Thank You, Trivia & Gus!

< A version of this article was published in the FEB 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 07FEB21 >

< A short link for this page – >

January marks the anniversaries of two of the dogs that have been part of my life. They have both passed, but there is not a day I do not think about them or acknowledge how they helped me to become a better dog trainer and a better person.

Trivia – I had wanted a dog since I was five years old. My parents finally succumbed when I was 17.  I found a puppy at a pet store that was described as “A Poodle/Keeshond mix, and they never found the father.” I didn’t care about the breed; I just wanted a dog. Trivia had wavy hair and was as excited to see me as I was to see her. It was love at first sight. I left the pet shop with her, a collar, a leash, food and water bowls, a couple of toys, a rawhide, and the name of the veterinarian recommended by the pet shop. I was thirty plus dollars poorer but felt like the richest guy on the planet.

Why my parents let me get a dog at this point in our lives, I will never know. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that we had lost my older sister to a brain tumor just days before Christmas. Looking back, their decision makes even less sense, as my dad was scheduled to retire in two months, and they planned on traveling.  I was a junior in high school, active in many extracurricular activities, and had a girlfriend. You know what happened and who did most of the work of caring for Trivia the first few years of her life. My mom. Thank you, mom and dad, for your crazy decision to let me get a dog. It was clearly based on love with no logic involved.

In 1977 I knew nothing about training a dog or the benefits of training a dog, and no one suggested I train Trivia. I regret I did not know then what I know now as I believe I could have made Trivia’s life so much better. Trivia inspires me to help my clients and students do all they can for their furry companions. Thank you, Trivia; you were small but were in no way trivial.  [ FMI – ]

Gus (Laird Gustav MacMoose) – Gus was the first puppy Paula and I raised together. He was a Cairn Terrier, and despite our knowing better, we bought him at a pet shop. Most of my friends in the pet care professions believe that we learn the most from the dogs that are difficult. Paula and I remember Gus as the equivalent of a post-doctoral program.

  • Gus bit me on our first night in puppy class due to my ignorance and the class’s two instructors’ arrogance. That led to my interest in canine behavior and training. [ FMI – ]
  • Gus was the epitome of a silent thief. He walked off with tools from people working in our home and stole food right out of our hands and those of some of our staff. He taught me that the management of a dog and his environment was as crucial as training.
  • Within the first few months of his life, Gus developed a chronic urinary tract infection, which caused crystals to form in his urine. His veterinarian felt it was due to nutrition but could offer little advice other than to suggest resources where we could teach ourselves more about his nutritional needs. That led to a lifelong interest in pet nutrition for Paula and me and a commitment to educating others. We eventually found the answer for Gus’ crystals in 1997.[ FMI – ]
  • Thunderstorms were a significant event for Gus. One to two hours before the thunder and lightning started, he would become agitated. By the time the storm arrived, he was barking and lunging at the door to get outside so he could “kill it.” Most dogs that have issues with thunderstorms want to hide. Not Gus. The medications prescribed by his veterinarian were of no help, nor was the
    Don & Gus in 1991, Before the Alpha Roll

    desensitization CD played at very low levels on a world-class sound system. Gus knew the difference between a real storm and one on the stereo. The closest we came to a cure was moving from Wisconsin to Maine, where thunderstorms were not as frequent.

  • Gus started having seizures as he became older, which were diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Like everything else in his life, Gus lived large, even with seizures, each in the Grand Mal category. He was treated for many years with the medications in use at that time. Even then, he would still have a seizure about every ten days. Eventually, we could not increase the dose of his medication without harming his liver. Paula started investigating complementary therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture. Gus finally found his most significant relief from seizures through acupuncture, which, interestingly, also stooped his reactivity to thunderstorms. Both Paula and I credit Gus for opening our minds to complementary healing modalities that we now use with our pets and ourselves to supplement traditional medicine.

Gus was ultimately the catalyst that caused Paula and me to join the ranks of pet care professionals and to buy Green Acres Kennel Shop. He inspired our interest in behavior, training, nutrition, and complementary healthcare. While there were times, Gus frustrated us beyond belief; there was not a day he did not make us laugh. Thank you, Gus!

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

 Our Pets – Remembering Trivia (13NOV74 – 04AUG89) –

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

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus

Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too!

In Memory of Gus (1991 – 2004)


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 also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don 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). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©07FEB21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >


Which Are the Best Treats for Dogs?

< A version of this article was published in the December 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 06DEC20 >

< A short link for this page – >

There are three typical reasons people give their dog treats. In order of importance, they are: 1) as reinforcement or rewards for desired behavior when training, 2) to keep them busy and occupied, and 3) “just because.” These treats are all used for different purposes, so things that will treat “best” will vary depending on how the treat will be used. However, since all treats are meant to be ingested I look closely at that as sources of nutrition. I recommend looking for these essential qualities in all treats.

All Treats Must be Healthy and Nutritious

When I give my dog something to eat, I want it to be healthy and benefit them nutritionally. That means I need to be an informed consumer and review the actual ingredients list on a package of treats and not let myself get seduced by the name or images on the packaging. Just like pet food, ingredients for treats must be listed in order by weight. When selecting treats for my dog, I want at least one of the top three ingredients to be a specified meat source. It should say something like turkey, chicken, or beef. Ingredients I avoid include; unidentified meat, poultry, by-products, sugar, propylene glycol, chemical preservatives such as BHA, artificial colors or dyes.

I also want to know the number of calories in each treat. Calories are typically reported as “kcal/treat.”

Over 50% of the dogs in America are obese, which is the definition of unhealthy. The average 50-pound dog only needs 700 to 900 calories per day. Some dog biscuits are equivalent to a third of a dog’s daily caloric intake and typically include low-quality ingredients, and are mostly carbohydrates. I prefer to give my dog high-quality calories in their food bowl rather than as a low-grade snack. Calories matter.

What I Look for in Training Treats

My treat bag always contains a variety of five or more different training treats. Some are high-value, meaning they are very palatable and usually at least ninety-percent meat. Freeze-dried meat treats are ideal in this category. I also include many lower-value treats and many treats that fall somewhere between the two. However, all meet my standards for healthy and nutritious, as noted above.

While training treats must be highly palatable, they must also be small, about the size of a pea, so the dog can rapidly consume it. Training is all about rewarding the dog many times for the desired behavior. In a training session, I will typically try to get multiple behaviors per minute. If I need to wait for the dog to consume the treat, it decreases efficiency. It also increases the probability of the dog becoming distracted. Since I may reward the dog ten to twenty-five times in a 5-minute training session, I want the treats to be small to minimize caloric intake. One of the meat treats I frequently use comes out of the package as a 0.75” by 1” rectangle that contains 5 calories. Because the treat is soft, I break it up into 6 to 8 pea-size pieces, limiting calories to 0.6 to  0.8 calories per behavior. Treat companies would love it if I told you to use the entire treat because you would buy more, but you don’t need to.

What I Look for in Treats Used to Keep My Dog “Busy”

Treats used to keep a dog “busy” should be thought of as snacks. Unlike a training treat, we want these treats to keep our dog engaged so that we can do something we need to do. I still want these treats to meet my healthy and nutritious standards noted above. I will always look closely at the ingredients list. Products in the snack category include; bully-sticks, pigs’ ears, beef tracheas, and a wide variety of freeze-dried products like chicken, duck, and turkey necks, cod, and salmon skins, and more. Smoked bones and frozen bones are also great, long-lasting snacks. Since all of these products are meant to be consumed and made from natural, non-manufactured ingredients, your dog needs to be supervised until you are confident that they will safely consume these snacks.

Also found in this category are No-Hide Chews, a long-lasting, easily digestible chew far safer than rawhides. And a Kong toy stuffed with some of your dog kibble and a dollop of peanut butter can also keep your dog busy. When Tikken was a puppy, a Kong would keep her occupied for up to an hour, after which she would take a long nap.

What I Look for in Treats I Give My Dog “Just Because”

Some of you might think I’m stingy, but it’s rare I give a dog something edible for no reason at all. There is almost always some level of interaction with me, which makes it a training exercise my dog loves. The treats I use in this case are often in the snack category described above.

For many, “Just Because” treats are often dog biscuits or other products made of questionable ingredients. Biscuits can often be too high in calories and carbohydrates, both of which contribute to dog obesity.


Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

 Green Acres Pet Nutrition Resources Page –

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition –

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop –

Pet Nutrition – Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  –

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Podcast – What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Case  –


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 also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don 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). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©6-Dec-20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Shared Blog Post – The Deferential Equation – The Importance of Learning Boundaries by Diana Logan

< Updated 03DEC20 >

< A short link for this page – >

The Deferential Equation is an excellent article by my friend Diana Logan of Pet Connection Dog Training that appears in the November 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News. Diana addresses the importance of a puppy learning that not all dogs will appreciate or tolerate an exuberant puppy greeting. I had one of those puppies, my Golden, Tikken. As a puppy, Tik was miss congeniality++++, and her “in your face” overly-enthusiastic greetings towards other dogs were not always well received. I still remember the day she went charging towards my friend’s dog Rey, an older dog who was a card-carrying member of the “Go Away You Obnoxious Puppy” club. What happened next occurred in a couple of seconds. As Tikken was a puppy, she still did not have the training for me to intervene successfully. Tikken was running at full speed, and Rey started showing teeth and growling when Tik was about 10 feet away. Tik just kept charging, flipped on her back when she was about 2 feet from Rey. With her forward momentum slid Tik into Rey like a baseball player sliding into home base. Rey went tumbling and responded with several choice canine expletives, and thankfully, due to Rey’s restraint, no injuries occurred. This is a lesson puppies need to learn early on, before the end of their socialization period at 14 to 16 weeks of age.

Recommended Resources

The Deferential Equation – The Importance of Learning Boundaries

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

Especially for New Puppy Parents –


Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1 –

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2 –

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3 –



Themes in Puppy Training – What You Need to Know BEFORE You Start Training

< Updated 08JUN20 >

< A short link for this page – >

Training Your Dog – Important Tips for Puppy’s

We encourage you to refrain from asking your puppy to perform behaviors during class unless you are 100% confident that your puppy will immediately and consistently respond when you give a single, visual, or verbal cue.

