Shared Article – Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too!

A version of this article was published in the May 2017 Issue of  BARKS from the Guild


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I was not allowed to get my first puppy until I was a junior in high school in January of 1975. I am not sure why my parents succumbed to my pleas after twelve years, but they did. When I purchased my cute little puff of black fur, a Keeshond/Poodle and we never caught the father mix, neither the pet store nor the veterinarian suggested training her. Other than some basic housetraining, Trivia had no real training during her life. She was a happy dog who liked everyone and was with us for 14 wonderful years. However, I believe that the life Trivia and I shared could have been so much better if I knew then what I know now. I am thankful that PPG exists today because they are an excellent resource for anyone who has just adopted their first dog.

My first venture into training a dog was when my wife Paula and I got our first puppy as a couple. It was the spring of 1991, we had just purchased our second home, and we decided we needed something to shed on the carpets; just kidding! We did some research,

Don & Gus in 1991, Before the Alpha Roll

and on the advice of Paula’s boss, a veterinarian, we went looking for a Cairn Terrier puppy.  We found one and named him Laird Gustav MacMoose or “Gus,” because he just acted like a “Gus.” On the advice of Paula’s boss, we immediately enrolled ourselves and twelve-week-old Gus in a puppy kindergarten class offered by the local dog club. We also purchased, and read both, Mother Knows Best and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend because those were the two dog training books that were recommended at the time.

Our first night in puppy class was a complete disaster. Things went downhill the moment I was told to command Gus to sit, and Gus failed to comply. Now, this was not a big deal to us nor a surprise, as Paula and I were well aware that Gus had not received any training. However, it was a huge deal to the two instructors. They told me, in no uncertain terms, that Gus is exerting his dominance and that I had to alpha-roll him to show him that I was the alpha. The alpha role was exactly what the books we were reading recommended. So not knowing any better I did as I was told. As I grabbed Gus by the scruff and pinned him, he immediately began thrashing around underneath me, growling and snapping, and trying to connect his teeth with any part of me, so that I would let him go. I know now that he was terrified.

When I was told to grab his muzzle and told to “hold it shut,” I again, naively, complied. That is when Gus’ taught me that the dog’s teeth will ALWAYS be faster than the human’s hand. Gus instinctively sunk his canines deep into my palm. I said something inappropriate and immediately let go and begin to bleed profusely all over the training room floor. As one instructor ran to get me some ice for my hand, the other gave me a dirty look and continued teaching the class. I handed the leash to Paula, disappointed in Gus and disappointed in myself.

After we had gone home, it was evident that the relationship between Gus and I was severely damaged. I was no longer being asked to “throw the ball” by the Cairn with a tennis ball in his mouth and a vibrating tail. Gus did not trust me, and I did not trust him. I let Paula handle him in the remainder of his puppy classes, and when she went on to the next level of classes, with a different training club, I elected not to participate. I am thankful that PPG exists and today can guide a young couple with a dog so that they can find a qualified trainer that will teach them how to create and maintain a relationship based on trust and positive reinforcement. I am grateful that PPG can also recommend which books to read, and equally important, which to avoid.

Over time Gus and I learned to trust one another again, and training and behavior became a something we both enjoyed. Paula and I adopted a second dog, and we were fortunate to discover Dr. Patricia McConnell and her Dog’s Best Friend Training facility, where we learned about the wonders of reward-based training. I worked with Gus, and Paula handled Shed, and the four of us learned a great deal but more importantly, we also had lots of fun.

Gus eventually became the catalyst for our getting into the pet care services industry. His behavioral issues, he became reactive when people tried to leave our home, led to my interest in aggression and reactivity. His bladder and urinary problems, determined to be due to diet, resulted in our preoccupation with pet nutrition. When Gus developed epilepsy, he sparked our interest in complementary medicine. Thank you, Gus, you were quite the teacher as well as being a fabulous, furry, friend.

