your dog throughout each session. Ensure you do not push the dog to get fussy or irritated – keep each session as short as your dog needs. It is also beneficial for the dog to understand a sit or down to help keep them settled during the session. Once your dog is comfortable with the toothbrush, follow the below steps to brush their teeth:

  1. Have your dog in a sit or a down at your side, ensuring they are comfortable and settled.
  2. To ensure you can see clearly, lift the dog’s lip up. Start at the back of the mouth at the top back teeth, and brush your dog’s teeth just as you would your own. Ensure you are gentle and calm, and make sure to go right from the gum line down to the bottom of the tooth, in a circular motion.
  3. Continuing with the top teeth, move along by brushing the rest of the back side teeth, then the front teeth, and then the other side. You do not need to worry about the inside of the dog’s teeth.
  4. Once the top teeth are done, repeat the process on the dog’s bottom teeth. Don’t brush too hard because you can damage the dog’s gums and cause bleeding if you do.
  5. While you are brushing your dog’s teeth, look at them to check for any visible tartar buildup, damaged or chipped teeth, inflamed gums, dark spots or other issues you may have to bring to your vet’s attention.

Good dental care and healthy teeth go a long way in keeping your dog happy and healthy!


Monday, 24 August 2015 00:00

love dogs


No Experience Required: The Dangers to our Pets

Do you love dogs and dream of working with them? What would you like to be? A dog walker? A dog daycare attendant? A groomer? A pet sitter? A dog trainer? An animal rescuer? You are in luck. You can start any of these businesses with zero experience and you can call yourself an expert. How do you become an expert? All you need is a love of dogs and be a natural with them. Seems like a good deal doesn’t it? It may be great for the thousands of individuals who do this, but it is dangerous for our pets and we need to protect them. We can no longer allow the physical injuries, stress, emotional turmoil, behavioural set backs and even deaths that are occurring as a result of this.


The pet service industry is not regulated. This means that anyone can call themselves a professional. However, there are growing groups who self-regulate and gain the recommended education, certifications and experience to ensure they are providing the absolute best in care for the animal(s) they are responsible for. They invest in themselves and their team and consider education a priority for their work. And these same people work beside a whole other group who are not certified, or are certified through an organization that requires minimal knowledge and sometimes zero hands on experience. And each of them can call themselves an expert.


As a business owner, I feel that all too often I need to stay quiet about what is really happening within our industry. It is viewed as unprofessional, callous or that we are just pointing fingers to take each other down. I’ve been working on this for almost a decade. I built up a business based on a set of standards to see a change within our industry. I don’t want others to cease their business operations, but rather, make the right decisions and gain the proper education to ensure we are not causing damages to the animals in our care. I want to see the entire industry elevate and provide the proper care and handling to our pets. I have witnessed the dog owning public educating themselves over the past decade and asking for more from those who call themselves professionals. It’s time we understand what a lack of education and training is really doing to our dogs. Let’s work together to help them, keep them happy and social and do everything to ensure we are not causing the physical and emotional injury that is currently prevalent within the pet care industry. There are many amazing pet care providers out there who have built their businesses around the principles that ensure your pet’s emotional and physical well-being. This post will be a collaboration on why it is so important that whoever you hire to interact with your pet understands how they communicate and to handle them without causing fear or stress.


Dog Daycare

Would it bother you to learn that dogs have died at facilities in Calgary? And that there are serious injuries occurring regularly? Does it make you more upset to learn that all of these were preventable? Yes, injuries will happen in daycare and are not 100% percent preventable, but there are some important business decisions that ensure any serious injuries are avoided, and small injuries should be very occasional, not the norm.


There are no certifications for daycare, but it is something we will be introducing this year. There are however, many ways for daycare owners, operators and staff to gain the education in dog behaviour. This should be mandatory in all facilities. Only a trained professional can adequately assess and monitor a dog’s behaviour to ensure daycare is appropriate for them and that their play is safe. Dogs should be grouped with no more than 12 dogs per group and be supervised 100% of the time by trained individuals. Dogs need to be segregated into appropriate groups. Large ‘open concept’ style facilities will increase the risk of injury as well as be detrimental to a dog’s behavioural well-being. It is common for 20 and up to 50 dogs to be housed together with only one team member supervising them. This set up makes it impossible to monitor all of the dogs and will ensure there are more dog fights and more stress amongst the dogs. The fallout from this for the dogs is high. If your dog begins to show behaviour concerns, it is directly related to this set up. It takes a highly socialized confident dog to cope in these environments, and there are very few dogs who match this profile.