Some of your pups may sit immediately and consistently on a single cue, but most will not. Not responding to a single cue to sit is not a surprise to us, and it will not become a problem unless you continue repeating the cue. Every time you say the word “sit” again without the correct response by your dog, the cue becomes more confusing and less meaningful. Sometimes the cue becomes so useless, that we may suggest you restart training with a new word to get an immediate and consistent response. If we see or hear you repeating cues, we will point it out, as it is our goal to have your puppy respond consistently.

Your puppy will need to be trained in a wide variety of scenarios and environments before they reliably start to respond in new situations consistently. We cover this in more detail in Puppy Headstart lectures and in great detail in our Basic Manners orientation, the first class without your dog, and in the remaining seven sessions of Basic Manners.

We briefly discuss training your puppy in Puppy Headstart and begin with addressing how your puppy learns (see next section). However, the only typical behavior we address in Puppy Headstart is the Attention or Look behavior, which is part of the handfeeding protocol we discuss in the week we call “Food = Power3.” We do provide information on start to teach your puppy to recall in this handout in the section entitled “STARTING TO TEACH YOUR PUPPY TO COME WHEN CALLED.” If you wish to start working on this behavior, we encourage to follow the protocol we have outlined.

Listed below are some essential training tips that will help you and your puppy to be successful.

  • Be patient. Training takes time, lots of rewards, and lots of repetitions. Remember how long you went to school before your parents felt you were ready for the world? Your puppy will not need to go to a school that long but plan on training your dog being a significant part of your life and theirs for the next six to eighteen months. Your dog will probably learn some things like sit and down quickly because it is something they usually do; we need to teach you how to train them to do this when presented with a cue. Other things, like coming when called and walking on a loose leash will take longer and will require more effort on your part; however, we can help you get there. If a six-year-old child can teach a 6-month old, forty-pound dog to walk on a loose leash, so can you.

The Misunderstanding of Time by Nancy Tanner –

  • Focus on the relationship with your dog. If your dog does not enjoy your company and you do not enjoy theirs, you may not succeed. If you come home from work frustrated or angry, it is probably not a good time to try to teach your dog. Training MUST be fun for both of you if you are to be successful.


  • Learn how your dog communicates and how you can best communicate with them. Dogs communicate visually with many parts of their bodies (mouth, eyes, ears, tail, body posture and look to our body language to determine what we are trying to communicate to them. Because we are primates we tend to vocalize, when we would be more successful using our bodies. Scientific research has demonstrated that dogs learn a great deal about us by looking at our faces. By doing so they can tell when we are safe to be around and when we are not so safe. Even subtle signs of displeasure like the woman frowning in this picture can cause a dog to believe that she is unsafe. You will not have a good relationship with your dog is they see you frowning and angry al the time. Take the time to learn how you can communicate with your dog and to understand their body language so that you can understand what they are trying to tell you.

Introduction to Canine Communication –

Smile! Your dog’s brain will light up in response Science, March 2018

  • Please do NOT repeat cues if your dog does not respond quickly and consistently. Your dog is not stubborn when they do not instantly respond; they do not understand the context in which you are giving the cue. If you give a cue and the dog does not perform the desired behavior, and you get frustrated, you may cause your dog to become distressed, which makes it even more difficult for them to learn. Yes, if you get frustrated, your dog knows you are no longer fun to be around. Think about a time where you were trying to master a skill, and whoever was teaching became irritated because, by their standards, you were not learning quick enough. Their attitude didn’t help you learn, did it? I recall the first time my father tried to teach me to drive a standard transmission in an old WW2 vintage Willy’s Jeep with a bad clutch. I loved my dad, but he did not set up the teaching scenario for optimal success. Trying to learn became so aversive that I questioned whether or not learning to drive a standard transmission was worth the aggravation. That is not helpful.
  • Start teaching a visual cue or hand signal before using a verbal cue. We are humans and most of us like to communicate verbally. When we try to communicate with our dogs, we naturally talk. Dogs communicate visually, using all parts of their body to give various signals to others. Instead of listening to us, our dog looks at us for visual signs that indicate what we want. Therefore, dogs typically respond more readily to visual cues, which is why we teach a hand signal first. You can use anything you want as a visual cue. However, the ones we will teach you have been chosen for a reason.

Do Dogs Learn More Quickly from Verbal or Visual Signals? – Psychology Today, Oct. 16, 2018

  • Think about what you are teaching your puppy, is it something you want them to do for the rest of their life? I often caution people about teaching their dog to “shake” or to do anything with their paws. Yes, it is a cute trick, kids love teaching it, but a puppy that has been rewarded for shake will often paw at people throughout their life in search of a reward. The same can be said for teaching “speak.” Un-training a behavior takes much longer and a great deal more of your energy than training what you want.

Canine Learning

It is essential you recognize that your puppy has been learning since the moment it was born and will continue learning for the entirety of his life. Since dogs, like humans, are always learning, it is your job to manage what they learn and to respond accordingly to their behavior. When you are not paying attention, your puppy will be learning that your shoe tastes even better than rawhide and that books and magazines make fantastic noises when they rip them apart. What is your puppy learning right now as you read this? Is it a desirable behavior?

Dogs do not learn by reading a textbook or watching a video on YouTube. Dogs learn by doing. When there is a rewarding result to a behavior, your puppy will be more likely to repeat that particular behavior in that specific context. For example, if they get a treat when they sit, dogs are very likely to sit in an attempt to earn another tasty morsel.  If stealing your sock causes you to chase them, your puppy has just discovered an effective way to get your attention and to play with them. Countless puppies love the game “Chase me I have your sock!”

Always remember, dogs do what works FOR THEM; they do not perform behaviors simply because we want them to do so, nor does your puppy do things solely to please you. Sorry, that is one of the great myths about dogs. They do not and never will do things we want “just because.”

Our best strategy for teaching our puppy is to determine what our puppy likes and to use these items as rewards for behaviors we want to reoccur. Dogs do not waste energy on actions that they do not find rewarding. It is our responsibility to show them what earns rewards and what does not. Be very cautious about inadvertently training behaviors that you do not want. Always take the time to stop and ask yourself, what is my dog learning right now at this given moment in time?

If your puppy does something that you do not want, ask yourself, why is that behavior rewarding? What can I do to prevent my puppy from doing that in the future?

Happy/Not So Happy Real-Life Example

Zeus, a 14-week-old Labrador puppy, sometimes played “tag” with his guardians when they were interacting with him in the yard.

What did Zeus learn?

    • That chasing people was fun.
    • That running away from people was fun.
    • That his guardians could be unpredictable, as he was never quite sure when they were playing the game, or when they were going to become frustrated with him because he tried to initiate the game by running away from them.

We humans often find chasing our dogs and having them chase us to be a great form of entertainment, but what are they learning here? The game of tag can have some pros and cons. When we are having our puppies chase us, they are learning to play a game of staying with us and keeping us in sight at all times, particularly if we dart behind trees and couches. However, the flip side of this is that when we chase our dog, they are learning to run away from us and not to let us catch them. When push comes to shove, unless your dog is ill or overweight or you are an incredible sprinter, you will never successfully catch your dog if he or she is running away from you.

If you wish to play tag with your puppy, we recommend that you do so with the following rules:

  1. You are ALWAYS the one being pursued.
  2. Allow your puppy to catch you, and each time he does so, give him a high-value food reward and then run away again, repeating this process.
  3. Before you begin the game give it a verbal cue, such as “Catch Me” and when it is time to end the game, allow your puppy to catch you one final time, give a couple of great treats and give an all done cue, such as “That Will Do.” (This will help to prevent him from chasing those joggers at 6 AM.)
  4. Always end the game before your puppy is ready to finish so that you can help him remain interested in the game and not become bored with it.


That Dominance and Alpha Stuff

By now, it is possible that someone has told you that you need to worry about your puppy becoming dominant or that you need to be the “Alpha.” The best advice we can give you is – forget about it. The whole idea of “dominance,” “pack hierarchy,” and “the alpha dog” is a concept that came about through poor scientific research. If you talk to a wolf biologist or well-educated pet care professional, they will tell you that wolf packs are more like a well-adjusted family than a tyrannical “kill or be killed” dictatorship.

Moreover, while the dog and wolf may be closely related species, they are separated by several thousands of years of evolution. Behaviorally the domestic dog is not even considered to be a pack animal. We explain this topic in more depth in the orientation session for our Basic Manners class, but if you want more information now, check out these articles on our website and the many resources they suggest.

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

Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs

How did wolves become dogs? (from NY Times Science OCT 2017 ) –

Excerpt from the documentary Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats The Mind of Cesar Millan


A Quick Note About Punishment and Aversives

Punishing a puppy can have some dangerous pitfalls, and we highly encourage you to avoid this. When we apply punishment in an attempt to extinguish a behavior, we may unintentionally make the behavior worse and harder to change. We never know how a dog will associate punishment. It can very easily and quickly damage your relationship with your puppy. Punishment causes fear and stress, which impairs your dog’s ability to learn. We have found that people often resort to punishing their dog more as an expression of frustration than as a learning tool. Raising a puppy will probably be frustrating. Your willingness to accept that and learning to deal with it without responding aversively is critical to developing a strong and life-long bond with your puppy.

Most of the behaviors that we humans list as being “problem” behaviors are typical canine behaviors and not issues for our dogs. For example, dogs have to urinate and defecate – it is humans that have the problem with the locations our puppy may choose to defecate or urinate. As the species with more gray matter, we challenge you to create an environment of success and to reframe your “problem” behaviors. Ask yourself, what do I want my puppy to learn, and how can I teach this behavior? How can I manage my puppy and his environment to prevent him from being rewarded for actions I do not want?

Not So Happy Real-Life Example

Moxie, a mixed-breed puppy, who was often left alone for extended periods, was kicked by her male owner for urinating and defecating in the house.

What did Moxie learn?

      • To fear men.
      • To NEVER eliminate in the presence of a human being.
      • To immediately consume her feces to hide it.
      • To continue to urinate and defecate in the house (she was rarely allowed to eliminate outdoors, and each time that Moxie did defecate or urinate inside, she was immediately rewarded because she felt better).