In the fall of 1995, we moved from Wisconsin to Maine, after purchasing the Green Acres Kennel Shop. Paula and I jumped right into our new business. Having learned the value of professional organizations in my previous career, I found and joined both the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). Through the APDT email list, I met several people, many that are now wonderful friends, and started to read books that they recommended. I also began attending seminars, and I worked with our existing trainer to learn my craft.

In 1998 I attended my first APDT conference in Valley Forge, PA and stepped right into my first debate over shock collars. A shock collar company was exhibiting at the APDT trade show, and there was a significant discussion as to whether or not they should be allowed to do so. I was firmly in the anti-shock camp. After that conference, APDT adopted a policy that prohibited the promotion of shock collars at their conferences.

Three years later I was encouraged to run for the APDT Board of Trustees and started my first three-year term on the Board in 2002. Hoping to expand upon the ban on promoting shock collars at the conference, in July of 2002 I proposed that the APDT adopt a resolution defining dog-friendly dog training. At the core of my proposal was the statement “Dog-friendly training” does not include the use of tools or methods that cause pain, physical injury, suffering or distress.” Sadly, my motion died for lack of a second. I was very disappointed that no one was even willing to discuss my proposal.

I served on the APDT Board for two consecutive terms waiting for an opportunity to get APDT to take a more assertive position on dog-friendly practices, but it never happened during those six years. I was again encouraged to run for the Board in 2010, was elected to another three-year term. Sadly, it was evident the APDT was still not ready to take a stand. I do believe that APDT has done many good things for our profession, but it disappoints me that they have never been willing to take a strong position against the use of force, fear, and pain.

In 2014 I took my first serious look at PPG, applied for membership and let my membership in the APDT expire. Earlier I stated that I believe professional organizations are important. To me, membership in such an organization demonstrates an individual’s and a business’s commitment to the best practices of their profession. For that reason, as soon as a staff member at Green Acres’ completes their probationary training period, I enroll them as a member of the PPG no matter what role they play here. Every trainer, pet care technician, groomer, customer service associate, and manager is a PPG member and is expected to live up to the PPG guiding principles. It is a condition of employment.

I am so very thankful that I finally found a cohort of like-minded pet care professionals who are committed to the same things that I am and are willing to say so publicly. Thank you PPG and thank you Niki Tudge.

I became the manager of an email list for boarding kennel and daycare operators in 1996. Ten years later some members of the list began discussing how they used squirt bottles, spray nozzles on hoses, and anti-bark shock collars on their guests to control barking. I was appalled and made being pet-friendly a requirement of being a member of the list. Around the same timeframe, a client informed me that a kennel in our area used a shock collar on their dog while they were a guest. My clients were very upset that this had happened. As a result, Green Acres’s published our first position statement entitled “Green Acres Is A “Pet-Friendly” Facility.” Some of our competitors were not happy because they felt it made them look bad, but I believed then what I believe now. We were doing what was in the best interest of our clients and their pets. Our continued success confirms our clients agree. However, I have taken my share of flack from others in our profession and again, want to thank PPG for making the world a less lonely place.


Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs

Pet Professional Guild Guiding Principles

Pet Professional Guild – Pet Training, Management and Care: We Now Know Enough to Stop Shocking Our Pets – An Open Letter to Pet Industry Representatives Regarding the Use of Shock in Animal Training –

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship

Dominance: Reality or Myth –


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He also produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 -WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at Don also writes about pets at his blog: He is committed to pet care that is free of pain, force, and fear.

Book Review – Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case

< Updated 2DEC18 >

< A short link to this article – >

< A version of this article was published in the December 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News>

If You Love Dogs or Work with Those Who Love Dogs, You Need to Read This Book!

What we know about the science of canine behavior and dog training is continually evolving. As such, every year I like to select a new book to recommend to my students, my staff, area veterinarians, and my colleagues that I feel will be the most beneficial to them and their dogs. This year I have chosen Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case.