Dog Training

I cannot imagine how confusing the dog training world must be for an owner. Everyone claims to be an expert, there are way too many certifications out there and too many methods on how to train. The vet and animal behaviour professional associations have outlined what to look for in a trainer, and this is what should be mandatory for anyone to call themselves a professional. My friend, and exceptional trainer, Kirsten Rose of Canine Minds and Manners graciously provided her input on the dog training part of the pet care industry.


"I look at myself as an animal care provider because for me teaching a dog to live confidently in a human world is just as important to their lives as husbandry and medical care. For a dog who is uncomfortable in human society the world can be a terrifying place and they can make bad decisions as a result of their fear and discomfort. For such an important aspect of a dog's life why then are the very people who are hired to help dogs and their people go safely through life, completely unregulated?


You can Google dog training and any number of businesses come up, all claiming to be the best with this certification or that one, so which one do you choose? Do you know what a CPDT is, or how about a Master Trainer, a KPA-CTP? These are all certifications available in the dog training world and they mean different things, different types of training. It is critical for the safety and understanding of the public that we as an industry have a governing body that regulates the type of training, certifications and qualifications of our members. This way the people who are looking for assistance with their animals can be confident in the skills and experience of the trainer they are hiring.


We have chosen to have our trainers and volunteers complete the certification through the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers. This does not guarantee a certain type of training but it does provide a standard that is valuable to me in that I know what has been taught and I believe it to be a good foundation for the student. As a business owner and mentor trainer it is now up to me to mould that raw knowledge into a highly skilled professional trainer. In addition each of our volunteers and trainers works directly with either my partner or myself during a training period and then continues to work with a senior certified trainer for a period of no less than 2 years. In this way we are self regulating and bringing up the standards of the industry as a whole. As professionals we owe an exceptionally high duty of care to our clients and as a part of that duty we owe it to the public and ourselves to opt for a regulatory body that governs us in the same way as any other group of professionals."



Majority of groomers are certified, but they do not learn about canine communication and handling. Many rush to get through the work, ignoring or unaware when the dog is feeling uncomfortable and stressed. This is likely to have an adverse effect on the dogs overall behaviour and causes unnecessary stress. Nikki Triggs is the owner of The Wag Inc., which is located in our Killarney location and she has built her business through an open door policy and welcomes clients to observe them during her work. Anyone can walk into her salon and discuss and observe the staff grooming dogs. Nikki is not about how many dogs she can fit into a day, but focuses on the time required for each dog to ensure they are comfortable and happy with the grooming. And this is not an easy job. Many dogs are nervous, have had previous negative grooming experiences and owners and workers want the job done fast.


Nikki understands that the time spent keeping the dog comfortable in the beginning creates a stress free environment for both the groomer and dog. She is a certified groomer and is always learning from others. She works closely with the dogma team and helps us with our kinderPUPS (the only dog daycare designed exclusively for puppies) to ensure they are introduced to positive grooming experiences. “Knowing a dog personally or being able to determine why they are stressed takes a lot of skill that is gained over time. When I ask my clients why they chose me, it’s always for the above reasons. Their dogs want to come in my shop. If they don’t, I take the time to figure out why and do everything to help them overcome it.” I hope this knowledge empowers you to question your groomer or move to another shop if your dog is continually stressed when they go. This is not acceptable and we can teach them that grooming can be safe and a positive experience.


Boarding/Pet Sitting      

Would it shock you to learn that some boarding facilities leave the dogs unattended overnight? Or they are left in kennels locked up for 8+ hours and then they are punished if there are accidents in the kennel overnight? Or that all dogs are just left to roam in large groups at all hours without proper rest and time on their own? Or do not have access to a large outdoor space with adequate surfaces that are safe for them?


Boarding is stressful for any dog as they are away from their regular surroundings and they have no idea if or when you are returning. Care should be taken to ensure this is a slow and calm transition and that they are given adequate time to rest and be away from all of the activity. The same standards apply for boarding playgroups that should be happening at daycare. It is impossible to understand why we would leave our dogs for long periods with anyone who has zero formal education on dog behaviour and training.