Moxie learned the above in 8 weeks. It took three years for Moxie to become comfortable urinating or defecating while on a 6-foot leash. It took one year of daily work to habituate Moxie to men (she always remained aloof. However, her fear dissipated). This dog never learned not immediately to attempt to consume her feces – it had become a fixed action pattern. She did learn to leave her feces on cue, but her first instinct was always to consume it until the day she passed away at the age of 14. Moxie was a real dog, and this story is true.

What Do Pet Care Professionals Say About the Use of Aversives?

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) recommend that aversives NEVER be used.

We explain this topic in more depth in the orientation session for our Basic Manners class, but if you want more information now, check out these articles on our website and the many resources they suggest.

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 –

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 –

Reward Based Training versus Aversives

What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – Green Acres Kennel  Shop Blog

Podcast – What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

Podcast – The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

Food, Play, and Praise as Rewards

Our training philosophy at Green Acres can be summed up as “Manage your puppy to prevent undesirable behaviors and always reward the behaviors you like.” In most cases, the best reward for a puppy or an adult dog is going to be a tasty treat or some fun, interactive play. Many of the outdated training books of the 1970’s promoted a philosophy that stated dogs should do everything we want just for our praise, and that they should never be given food as a reward. I wonder if those authors would have accepted “Fantastic Book” instead of payment in cold hard cash? I sincerely doubt it, just as I know that very few people would work solely for praise. Dogs are like every other animal on this planet; they do something because there is something in it for them. Food is often the most powerful “something” for rewarding our dog for desired behavior, so we encourage you to use it and to use it well!

 Study Confirms That Food Is A Better Reinforcer Than Praise or Touch

Food has more value as a reinforcer than either praise or touch was confirmed by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior in July of 2012 (Relative Efficacy of Human Social Interaction and Food as Reinforcers for Domestic Dogs and Hand-Reared Wolves – Feuerbacher and Wynne). The following is from the conclusions of the study –

Our goal was to identify the reinforcers that maintain social behavior between dogs and humans. We hypothesized that social interaction might function as a reinforcer that could maintain dogs’ social interactions with humans. Although there were some individual differences, our results suggest that social interaction did not reinforce canid behavior as well as did food. If social interaction functions as a reinforcer, it may do so only under specific conditions not explored in the present experiments. The greater efficacy of food as a reinforcer parallels the evolutionary origins of dogs as scavengers of human refuse (Coppinger & Coppinger, 2001) and supports the use of food as a reinforcer for training. The present findings might provide empirical evidence for trainers to give clients who object to using food to train canid behavior (e.g. Donaldson, 1996). [ Emphasis Added ]

 A Word on Dog Parks

We do not recommend taking your puppy to a dog park. While dog parks usually have rules, there is seldom someone present to enforce those rules. As a result, there may be dogs at the dog park that are not adequately vaccinated, that carry harmful parasites, or that are aggressive to other animals. Any of those things can put the physical health of your puppy at risk. Aggression and inappropriate play may also place your puppy’s mental and emotional health at risk. For more information on dog parks and making sure an experience at the dog park is a good one, we suggest you read Don’s article at –


Management is about taking the necessary steps to ensure that your puppy is not placed in to a situation where he may have the opportunity to behave in an undesirable manner. In its purest form, management translates to: If you do not want your puppy chewing on your new shoes, then do not leave your puppy unsupervised and a room where your shoes in the middle of the floor.

The primary reason people have problems with housetraining and destructive chewing of personal items is poor management. Appropriate management is one of the most overlooked training tools and is essential to responsible canine guardianship. When your puppy is managed correctly, you will have the time to develop the right relationship with him/her and your dog will get the training it needs. Many of the behavior problems clients call us about are management problems due to inadequate supervision or unrealistic expectations of a young dog.

All puppies have a minimum of two trainers: 1) their guardian and 2) their environment. While you may spend a significant amount of time training your puppy, even you need to eat, sleep, and take mental breaks. However, the environment never needs time off and is available to train 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you do not initially manage your puppy’s interaction with its environment, they may quickly learn things you do not want them to learn. While providing this management may seem extremely time-consuming, when done right, it pays off handsomely.

When a puppy is loose in the home, they require constant supervision. Constant supervision means that a responsible person is devoting all of their attention and energy to watching and managing the puppy so that they can intervene before something undesirable happens. You cannot provide a puppy with adequate supervision while reading the paper, watching TV, doing homework, preparing a meal, or talking on the phone. Remember, we have brought this species into our home and expect them to live by rules that make absolutely NO SENSE to them. A puppy has no concept of valuables and as such does not get why chewing up your grandchild’s doll is an issue. It is our responsibility to properly manage our puppy to prevent unwanted behavior while also training them and rewarding them for desired behavior.

Proper management and training requires a plan to be established as to what your options are when you cannot supervise your puppy. Crates, pens, and tethers make ideal management tools. Always have treats and chews handy so that when you have to place your puppy into its crate or pen suddenly you have a reward ready to go. Additionally, tethering a puppy can be useful, providing you remain in the room and can give partial supervision and reward good behavior. (Note: A puppy on a tether should NEVER be left unattended!)

A puppy or even an adult dog will always be like a young child. They can be trained, but training does not happen overnight or even in a month. Nor can you train your dog for all possible contingencies. Until your dog is trained, it is your responsibility to make plans so he/she can succeed.

Happy Real-Life Example:

Susan was playing with Fido, her 14-week old Lab puppy, when the phone rang in the kitchen. Susan immediately got up and placed Fido in his crate with a treat and a special chew toy located on the shelf by the crate and then proceeded to answer the phone.

What did Fido learn?

    • Going into his crate gets rewarded
    • Chewing on a special toy is fun
    • Interruption in play gets rewarded
    • Spending time alone for a few minutes is okay (providing Susan does not let Fido out if he is barking)
    • No inappropriate behaviors were practiced such as eliminating in the house or destructive chewing

Not So Happy Real-Life Example

Sally was playing with Rex, her 12-week old Golden puppy, when the phone rang in the kitchen. Sally immediately got up to answer the phone, leaving Rex alone in the living room. While Sally was in the kitchen, Rex urinated on the carpet, tasted the coffee table, and chased the cat. Rex then proceeded to go into the kitchen and bark at Sally until she hung up the phone.

What did Rex learn?

    • Urinating on the living room carpet is rewarding (he immediately felt better)
    • Humans are great because they even have sticks indoors to chew on
    • Cats are lots of fun; they run fast when you chase them
    • The best way to get humans attention is to bark at them.
    • Sometimes Sally gets mad for no apparent reason (Rex has no idea that Sally’s anger is associated with his urinating on the carpet or the puddle of urine in the room)
    • Sally can be unpredictable, sometimes she is nice and sometimes she is scary.

The material presented above will be discussed over the next four weeks. If you have any questions or concerns, please be sure to bring them to the attention of your instructor, so that we can help you to plan for success.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, ME 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, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©08JUN20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms

< A version of this article was first published in 2018 as a five-part series in the January, February, March, April and May 2018 issues of Downeast Dog News >

< Updated 1FEB20 >

< A short link to this page – >

< Click to download or print a PDF file containing all 5 columns in this series >

We have a responsibility to make our dog’s life the best life possible. Your dog’s quality of life is directly under your control.

In this post I will be discussing Brambell’s Five Freedoms and how you can use them to help your dog have a long, fun-filled life. I will examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of your dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life.

  • Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom in December of 1965. The Brambell Commission published its report over 50 years ago, yet it is still a very applicable standard for evaluating the holistic health of any animal kept by people, including dogs.

The Five Freedoms are Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.

Fundamental to being able to assess an animal’s welfare is having a thorough knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements, behavior, and how they communicate and express emotions. I invite you to consider some of the questions that I will pose in these columns and to contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms as you care for your dog.

Freedom from Hunger, Thirst, and Malnutrition

At first read, this sounds relatively simple; provide your dog with food and water, and you have met their needs. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Does the type of food we feed our dog matter? The dog has the digestive system of a carnivore; an animal meant to thrive on meat- animal protein and fat. When you feed your dog kibble or dry dog food, they are consuming food that is predominantly made up of carbohydrates. This highly processed “far from fresh food” is composed of 40% or more carbohydrates. The dog does not need carbohydrates in their diet. That is why you will not find the percent of carbohydrates listed in the Guaranteed Analysis panel on a bag of dog food. Kibble or dry dog food was not created to provide optimum nutrition for our dogs but to provide convenience for us and a long shelf life and higher profits for pet food manufacturers. Dogs can survive on kibble, but my question is: can they thrive on such an unnatural diet?

Can we say, in good conscience, that our dog is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition if we are feeding them a sub-optimal diet? Feeding a dog food that will provide them with the best nutrition possible is not inexpensive, at least when compared to grocery store kibble. However, when we start to factor in reduced veterinary bills with an improved diet, we may be further ahead when we feed the best food we can afford.

Is it better to have one pet and to feed her the best diet you can afford, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? It is a question my wife and asked ourselves and is a reason we have downsized from a maximum of five dogs to one dog. We want to do the best we can for Muppy and having a single dog allows for more resources, both time and financial, to be focused on her.

What about pets on prescription diets? In some cases, a veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet for your dog that you can only get from a veterinarian. These specialized foods are available in a kibble or wet (canned) formula. Prescription diets are typically presented as being necessary to treat a specific disease or health issue. They are often much more expensive than a basic kibble, but because they are kibble, they will still be high in carbohydrates. Veterinarians who take a holistic approach to nutrition will seldom recommend kibble-based prescription diets preferring to suggest a diet consisting of fresh, whole food. Again, it comes down to choosing between optimal nutrition or our convenience? Which takes precedence?

What about pet obesity? Studies indicate that 50% of the pets in the U.S. are clinically obese. Obesity is typically due to overfeeding, an improper diet, and lack of exercise. Just as with humans, obesity will affect a dog’s health and welfare. It can tax your dog’s skeletal system and can even change behavior. How much of the obesity problem with our dogs is related to our feeding them diets high in carbohydrates, something they do not need?