At the beginning of her book, Case states she has two primary objectives: “…to provide accurate summaries of some of the most important evidence regarding present day understanding of the dog’s history and domestication, behavior, social cognition, and learning process.” and “… to apply this information to practical dog training methods and to provide means for communicating this information and teaching these methods in ways that are both interesting and useful to all dog owners.” From both my perspective as a pet care professional and as a pet parent, I believe that Case has met her objectives admirably.

Those of you familiar with my column know that I am passionate about setting the record straight on the following; dominance ( ), dog breeds ( ), the importance of puppy socialization ( ), and the unnecessary use of aversives for the training dogs. ( ). Case addresses all of these issues thoroughly.

The idea that one must be dominant or the “Alpha” with their dog has probably done more damage to the human-dog relationship than any other piece of bad advice given by anyone about dogs. Case does an excellent job of getting into the scientific details about dominance. She clearly explains how dogs and wolves are related and how they are also very different. Case then goes on to discuss the scientific view of how the dog evolved and eventually became our companion. No discussion of that process would be complete without a review of how humans developed a seriously flawed theory called the “hierarchical model of pack behavior” which led to the false belief that we had to dominate our dogs and physically punish them to ensure we were always in control. Case uses science to explain how this model has been refuted and goes on to state “A parent-family model better describes wolf relationships in packs than does an outdated hierarchy model that focuses on strict social roles and conflict.” If you are a trainer and having difficulty explaining this to your clients, or a pet parent trying to explain this to other family members, you need to purchase and share this book.

Other topics addressed by Case include:

  • Dog breeds and how they influence behavior. Anyone thinking of getting a dog should read this section before deciding which kind of dog they want as a companion.
  • The critical importance of adequate and appropriate puppy socialization and habituation. Case explains why early socialization is crucial to a puppy’s development but adds a very important warning; if you do not do it right, you may create behavioral problems. Socialization is one of those issues that I find far too many alleged “dog experts” do not understand well. They are all perfect candidates for this book.
  • The emotional response to the use of aversives in training and why reward-based training free of pain, fear, and force is the only humane choice. Case notes that she has chosen “…reward-based training methods (aka positive reinforcement) as a training approach because: 1) It works well. 2) It has desirable emotional and relationship benefits for our dogs and for us and is not associated with causing pain, anxiety or stress in dogs. 3) We have evidence for 1 and 2.”

As a pet care professional, I have found the biggest obstacle to helping my clients, and their dogs are often the erroneous beliefs they have acquired about dogs and their behavior from the internet, TV, friends, family, and sadly even ill-informed pet care professionals. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) acknowledged this as a serious problem in 2015 when they published their 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Guidelines. Unfortunately, this document was not written for Jane and Joe Pet-Parent and does not offer the additional wise counsel found in Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog. Linda Case, thank you for filling that void! For those that want to know as much as possible, Case has also provided ample references to the scientific articles supporting her work.

If you love your dog, or if you work with people that love their dogs, you owe it to them to read Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case. It is the smart thing to do.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

A Recommended Reading and Listening List for Pet Care Professionals –

Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Parts 1 thru 5 as a printable PDF file – WWM JAN2018 thru WWM MAY2018 –

Dominance: Reality or Myth –

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Parts 1, 2 & 3

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs

How to Choose a Dog Trainer

Puppy Socialization and Habituation

Reward Based Training versus Aversives

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 –

What Is Clicker Training? –

What Is Dog Training?

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
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Canine Behavior: Myths & Facts (2016)< click to listen or download >

The Dominance and Alpha Myth – < click to listen or download >

Don Hanson and Dr. Dave Cloutier on Puppy Socialization and Vaccination – < click to listen or download >

Does My Dogs Breed Matter –  < click to listen or download >

How to Choose A Dog Trainer (2017) < click to listen or download >

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic< click to listen or download >

Prof. Chad Montrie and the documentary Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs – < click to listen or download >


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at Don also writes about pets at his blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©01DEC18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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