Pet sitting is typically preferred as the dogs can still be at home. However, pet sitters may book multiple families and divide their time. Or they may not be pet first aid certified so lack the knowledge to understand when vet care is needed or something is wrong. They may cause damage to your home, have strangers over while you are away or many other things that put your pets at risk. As a minimum, pet sitters should be pet first aid certified and be bonded and insured. Speak with former clients and ask for references.


Pet Photography             

Most of us wouldn’t even expect a photographer to understand canine communication. However, a photography session can be stressful to your pet, so in order to ensure it is enjoyable for everyone, a select number of photographers are doing their best to ensure they have a solid understanding to ensure it is a positive experience for everyone. Holly Montgomery, Owner of Brindleberry Custom Pet Photography is the only local pet photographer that we know of who takes this seriously. She shares with me why she views this as such an important part of her job.


Anyone choosing to work with dogs as a profession, or part of their profession, has a responsibility to them to learn more about them and how they communicate to us. As a pet photographer, I often have to take a dog outside of their comfort zone. The best photos of people and their pets require them to sit closely together, and often the dog is hugged, kissed, and embraced by people.


Dogs are often asked to sit closely to one another for a more esthetically pleasing photo. For most dogs, these situations are uncomfortable but doable, as long as we are positively reinforcing them and are watching them carefully for their signals of discomfort. If the photographer is inexperienced in dog behavior, things could escalate into a snap or a bite. Not only does that put a damper on the session, but also it puts the dog in danger of being labeled and/or re-homed or even possibly euthanized through no fault of his or her own.”


Dog Walking

The business of dog walking has grown at an incredible pace! It is a high demand service that provides a critical solution to many hard working individuals who struggle to find the time to provide adequate exercise for their dogs. Well-meaning owners hire individuals to take their dog out for them so they do not feel guilty when they cannot find the time to do so. Anyone can call themselves a dog walker. The dangers we are currently witnessing are large groups of dogs being taken out by only one person. Adequate supervision is impossible and the risk of injury and set-backs to behaviour increase greatly.


Jessica Hanna, Owner of Steel Arrow Canine Services, shares her thoughts on this topic as well, "Because the industry is largely unregulated, it is not only important to select experienced caretakers for your pets, but ones who have, or are willing to hold themselves to a high standard. Look at it as another form of insurance; you are choosing someone who is experienced, certified, and abides by all bylaws as well as maintains the highest industry standards. Your pet is going to be safer and better cared for."  


Final Thoughts

Anyone choosing to work with dogs as part of their profession, has a responsibility to gain the required training. Every individual should have pet first aid and have obtained reputable and thorough training on canine behaviour and handling. Each team member should have structured and thorough training. And the facility design, policies and procedures and business practices should all obtain the highest standards to ensure the priority is each dog’s physical and emotional well-being. Physical corrections should never occur, and should result in immediate firing for any employee that physically corrects a dog. It is proven that corrections have a high risk at causing emotional damage and detrimental changes in dogs’ behaviour. It is especially dangerous when untrained individuals are administering corrections. It creates unnecessary stress for all involved.


I hope that those reading this find this shocking. We want to see this industry change. We can no longer ignore what is happening and must all work together to better educate ourselves and do what is best for our pets. I know we all love the animals we work with, so let’s take the first step to show this by making the changes to ensure their time with us is stress free, safe and positive for everyone. As dogs become more a part of the family, the world is changing for them and can be confusing and demanding. Let’s ensure we are doing everything we can to ensure this is successful and enjoyable for everyone. Education is always the best first step to making the right decisions.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:00

We had recently lost our dog Nicki, who had been a family member for 14 years. I was heart-broken and not having a dog in our lives was making me miserable and apparently, according to family around me, very cranky. It was time to get another dog. During a blizzard I convinced everyone (somehow) we should drive to Petsmart in Beacon Hill to look at the puppies. As it turned out Oops-A-Daisy had not gotten there due to the storm. For some reason I decided we should drive to the Petsmart on MacLeod Trail.

We walked in and there must have been about 10 puppies there. They were all sitting at the front of the cage wagging their tails and jumping – enjoying all the attention they were getting. Then I spotted one little puppy at the back of the cage – all alone – the saddest little puppy I had ever seen. And I know without a doubt that Abby had 'found us and a home'.