Does the source of water you use matter? If you do not choose to drink water from your tap, should your dog? Should they at least be given a choice?

Next month we will examine more of Brambell’s Five Freedoms; Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.

Freedom from Discomfort


  1. an inconvenience, distress, or mild pain
  2. something that disturbs or deprives of ease
  3. to make uncomfortable or uneasy

– Collins English Dictionary

Many things in our dog’s life may cause pain or anxiety. This may vary in individual dogs depending on their genetics, temperament, anatomy, size, age, and other variables.

  • Are you familiar with how your dog expresses discomfort so that you recognize when your dog is anxious and afraid? – Dogs often indicate stress by various changes in their body language, often called calming or displacement signals. Signs such as looking away, yawning, and tongue flicks will typically occur before signals such as growling or snapping. If you wish to keep your dog comfortable, you first need to know how they indicate their discomfort. Just because a dog is not reacting does not mean they are comfortable. Most people have not been taught how dogs communicate, yet it is one of the most important things they need to know. ( FMI )
  • Is your dog’s environment free from things that may cause anxiety, stress, and pain? This will vary with the individual dog. Common causes of anxiety can include children, adults, other animals, objects, loud noises, having their picture taken, having their nails trimmed, being hugged, wearing a costume, and many more. One of the easiest ways to avoid these issues is to spend time thoughtfully socializing and habituating your puppy to novel stimuli during their critical socialization period which occurs between 8 and 16 weeks of age. (FMI ) If your dog was older than 16 weeks of age when they joined your family it is very likely that they were not adequately or appropriately socialized. Remedial socialization is possible with an older dog, but it is even more essential that you plan such sessions carefully and that you proceed slowly. In this case, consulting with a professional fear-free, force-free, pain-free trainer is highly recommended. ( FMI – )
  • Have you trained your dog? When a dog joins a family, many expect them to automatically fit in, even though dogs and humans are two very different species with different cultural norms. We must teach our dogs how to live in our world, and that can best be accomplished through reward-based training. Failing to train our dog is almost sure to cause discomfort for both them and us. ( FMI – )
  • Are you committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? If you are using an aversive (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish) to train or manage your dog, you are making your dog uncomfortable. The very definition of an aversive is to cause discomfort, possibly up to the point of causing physical or emotional pain. Dogs that are trained in this manner are unlikely to be happy and have a much greater probability of becoming aggressive. ( FMI – )
  • Does your dog have shelter from the elements, especially extremes of temperature, wind, and precipitation? This one seems straightforward, yet every year dogs are left out in dangerous weather and freeze to death.
  • Does your dog have a quiet, comfortable place where they can rest undisturbed and where they will feel safe? Dogs, like people, need downtime and a place where they will feel secure and safe so that they can get adequate rest. People and especially kids need to respect the adage “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
  • If you have multiple pets, does each pet have adequate resources? Many people have multiple pets. Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there frequent conflict? Are there sufficient resources (food, space, and attention) for all of the pets? If your dog feels they do not have what they need to survive, or if they feel threatened or intimidated by another pet in your home, they are not free of discomfort.
  • Do you maintain your dog’s physical condition, so they do not experience discomfort? – Fifty percent of the dogs in the US are clinically obese. Just as with people, obesity often causes pain and discomfort. Many dogs with long coats require weekly grooming by us to prevent their coats from becoming tangled and matted and uncomfortable.

Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease

In many ways Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease is directly related to the previous topic Freedom from Discomfort as pain, injury and disease are often the cause of extreme discomfort.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with the physical illness.

  • Are you familiar with how your dog expresses discomfort so that you recognize when your dog is in pain? –Dogs can be very stoic about hiding their pain. Signs of pain may include agitation, anti-social and aggressive behavior, changes in eating, drinking, and bathroom habits, non-typical vocalization, excessive self-grooming, panting and non-typical breathing patterns, trembling, difficulty moving, changes in posture, restlessness, and anxiety. It is essential to have a thorough understanding of the many subtle signals our dogs use to indicate that they are under stress or anxious. Just because a dog is not reacting does not mean they are free of pain. ( FMI )
  • Is your dog a working dog or do they compete in dog sports? Dogs that are more physically active have a higher probability of injury than the average pet. Appropriate physical training, just like that for an athlete may be beneficial. Also, if the dog is injured having adequate time off from work and sports to recover can be critical. Depending on the injury, retirement from the activity may be the best decision. Working and competing can negatively affect mental health just as much as it can cause physical problems.
  • Are your dog’s pain and injury being adequately addressed? Sadly, I remember a time when dogs were not given pain medication because it was believed they did not need it. However, today we also need to ask ourselves are painkillers enough? Physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture can be very helpful in alleviating pain in people as well as pets and should be considered.
  • Does your dog see their veterinarian for regular wellness exams? – Dogs are subject to chronic diseases such as anxiety, arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, periodontal disease and more. Early diagnosis and treatment of disease help prevent pain and discomfort. Every dog should see their veterinarian at least once a year for a wellness exam, and as they age this may need to be more frequent. Behavior and mental health should be discussed at every exam.
  • Is your dog obese? Just as with humans, fifty percent or more of the dogs in the US are overweight. A dog that is obese is more subject to injury, pain, and disease. If your dog is a little chubby or profoundly corpulent, please see your veterinarian and learn how you can address this issue. Your dog will thank you.
  • What is our responsibility when breeding pets? Some dogs, because of their breed standard, are intentionally bred for physical characteristics that often affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How does this benefit the pet? Would it not be more appropriate to breed to eliminate these exaggerated physical deformities that affect soundness and health? Would it not better for dogs if people looking for a pet avoided these breeds?
  • Are you doing all that you can to prevent and avoid genetic disorders? Most purebred dogs are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these diseases and create healthier pets? When a person is considering what breed to get, should they avoid breeds prone to genetic disorders?
  • Are you as concerned about your dog’s mental and emotional health as you are about their physical health? Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, ) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of behavioral issues are often not considered as necessary as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be regarded as an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog?
  • Do you use tools and methods for training, management and the care of your dog that are designed to work by causing pain and discomfort? – Aversives (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, leash corrections, etc. ) are used to physically or emotionally punish a dog. Dogs that are trained in this manner are unlikely to be happy and have a much greater probability of becoming aggressive. ( FMI – )

Freedom to Express Normal Behavior

When discussing what constitutes normal behavior, I mean behavior for the dog as a species, not what we as a human believe should be “normal” behavior for our dog. As much as we might want to, we cannot dictate what is normal or abnormal for a species.

In our classes, I ask students to list what behaviors they dislike in their dog. The list almost always includes: barking, begging, chasing, chewing, not coming when called  digging, eating “yuck,” getting on furniture or in the trash, growling, guarding things, humping, jumping on people, not listening, play biting, pulling on the leash, rolling in “yuck,” sniffing butts, stealing, being stubborn, and going to the bathroom inside. After reviewing the list, students learn almost everything they have listed is normal behavior for a dog.

One of the easiest ways to create behavior problems in any animal is to deny them the opportunity to express normal behaviors. Caged animals in a zoo that pace back and forth are exhibiting stereotypical behavior caused by stress because they are not able to do what they would normally do. So even though we find some of our dog’s typical behaviors undesirable, we need to find ways to allow them to express these behaviors so as not to compromise their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Some questions you can ask yourself to assess if you are adequately meeting your dog’s behavioral needs are listed below.

  • Do your dogs have an adequate and safe space in which to run, explore and express normal behaviors? Do you provide your dog with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Dogs like and need to sniff and explore. You can do this in your yard, home or on a walk. When you take your dog for a walk do you allow them adequate time to sniff, or do you expect your dog to heel by your side during the entire walk? Walking the dog is very overrated as physical stimulation but can be great for mental stimulation if you allow time for exploration and sniffing.
  • Is the environment in which your dog lives suitably enriched so that it stimulates your dogs mind? Mental stimulation is one of the things people often neglect, yet is very easy to provide. Instead of always feeding your dog in a bowl, feed them in a Kong or several Kong toys that you hide throughout your home. Having to search to find their food and then work to get it out of a Kong is great mental stimulation. Walking a different route every day also provides for mental stimulation as do training sessions.
  • Does your dog receive sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide ongoing emotional enrichment? Most of us get a dog to be a companion. It is vital that we provide companionship to the dog and not just expect them to be there for us when we want company from them. Like any relationship, both dog and person need to contribute to that partnership. Are you always there for your dog when you come home from a disaster of a day? Some would argue that dog’s offer “unconditional love,” and therefore our role in the relationship does not matter. Really? The idea that a dog offers “unconditional love” is a beautiful myth but believing it is our greatest disservice to dogs because it sets them up to fail and allows us to presume that they will always be okay with whatever we do. Dog’s want and need more from us than our love when it is convenient for us to offer it. Take time to cuddle, to play, and whatever else you and your dog enjoy doing together.
  • Does your dog have canine friends? No matter how wonderful our bond is with our dog, from their perspective, we will never be another dog. Having appropriate doggie friends is just as important for our dog’s social life as having human friends is important to us. However, it is essential to make sure that your dog’s friends are well-matched so that they do enjoy one another’s company. Dogs do not automatically like all other dogs.
  • Do you allow your dog to decline to participate in events they find stressful? Dogs will often tell us with their body language, their normal way of communicating when they are uncomfortable. Are you able to read your dog and when you see these signs do you respect them? Just because we want our dog to be a therapy dog and they can pass the test, is it okay to use them in that role if they do not enjoy it? ( FMI )

Freedom from Fear and Distress

I will be readdressing some of the same topics from part 2 of this series, Freedom from Discomfort, as fear and distress are an extension of discomfort, especially when considering our dog’s emotional state.

I genuinely believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect information about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in dogs.

Experiencing fear and distress is normal for any living thing throughout its life. However, since one fearful event can be traumatic enough to create a permanent and debilitating disability, it is essential we understand fear and distress and that we do everything possible to minimize its effect on our dog.

  • Can you readily tell when your dog is fearful or stressed?  Dogs typically do one of four things when afraid. 1) They flee and run away as fast as they can from whatever it is that has scared them. 2) They fight by barking, growling, lunging at, and attacking whatever has threatened them. 3) They freeze in place, not moving a muscle, and not making eye contact with what they fear. 4) They fidget about, displaying normal behaviors (sniffing, scratching, etc.) in an abnormal context while ignoring the threat. These four are the most extreme reactions, but well before your dog exhibits any of those behaviors they will give you subtle signs of their emotional distress. It is essential that you know and understand these signs so that you can intervene early.  Unfortunately, when many dog parents see their dog freezing or fidgeting about they say “Oh, he’s fine” not understanding that the dog is in fact distressed. ( FMI ).
  • Have you and your family committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? By definition, an aversive is anything that causes your pet fear or distress, so if you use these tools or methods, you are NOT ensuring your dog is free from fear or distress. Commonly used aversives include but are not limited to shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish the dog as part of training or management. Dogs subjected to aversives are likely to develop behavioral problems and have a much higher probability of becoming aggressive. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes that the use of aversives is a significant reason for behavioral problems in pets and that they should NEVER be used. ( FMI – )
  • Was your puppy well socialized? Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. Inadequate socialization or inappropriate socialization is a frequent reason for a dog to be fearful in certain situations. Remedial socialization is possible, but you should work with a reward-based, fear-free trainer so that you do not make things worse. (FMI   ) ( FMI – )
  • Do you actively look out for your dog’s best interests so that you can protect them from people that do NOT understand canine body language? Most people do not realize that not all dogs want to interact with people nor do those people comprehend the subtle signs that a dog gives that says “please leave me alone.” Most dogs do not want to bite, but only do so when they feel they have no other option.  As our dog’s caregiver, we have a responsibility to look out for our dog’s welfare which means intervening when others do not respect our dogs right not to interact. Additionally, we need to understand that sometimes the best thing we can do for our dog is to leave them at home. Not all dogs enjoy walking in the animal shelters annual fundraiser.
  • Do you understand the necessity of providing both physical and mental stimulation for your dog while not letting either go to extremes?  A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. However, too much stimulation and exercise can also be even more detrimental, creating a state of chronic stress. Playing fetch or going to the dog park every day can become addictive, causing chemical changes in the brain which can contribute to distress and other behavior problems.
  • Do you understand that while the dog is a social species, they may not like every dog they encounter, even ones that you may want to add to your family? While the domestic dog is considered to be a social animal, some are more social than others. Dogs do not automatically like on another. If we force a dog to live with another pet that they are afraid of, we are causing fear and distress.

Recommended Resources


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms:

Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05:

Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms, D. Hanson, APDT Chronicle of the Dog, Fall 2014

Articles on Don’s Blog ( )

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet?

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?

Puppy Socialization and Habituation

How to choose a dog trainer

What is Dog Training?

Dog Training – Reward Based Training versus Aversives

Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member?, If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledge

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Signs of Anxiety and Fear from Dr. Marty Becker

Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show ( )

What do you feed your pets?

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

Separation Anxiety with Dr. David Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training


©01FEB20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Resources When Looking for A Dog Trainer

< Version – 6DEC19 >

< a short link to this page – >

This is a companion piece to a Woof Meow Show podcast on the benefits of training your dog and working with a credentialed dog professional. It provides information on determining if you need a dog trainer or a behavior specialist, and what to look for when choosing any pet care professional.

Do I Need a Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist”? –

How to Choose A Dog Trainer –

Recommended Resources for People with Pets

Especially for New Dog Parents

Especially for New Puppy Parents

Additional Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

About Don Hanson

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog Link Page

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

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 –

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

How to Choose A Dog Trainer –

Don Hanson and Dr. Dave Cloutier on Puppy Socialization and Vaccination

Dog Training and Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, an interview with Linda Case, Part 1 –

Dog Training and Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, an interview with Linda Case, Part 2 –

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3


Green Acres Kennel Shop website –

Don’s Blog – ( –

Maine Pet Care Professionals We Recommend

Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

Pet Professional Guild – Find A Professional  –

Recommended Resources for People with Pets

< Updated 29NOV19 >

< A short link for this page – >

Our pets do not come with a user manual, and their normal behavior can often be quite different from what we expect or desire. When we chose to live with another species, it is important to understand their normal behaviors as well as abnormal behaviors, if our relationship with them is going to be mutually beneficial.

In 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, which state: “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The report explains that a major reason for behavioral problems is erroneous information about pets and what constitutes normal versus abnormal behavior and appropriate training methods. Misinformation often comes from family, friends, neighbors, rescues/shelters, and even pet care professionals such as veterinarians and trainers. The following resources will provide you with current, and accurate information based on science, so you can better understand your cat or dog, and have a more harmonious relationship with them

Canine Behavior, Dog Training, and Dog to Human Communications

Articles & Blog Posts

Pet Health and Wellness – Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being – A review of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines and the importance of attending to our pets emotional and behavioral well-being.

PODCAST – Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this podcast from The Woof Meow Show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines, “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The guidelines outline how the continuing promulgation of erroneous information about pet behavior and the ongoing use of aversives to train and manage pets are major causes for behavior problems, and recommend that concepts like dominance and the use aversives are not scientifically sound and are, in fact, counter-productive and harmful to the pets in our care. Every pet care professional needs to be aware of the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines

2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – You may read the entire document and references at this link, or download a copy as a PDF file. If your veterinarian is not familiar with this document, I recommend you share it with them. –

How to Choose a Dog Trainer – Don and Kate believe that finding a good dog trainer, even before you get your puppy or dog, is every bit as important as finding the best veterinarian for your pet. In this blog post and podcast, they suggest criteria you can use when looking for a dog trainer. –

Do I Need A Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist” – Don discusses how to determine what type of professional may best be able to help you with your canine challenges.–

Reward-Based Training versus Aversives – This blog post discusses how dog training has changed from using aversives to being aversive-free. Dog training should be fun, and that means it is pain-free, force-free, and fear-free, a position supported by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Both the AAHA and the PPG have position statements that indicate that aversives must never be used in the training or management of a dog. –

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Podcast) – While Don and Kate would never recommend using a shock collar on a dog for any reason, they recognize that not everyone who uses a shock collar on their dog does so understanding the harm it can cause. Sadly, often, the companies that sell and manufacture shock collars do not provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision. This podcast addresses the following questions; What is a shock collar?, How are shock collars used?, How does a shock collar change a dog’s behavior?, What makes the use of a shock collar inappropriate?, What do experts say about shock collars?, and what can people concerned about a dogs well-being do to help prevent dogs from getting shocked? We invite you to tune in and learn more about shock collars and their dangers. –

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Blog Post) – This article provides a detailed analysis of shock collars, how they are used, and why there is always a better choice for both training and management. References to the scientific literature supporting the conclusion of this article are listed. –

Dominance: Reality or Myth – Both a podcast and blog post, this article discusses the myth of dominance and explains why it is so detrimental to the human-dog bond. The blog post also cites the scientific articles referenced and provides links to those articles, where available. –

Introduction to Canine Communication – This blog post discusses canine body language and contains photographs illustrating common calming signals. – 

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? Most behavioral issues with dogs are rooted in anxiety. It is essential for anyone working with dogs to have a thorough understanding of the signs of anxiety. This blog post list resources that will help you to understand better what a dog is trying to tell you.–

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – The following articles were originally published in Downeast Dog News in January of 2018 through May 2018. These articles discuss how one can use the five freedoms to help ensure their dog has a long, fun-filled life. I examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of a dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life. Anyone that shares their life with a dog, as well as all pet care professionals, will benefit from understanding Brambell’s Five Freedoms. –

Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness – This post from Don’s blog is a handout from his presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29, 2016, as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis. It discusses the importance of addressing behavior as well as the reason for behavior problems becoming a more common issue for pets. –

Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress – Stress is a major contributor to behavior problems. This post from Don’s blog looks at both good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress), discusses their physiological effects on the body, and reviews what animals do when afraid. Common causes of stress are reviewed, along with how you can identify stress and reduce it. How stress can escalate and go from an acute event to a chronic condition is reviewed. Any dog exhibiting behavioral issues is under stress, as are most dogs in a shelter or rescue environment. That is not typically due to any fault of the shelter; it is just the nature of being homeless and uncertain. –

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – This post is was first published in Downeast Dog News as a three-part series in July, August, and September of 2017. It discusses the seven breed groups currently defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and examines behavioral traits in these groups and why they matter. –

A Rescue Dogs Perspective – Written from the perspective of Don’s rescue dog Muppy, this article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News and on Don’s blog. It discusses training from Muppy’s point of view and why sometimes delaying starting a training class can be in a dog’s best interest. –

Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Know – This article was originally published in Downeast

Dog growling over a stick

Dog News in May and June of 2017. It addresses how the law defines dangerous dogs. –

What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – Barks from the Guild July 2019 In this article from the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), Don Hanson review the many peer-reviewed scientific studies that have reported that shock collars cause undue stress to dogs and often have a negative impact on their health and well-being. Hanson reviews the professional organizations and legal jurisdictions that believe shock collars should never be used. He then looks at these questions and what scientific research tells us; 1) Does the electric shock from a shock collar cause pain?, 2)  Is training a dog with an aversive such as a shock collar more efficient than using positive reinforcement training and food?, 3) Is the use of aversives necessary to train behaviors such as snake avoidance?, and 4) Does using a shock collar save dogs’ lives?

Podcast – What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – In this podcast from July 27th, 2019, Don and Kate discuss the article What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training published in the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild. –

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog

The following are a series of articles I have written where I acknowledge some of the mistakes I have made during my journey with dogs. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and I share this material with the hope that others can learn from my experience and save their pets from suffering from human error and ego.

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog Link Page

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

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –

Things I Wish I Had Known… The Importance of What I Feed My Pets – – WWM-MAR2019 –


Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011, 2012 – Dr. John Bradshaw is an animal behaviorist and if you look at recent scientific papers on dog or cat behavior, you will often find Bradshaw listed as one of the authors.  In Dog Sense, Bradshaw summarizes the latest research for dog lovers like you and me. Topics he covers include; how the dog evolved, the fallacy of the dominance construct, how the dog’s role in society is changing and how that has led to higher expectations for non-dog like behavior and how these changes might affect the dog’s future. He addresses breeding issues and how the dog fancy’s focus on appearance rather than temperament and health may threaten the existence of many breeds. He also talks about how dogs learn and how research has demonstrated the many advantages of positive reinforcement/reward-based training over the old training model based on force and intimidation.

Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018 – If You Love Dogs or Work with Those Who Love Dogs, You Need to Read This Book! 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. For 2018 I have chosen Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case. Case’s book addresses several issues which anyone with a dog, or anyone working with a dog, needs to be aware of and must understand. These are dominance, dog breeds, the importance of puppy socialization, and the unnecessary use of aversives for the training of dogs. Her book is packed with the latest science on dogs and offers excellent advice on the best and most humane ways to train them. You can read my full review at

What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers, Amy Sutherland, Random House, 2008 – While not a traditional dog training book, this is a book where you can not only learn a great deal about training your dog, but it can also help you have a more harmonious relationship with those around you. The author notes, “The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t,” the same thing we will tell you when teaching you how to train your dog. If your goal is to live in harmony with all the living things around you, read this book.


Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2013 – I first read John Bradshaw’s two previous books on cats; The True Nature of the Cat and The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat back in 2003. Cats, and specifically cat behavior is still under-researched compared to dogs, but Cat Sense nicely sums up what we do know. Bradshaw also discusses how the cat and society are changing and suggests what that means for the cats’ future. Bradshaw has posed some important questions and concerns about neutering and breeding which merit further discussion and action.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006 – This book and its author, Turid Rugaas, have influenced my understanding of dogs more than any other book or seminar. While this book is few in pages, it is rich in information depicted in great photos. This gentle, kind, woman is incredibly knowledgeable about canine behavior and ethology. She has taught many how to live in harmony with our dogs by helping us to understand better what they are trying to tell us, and in turn, she has taught us a better way to express ourselves to our dogs.

Full of photographs illustrating each point, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals focuses on how dogs use specific body language to cutoff aggression and other perceived threats. Dogs use these calming signals to tell one another, and us, when they are feeling anxious and stressed and when their intentions are benign. If you have more than one dog, or if your dog frequently plays with others, or if you are a frequent visitor to the dog park, you need to be familiar with calming signals. This book will help you learn ‘dog language,’ for which you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and its behavior.

A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!, Niki Tudge, Doggone Safe, 2017. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! is written to be used as an interactive resource and uses cartoons and photographs to illustrate body language dogs use to signal when they are happy, afraid, and angry. By teaching children and adults how to read and respond to these signs, the book helps keep people and dogs safe. The world is full of children and dogs, and we must teach them how to interact safely. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! combined with a parent or teacher does just that.



For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006 – This book explores the emotional connection we make with our furry, four-footed canine companions. She also discusses how revolutionary it is to view animals as having a vibrant emotional life. Kudos to McConnell for being one of the few scientists with the courage to admit what almost everyone has known all along; animals experience joy and fear and everything in between. We do not know what it is they are feeling, but it is obvious they have a rich emotional life; in some cases, very joyous and others quite sad.

After reading For the Love of A Dog, you will have a better understanding of the science behind emotions and why our dogs and we get along so well. McConnell has also included an excellent section on canine body language, one of my favorite subjects, and one that is not emphasized enough in classes for pet professionals and dog owners. If you take your dog to the dog park, you MUST know this stuff.

The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, by Patricia B. McConnell, is an information-packed, immensely readable book. In it, you will learn how to have an improved relationship with your dog through better communication. As a scientist who has studied both primate and canine communication systems, Dr. McConnell has a keen understanding of where the communication between humans and dogs often breaks down, creating frustration and stress for both species. For example, she explains how simple innate greeting patterns of both species can cause conflict. We know that when two people meet, the polite thing to do is to make direct eye contact and walk straight toward one another, smiling. However, as Dr. McConnell notes: “The oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head.” Direct eye contact and a direct approach are very confrontational to a dog.

Dr. McConnell also emphasizes how dogs communicate visually, while humans are a very verbal species. The picture she paints of the frustrated chimp, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and screeching repeatedly is only a slight exaggeration of the frustrated human, saying, “sit, sit, sit, ahh please sit” while displaying countless bits of body language. Primates, including humans, “…have a tendency to repeat notes when we’re excited, to use loud noises to impress others, and to thrash around whatever is in our paw if we’re frustrated. This behavior has no small effect on our interactions with dogs, who, in spite of some barks and growls, mostly communicate visually, get quiet rather than noisy to impress others, and are too busy standing on their paws to do much else with them.” With these fundamental differences, it’s amazing we can communicate with our dogs at all.

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001. I have been reading Pat Miller’s articles in the Whole Dog Journal for years and have loved everything she has written. She is a skilled and compassionate dog trainer who knows how to communicate with dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.


Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats

Malignant Behavior: The Cesar Millan Effect (from Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats ) –

Show Down with Holly in Slow Motion – A dissection of canine body language –


Green Acres Kennel Shop website –

Don’s Blog – ( –

The Woof Meow Show on Libsyn Podcast page

Maine Pet Care Professionals We Recommend

Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

Dog Training Educational Resources for The Pet Owner – A vast collection of articles helpful to pet owners from the world’s premier organization for pet care professionals and pet owners. –

The Shock-Free Coalition

Doggone Safe – Committed to education about safe human-canine interactions to prevent dog bites that can ultimately lead to serious and life-altering ramifications for both people and their pets. –

I Speak – Is an excellent resource for learning to understand your dog by better understanding how they communicate with other dogs as well as with you. You cannot effectively teach your dog if you do not speak their language. –

©29NOV19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Do I Need a Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist”?

< A version of this article was published in the November 2019 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 09FEB21 >

< A short link to this page – >

Dogs do not come with written instructions, and whether you have an 8-week old puppy, a six-year-old rescue dog, or anything in between having a relationship with a professional and accredited dog training or behavior expert can be your greatest asset.

Dog trainers typically teach you how to train your dog to be a great companion. They will address house-training, bite inhibition, jumping, and socialization with puppies and skills like teaching sit, down, stay, come, heel, leave it, and attention. Dog training is not a licensed profession, so you need to do your research carefully before making a selection. You can learn more at these links

If you have a dog with anxiety, fear, or aggression issues, you may need more than an accredited, professional dog trainer. In, fact if you are experiencing any of these issues, you should start with a visit to your veterinarian as there are medical issues that could be contributing to your dog’s undesired behavior. Any medical issue causing pain or discomfort can contribute to aggression. Other medical problems that can affect behavior include endocrine and neurological disorders and even tick-borne diseases.

Aggressive behavior is often an emotional response (anger or fear), and training alone may not be helpful. For example, a dog who has been trained in a wide variety of scenarios may well be able to sit on a single visual or verbal cue, but when under stress they may not respond to the cues you give. For example, you may be able to recite Shakespeare or solve differential equations, but your ability to do so when stressed may make it doing those tasks very difficult. We need to recognize and accept that a reactive dog is stressed and uncomfortable.

If your veterinarian rules out a medical reason for your dog’s behavior, you will want to seek the assistance of a professional credentialed to work with behavior cases. There are three levels of professionals to consider.

At the top of the list is a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. This is a veterinarian that has completed additional training in behavior and is entitled to use the term “Veterinary Behaviorist’ and use the initials DACVB after their name. They will be experienced in training, behavior modification, and in the use of pharmaceuticals to aid in treating behavioral issues. As of the Fall of 2019, Maine has its first Veterinary Behaviorist in the state, Christine D. Calder DVM DACVB. [ FMI – Introducing Dr. Christine Calder, Maine’s 1st Veterinary Behaviorist – ]

Next on the list are individuals who are credentialed by the Animal Behavior Society. They usually have a doctorate or master’s degree in animal behavior and have passed an exam that then allows them to use the title Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB or ACAAB). You can find a list of these individuals at I am not aware of any currently practicing in Maine.

At the next tier are those like myself that are credentialed as Behavior Consultants. Although people occasionally refer to me as a behaviorist, I am not. The only people that should be using the title “behaviorist” are those that are credentialed by the Animal Behavior Society or the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. There are three independent accrediting bodies that credential people like myself doing behavioral work listed below.

Like dog training, behavior consulting is not a licensed profession, so please verify the credentials of whomever you select to help your dog. If they recommend the use of any type of aversive (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, spray bottle, dominance downs), anything meant to punish, look for someone else. Punishing your dog is only likely to make their aggression worse and more dangerous.

Lastly, you might want to review a past column of mine at the link below.

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

What Is Dog Training?

How to Choose a Dog Trainer

Maine Dog Trainers That I Recommend

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Introducing Dr. Christine Calder, Maine’s 1st Veterinary Behaviorist

Web Sites

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)

Animal Behavior Society –

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)

Midcoast Humane –

Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, ME 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, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

09FEB21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training

< A short link to this post – >

< UPDATED – 27JUL19 >

< A short link to a podcast on this topic – >

< The original version of this article was published in the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild, a publication of the Pet Professional Guild. >You may read it in its original format by clicking here, or you may download a printable PDF file by clicking here.

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was founded in 2012 by current president, Niki Tudge. As a dog training and pet care professional, Tudge, like many of us, was discouraged by the flawed and harmful information being disseminated around the profession, including by some trainers, day care operators, groomers, boarding kennels, breeders, shelters, rescues, veterinarians, and even “reality” television shows. In some cases, the latter were promoted as offering “expert” dog training advice, but were, in fact, just like most “reality” TV: entertainment based on conflict and drama.

From its inception, PPG has been committed to the training, care, and management of companion animals that are free from pain, force, and fear. Its Guiding Principles (2012) state that members are obligated to follow this philosophy: “To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild, all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild members understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No compulsion based methods are ever employed to train or care for a pet.” [Emphasis added]

This guarantee to kind, compassionate and scientific training methods is why I am a member of PPG and why the Find A Professional section of the PPG website is the first place I go when looking to refer to another pet care professional. Whoever I recommend reflects on my reputation and that of my business, so it is essential I know that those receiving my referrals are committed to training, care, and management that comply with PPG’s Guiding Principles.