Abby was one of ARF's -31 degree litter and was an insecure, and fearful little puppy. We brought her home and I was determined to help her in any way that we could and I started phoning around for information on classes, playtimes, advice from any place I could get it. . .Fortunately for Abby I called dogma and spoke to Megan. We talked about confidence building, fearfulness, the ways that puppies learn, training options , and playclasses. She was so knowledgeable, and understanding I knew that's where we needed to go. She recommended we start with Puppy Playtime.

Our first playtime – yikes – I recall having to carry Abby in and out because she wouldn't even walk in the door and for the first few minutes I'm sure she wanted to dig a hole in the wall to hide. That didn't last long though – I guess both of us felt the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming – that she blossomed. Everyone was so friendly and kind. As I met other dog owners I soon realized that most of them are 'dogma regulars' and as far as I was concerned, that was for good reason. We then and there became regulars at Puppy Playtime and registered for some classes. As we moved through the levels (Puppy Class, Puppy Spirit and a Fear and Reactivity class – which gave us useful tools for understanding) Abby's confidence and mine increased in heaps and bounds. The classes were all so positive, and Megan, Drae and the rest of the staff reiterated time and time again to always set these puppies up for success. That to me was the bottom line. I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many questions I asked the staff – everyone was always so patient and would offer suggestions – 'try this' or you could 'try this'. Abby and I could tell immediately that these were all people who genuinely love dogs – and really what more do you need to know !! We became so confident we even got involved in an Elvis' Hound Dog routine (this was a huge thing for Abby – crowds, strange people) which was a great bonding experience for us and we had a blast. She learned how to weave in that routine – and she proudly displays it every chance she gets! (sometimes when you aren't even expecting it !)...

Abby is a sweet gentle little dog – gaining confidence all the time – we still have some issues that we need to deal with but intend on working through these in upcoming classes and to continue on with our successes. As far as playtime is concerned she now has a 'BFF"- Khali, and will even encourage shy dogs to 'come out of the corner'..'sometimes trying to drag them out by the scruff of the neck'.. (Drae always laughs at that).. I guess we are now dogma Regulars ourselves.

Note from Megan: Watching Sharon and Abby grow together has been such a rewarding experience. To think of scared little Abby when I first met her, to the brave, happy girl you see now is unbelievable. Sharon is a testament to the outcome when you commit and put the time into training and working with your dog – and that this can be incredibly fun for both! All of us at dogma adore her and Abby and are always thrilled when they take part in another class or event. She has taken the time to understand Abby's fears, how to work her through them and all while being so amazingly patient and compassionate. This success story means a great deal to our entire team and we are all so proud of them both! We love having them be an integral part of the 'dogma regulars'! Keep up the good work and we look forward to continued playtimes and dancing in the future :)!!

Tuesday, 02 September 2014 00:00

Having your dog accustomed to being behind a gate (or door, ex-pen, etc.) can be helpful in many situations. It allows the dog a quiet place away from potentially stressful activity and gives you time to remove them when you cannot be fully supervising them. Preparing your dog to feel comfortable when being left alone will prove to be a useful skill throughout their lives. The steps to accustom them to a gate are:

1. Put the gate up somewhere in your house and always have it there to start, so that bringing out the gate does not become a trigger to them that they are going behind it.

2. Occasionally toss treats onto the other side of the gate for your dog to find on their own.

3. Feed the dog's meals on the other side of the gate.

4. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: 'Behind gate'), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out from gate).

5. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going behind the gate for the treat, without actually closing the gate.

6. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.

7. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! Stay upbeat and positive and do not force them behind.

8. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session – stay calm and do not appear frustrated. It was just too much for your dog. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!

9. After dog will go into gate on cue, begin to shut it when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed gate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.

10. Start to get up and walk around, around room, towards the gate.

11. Take one step over the gate, then two, etc.

12. Start to walk around on other side of gate, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.

13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is behind the gate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the gate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.

14. Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps. Do not continually make the time longer – vary this. Keep your sessions short!

15. As your dog begins to use the gate more, ensure you are not only using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the gate with isolation and create a negative association.

16. Always teach your dog that the gate is a positive, safe place for them!