In January 2015, the PPG Advocacy Committee was born with its mission defined thus: “To reduce or eliminate the practice of using electronic shock devices in the training of domestic pet animals. PPG will achieve this goal through strategic professional, respectful and energetic processes of advocacy and education. These efforts will at all times adhere to the Guiding Principles of PPG and will be accomplished through the development of specific action plans, as determined by members of the PPG Advocacy Committee.”

Key to this plan was to use the existing and developing scientific literature, demonstrating that using shock to train animals is unnecessary and often harmful and not in the interest of animal welfare, as a foundation. Next came the Shock-Free Coalition, established in September 2017, a child of the Advocacy Committee, but a separate entity with its own website and a very clear mission: “The key purpose of the Shock-Free Coalition is to build a strong and broad movement committed to eliminating shock devices from the supply and demand chain. This goal will be reached when shock tools and equipment are universally unavailable and not permitted for the training, management and care of pets.”

Critical steps in this process are:

  • To engage and educate pet owners and shelter/rescue workers to help them make informed decisions about the management, care, and training of the pets in their charge.
  • To build a worldwide coalition that provides pet owners access to competent, professional pet industry service providers.
  • To create widespread pet industry transparency and compliance regarding how professionals implement their services and communicate their philosophy to pet owners.
  • The Shock-Free Coalition website serves as an educational resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the organization and why ending the use of shock is so essential. It also offers anyone the opportunity to support the cause by taking the Shock-Free Pledge, either as an individual or as a business. Participants may pledge at several different levels ranging from simply signing the pledge to signing the pledge and making a recurring financial contribution to help the mission continue toward its goal.

What Does Science Tell Us about Shock?

The Shock-Free Coalition did not come to its conclusion that using shock for the training, care, and management of pets was unnecessary and harmful out of the blue. Its position is based on the careful review of the growing number of peer reviewed, scientific studies that demonstrate that shock is not only unnecessary, but is harmful, both physically and psychologically.

What Do the Professional Organizations Say?

The current scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain have moved a number of representing professional organizations to advocate for the use of humane training techniques founded on evidence-based learning theories and avoid training methods or devices which employ coercion, pain, force and/or fear (Tudge & Nilson, 2016). These include, but are not limited to:

  • “The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines oppose aversive training techniques, such as prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls (forcibly rolling a pet on his or her back), electronic shock collars, entrapment, and physically punishing a pet. The guidelines note that aversive training techniques can harm or even destroy an animal’s trust in his or her owner, negatively impact the pet’s problem-solving ability, and cause increased anxiety in the animal. Aversive techniques are especially a concern if pets are already fearful or aggressive, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. According to the AAHA guidelines, the only acceptable training techniques are non-aversive, positive techniques that rely on the identification of, and reward for, desirable behaviors. Positive reinforcement is the most humane and effective approach.” – American Animal Hospital Association (2015).
  • “The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supports the use of humane training methods for dogs that are based on current scientific knowledge of learning theory. Reward-based methods are highly recommended. Aversive methods are strongly discouraged as they may cause fear, distress, anxiety, pain or physical injury to the dog.” – –          Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (2015).
  • “Aversive, punishment-based techniques may alter behaviour, but the methods fail to address the underlying cause and, in the case of unwanted behaviour, can lead to undue anxiety, fear, distress, pain or injury.” – British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2019).
  • The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) “recommends against the use of electronic shock collars and other aversive methods for the training and containment of animals. Shocks and other aversive stimuli received during training may not only be acutely stressful, painful and frightening for the animals, but may also produce long term adverse effects on behavioural and emotional responses…The BSAVA strongly recommends the use of positive reinforcement training methods that could replace those using aversive stimuli.” – British Small Animal Veterinary Association (2019).
  • “The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has concerns about the use of aversive training devices to control, train or punish dogs. The use of devices such as electronic collars, as a means of punishing or controlling behaviour of companion animals is open to potential abuse and incorrect use of such training aids has the potential to cause welfare and training problems…Electric pulse devices are sometimes used in dog training as a form of punishment to prevent a dog from repeating bad behaviour. Although training a dog is important for their well-being, research shows that electric pulse collars are no more effective than positive reinforcement methods. BVA has consulted with experts and examined the evidence. Research by Schalke, Stichnoth and Jones-Baade (2005) showed that the application of electric stimulus, even at a low level, can cause physiological and behavioral responses associated with stress, pain and fear. In light of the evidence, BVA has concluded that electric pulse collars raise a number of welfare issues, such as the difficulty in accurately judging the level of electric pulse to apply to a dog without causing unnecessary suffering.” – British Veterinary Association (2018).
  • “The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) does not support the use of electronic behaviour modifying collars (e-collars) that deliver aversive stimuli for the training or containment of dogs. E-collars have the potential to harm both the physical and mental health of dogs. They are an aversive training method that have in some studies been associated with significant negative animal welfare outcomes. Positive reinforcement training methods are an effective and humane alternative to e-collars for dog training…The use of pain to train dogs is no more acceptable or humane when it is administered by remote control, than if it was delivered as a physical blow such as a punch or kick.” – New Zealand Veterinary Association (2018).
  • “E-collar training is associated with numerous well documented risks concerning dog health, behavior and welfare. Any existing behaviour problem is likely to deteriorate or an additional problem is likely to emerge, when such a collar is used. This becomes an even greater risk when this aversive tool is used by an unqualified trainer (as training is largely unregulated throughout the EU, it appears that a large number of trainers are unqualified). Additionally, the efficacy of these collars has not been proven to be more effective than other alternatives such as positive training. Hence, European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (ESVCE) encourages education programmes which employ positive reinforcement methods (while avoiding positive punishment and negative reinforcement) thereby promoting positive dog welfare and a humane, ethical and moral approach to dog training at all times.” – European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (2017).
  • In addition to these professional bodies, several countries, including England, Wales, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, the province of Quebec in Canada, and the states of New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in Australia, have already banned electronic stimulation devices. Under recent amendments to ACT animal welfare legislation, anyone who places an electric shock device, such as a shock collar, on an animal, will attract a maximum penalty of AU$16,000 [$11,000] and a year’s imprisonment (Brewer, 2019). In Scotland, “strict guidance” has been published by the Scottish Parliament which provides “advice on training methods and training aids for dogs, with particular focus on the welfare issues that may arise from the use of aversive methods including e-collars. It highlights the potential consequences of the misuse of aversive training aids, including possible legal consequences.” (The Kennel Club, 2018) (Tudge, Nilson, Millikan & Stapleton-Frappell, 2019).

Examining Arguments

Meanwhile, there are pet care professionals, pet owners, and moneyed interests, such as the companies that manufacture and sell shock collars, who disregard all the research and advocate for the continued use of shock. Common arguments include that the shock “does not cause pain or discomfort” and therefore cannot be abusive or inhumane; shock is “more efficient” for training than positive reinforcement training; shock is the “only way” certain behaviors can be trained (e.g., snake avoidance training); and using shock “saves dogs’ lives.” Let’s now look at each of those arguments individually and examine them from a scientific perspective.

#1: Does the electric shock from a shock collar cause pain? States Anderson (2012): “During the initial training period, [shock] must be painful, uncomfortable, or frightening, or it wouldn’t work. It has to have some unpleasant feeling that is robust enough to get the dog to work to make it stop.”

Science, through published peer reviewed research, is quite clear that shock collars cause pain. While proponents might call it a “stim” a “tap,” or a “static charge,” we know from the science of operant conditioning that the aversive stimulus (electric shock) must be sufficiently distressing (i.e., physical or emotionally painful) to cause a change in behavior. If it did not hurt, it would not work.

Several studies have reported that shock collars cause undue stress to dogs. A study by Schilder and van der Borg (2004) examined guard dogs who were specially bred for toughness and low sensitivity to pain and stress and found that training with shock collars caused long-lasting stress effects — to the point that the dogs continued to associate their handler as aversive even outside of a training context. The dogs exhibited behaviors associated with fear and anxiety long after they had received shocks. “The conclusions, therefore are, that being trained [with electric shock] is stressful. That receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the dogs have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context.” (Schilder & van der Borg, 2004).

Fear and Anxiety

Late veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin (2011) discussed this study in a post on her blog and made the following key conclusions:

  • Overall, the researchers concluded that even when compared to working dogs trained using choke chain and pinch collar corrections, dogs trained with electronic shock collars showed more fear and anxiety behaviors than those trained by other traditional police dog and watch-dog methods.
  • Avoidance behavior and fear postures during the shocks indicated that the shock elicited both pain and fear and therefore were not just a distraction or nuisance.
  • “The enormous rewards the dogs experience during training i.e. chasing down, catching a criminal and winning the sleeve, do not counter the negative effects of getting shocked. This is in spite of the fact that handlers of non-shocked dogs admitted that they use prong collars and that their dogs experienced beatings and other harsh punishment, such as kicks or choke collar corrections.” (Yin, 2011).

An important point to note here is that shock collar users may sometimes say something along the lines of, “I don’t use the shock feature any more. I only use the collar with the beep on now.” However, the Shock-Free Coalition (2019) points out that the tone itself can become as aversive and damaging as the shock once the association has been established: “If I pull out a gun, and I cock it, are you any less scared than if I fired it? If your dog does what you ask when he hears the beep, it means that he has learned that the beep predicts a painful shock, just like cocking the gun predicts a bullet hitting you. While the collar is no longer physically hurting the dog, it can still be scarring him emotionally.”

Another study, by Schalke, Stichnoth, Ott and Jones-Baade (2007), examined the use of shock for training to stop undesirable hunting/ chasing behavior. This study also revealed that the dogs being trained with shock found it to be very stressful. The authors concluded, “…the general use of electric shock collars is not consistent with animal welfare.”

A third study, AW1402, conducted by the University of Lincoln and the University of Bristol for DEFRA in the United Kingdom (2010), compared the features of several shock collars and examined how they are typically used by pet owners. The researchers concluded that “for a subset of dogs tested, the previous use of e-collars in training are associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with significant negative emotional states; this was not seen to the same extent in the control population. It is therefore suggested that the use of e-collars in training pet dogs can lead to a negative impact on welfare, at least in a proportion of animals trained using this technique.”

The AW1402 researchers also observed that the instruction manuals that came with shock collar products did not provide an adequate explanation of how to use the device. When the individuals using the collars were interviewed, they could not explain how to use the collar properly and often indicated that they had failed to read the instructions or chose to ignore them. The researchers concluded that “…some of the reported use was clearly inconsistent with advice in e-collar manuals and potentially a threat to the dog’s welfare.” (DEFRA, 2010).

As noted in the AW1402 study, misuse and inappropriate use of shock collars are not uncommon. One of my employees witnessed such abuse at a field trial event. A dog owner with two dogs was working with one dog and had a second dog in his truck in a crate. The dog he was working with did not respond to a cue, so the owner pressed a button on the remote to shock the dog. The dog still did not respond to the cue, so the owner shocked the dog again. Meanwhile, the dog in the crate was yelping each time the owner intended to shock the dog he was allegedly training. It was not until our staff member pointed it out that the owner realized he was shocking the wrong dog as he was using the wrong remote unit.

Ultimately, I think the question everyone with a dog needs to ask themselves is, “Do I want to be working with a pet care professional that does not understand the basic principles of learning?” States veterinarian and veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lisa Radosta in the 2017 documentary, Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats:If your trainer is still using pinch collars and choke collars, they haven’t read a book or gone to a scientifically based seminar in 25 years.” The sad fact is that dog training is an unregulated profession, and because of that, there are far too many people in the profession spreading disinformation about dogs, their behavior, and how to train them.

For anyone who understands how animals learn, what could be their motivation for using, recommending, and selling shock collars all the while telling people it’s not really a shock and/or it won’t hurt their dog? They are certainly not being truthful. Sadly, greed has caused humans to do unethical and unnecessary things from the beginning of time. I believe this excerpt from Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats (2017) further illustrates my point about shock causing pain as well as the motivation for selling shock collars. It begins with Dr. Radosta’s statement cited in the previous paragraph and continues with a video of someone demonstrating a shock collar on themselves. I use this excerpt in my orientation program for all my Basic Manners students and in a presentation for my aggression clients, and it does help people understand that shock is very painful.

#2. Is training a dog with an aversive such as a shock collar more efficient than using positive reinforcement training and food? The next argument we might hear in favor of using shock is that the pain it causes is “irrelevant,” because, as a training method, it is “so much more efficient.” Well, is it?

The DEFRA AW1402 study (2010) indicates that not only does shock cause pain, it is often misused. This led to a second DEFRA study, AW1402a (2011), to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs. AW1402a was designed to investigate how dogs would react when a shock collar was used per the manufacturer’s instructions. The study looked at three different groups of dogs, all with owners that had reported their dog either had a poor recall or chased cars, bicycles or animals. One group of dogs was trained with a shock collar by dog trainers that had been trained by shock collar manufacturers; the second group of dogs was trained by the same dog trainers but with positive reinforcement. The last group of dogs was trained by members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) in the United Kingdom using positive reinforcement. The researchers found “behavioural evidence that use of e-collars negatively impacted on the welfare of some dogs during training even when training was conducted by professional trainers using relatively benign training programmes advised by e-collar advocates.” The study also demonstrated that the shock collar was no more effective at resolving r call and chasing behaviors than positive reinforcement training.

Ethics and Welfare

A study by Hiby, Rooney and Bradshaw (2004) specifically assessed the effectiveness of different training methods (positive reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative reinforcement) and how they affected a dog’s behavior. The scientists did not just look at shock as an aversive, but even evaluated vocal punishment and physical punishment. They concluded: “There are ethical concerns that dog training methods incorporating physical or verbal punishment may result in pain and/or suffering. We provide evidence that, in the general dog owning population, dogs trained using punishment are no more obedient than those trained by other means and, furthermore, they exhibit increased numbers of potentially problematic behaviours. Problematic behaviours can compromise welfare as they are often associated with an increased state of anxiety (e.g. Askew, 1996) and they can also lead the owner to relinquish the dog (Serpell, 1996). Because reward-based methods are associated with higher levels of obedience and fewer problematic behaviours, we suggest that their use is a more effective and welfare-compatible alternative to punishment for the average dog owner.” (Hiby, Rooney & Bradshaw, 2004).

A 2012 study by Blackwell, Bolster, Richards, Loftus and Casey specifically looked at the use of shock collars for training dogs, why owners used them, and how effective they were. The researchers concluded that “more owners using reward based methods for recall/chasing report a successful outcome of training than those using e-collars.” (Blackwell, Bolster, Richards, Loftus & Casey, 2012).

Aggressive Behavior: Case Studies

How can shock cause aggressive behavior? I believe most everyone understands that there are times when they have been anxious, reactive, rude, or outright aggressive when they were experiencing any type of pain or stress. Often, the target of that aggression will be whatever they are focusing on when they experience the pain. Here are two cases involving dogs that were brought to me for a behavior consultation due to aggressive behavior. In both cases, the owners believed the aggression had been caused by the use of a shock collar.

Case #1: Jake

“Jake,” a very social dog, bounded off to greet every person he saw. Jake’s guardians were concerned about him leaving the yard because he frequently went to visit the neighbors. He loved visiting with them and they enjoyed having him there. For what they believed was Jake’s protection, the family installed an underground fence system that would keep him in their yard. They trained him to the system per the manufacturer’s instructions.

After the system was installed, Jake saw the neighbor out in her yard. Since he had always liked his neighbor, he ran straight toward her, but was shocked when crossing the invisible line. This happened a few more times, until, one day, Jake was inside his home when the neighbor knocked on the front door. When the family opened the door, Jake saw the neighbor and immediately reacted by biting her in the leg.

To Jake, the neighbor was the predictor of the shock, and he now associated her with being shocked. This incident could have been pre-vented with the installation of a real fence or by supervising Jake when he was out in the yard.

Case #2: Jenny

“Jenny” would drag her guardians around on her leash, especially when she saw another dog. Jenny was just curious and friendly and wanted to greet the other dogs, but her guardians were older, and Jenny was an energetic and powerful dog. They had made no attempts to train Jenny and were frustrated with being dragged around anytime Jenny saw another dog. They went to a big box pet store where it was suggested they purchase a remote shock collar. They were instructed to shock Jenny whenever she pulled on her leash.

On their next walk, Jenny, as she always had done, moved forward in friendly greeting when she spotted another dog. Jenny was fixated on the dog she wanted to meet when she was shocked. The next time Jenny saw another dog on a walk, she immediately became anxious. As the dog approached, Jenny lunged, but this time she also growled and bared her teeth. Jenny had become very afraid. She was trying to look fierce to scare the dog away before he hurt her, when she was shocked yet again. Jenny, now anxious and confused about other dogs, learned to become aggressive because of her fear of the shock, which she associated with other dogs.

Jenny’s guardians did not train her to stop pulling; all they succeeded in doing is making a previously dog-friendly dog, dog-aggressive. If they had enrolled Jenny in a reward-based training class and made use of a front-connect walking harness, they could have taught her to walk nicely without ever causing her any pain or fear.

These are not isolated occurrences. I have training colleagues throughout the country that could tell you of similar incidents. A study by Polsky (2000) examined five cases of severe attacks by dogs who had been trained or contained via electric shock. None of the dogs had a history of aggression before being shocked. The study concludes there is a high probability that experience with shock was at least partially responsible for the aggressive behavior. This is very similar to Jake’s story.

#3. Is the use of aversives necessary to train behaviors such as snake avoidance?

Why use a shock collar if we know it can cause pain and can create previously nonexistent behavior problems like anxiety and aggression, especially when it is no more effective and often less effective than reward-based training? One answer we may often hear is that there are certain behaviors you can “only” teach a dog with an aversive like a shock. A typical behavior that is often used as an example is training a dog to stay away from rattlesnakes, or any other kind of venomous snake. While there is no peer reviewed literature to support the argument that shock is not necessary for training snake aversion, nor is there any peer reviewed literature to suggest that it is. Meanwhile, there is ample anecdotal evidence that demonstrates shock is not necessary in training more challenging behaviors. Certified professional dog trainer Pamela Johnson conducted a webinar for PPG where she explains exactly how to train your dog to be safe around snakes without resorting to the use of shock.

When it comes to teaching animals “mission critical” behaviors, far more advanced than rattlesnake aversion, one only need to look to the work done by Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE) and the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Training program. Marian and Bob Bailey were part of both of those efforts and trained animals to do many amazing things all with positive reinforcement training. Yin (2012) discusses how Bailey and Bailey continued to use their expertise to help train military dogs and also shares a little-known story about work they did in the 1960s training cats for the Central Intelligence Agency. What were the cats trained to do? To follow people through airports. If you want to learn more about how animal training moved from being a craft to a science, you might want to track down a copy of a film ABE made on the subject called Patient Like the Chipmunks.

#4. Does using a shock collar save dogs’ lives?

Sometimes we might hear or read on social media that “using shock can save a dog’s life.” This is essentially the argument for using shock to train snake avoidance. In reality, it is a last-ditch attempt to “shock” an owner into a state of fear and anxiety, because no one wants their dog to die. The fact is there is no peer reviewed research to prove or disprove this statement, and never will be, because the design of such a study would never be approved by a review board because it would not be ethical.

How You Can Help

If the Shock-Free Coalition is going to be successful, we need the help of every single PPG member as well as all of the pet parents that want the best life possible for their furry friend. Here are some things you can do to help:

Sign the Pledge

If you are a PPG member, a pet parent, or a pet care profession and have not signed the Shock-Free Pledge), please do so! I get it, we’re all busy, and sometimes we put things on a “to do list” and then just never get to it. As a PPG member, you have already committed to The Guiding Principles, so we know that you understand the importance of ending the use of shock collars. It is important that we get all PPG members to sign the pledge.  It is equally important that we get pet parents and pet care professionals to support our call to end the use of shock for the management and training of dogs.

Position Statements

Familiarize yourself with the PPG Position Statement on Shock Training and the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. These two documents, especially when used together, make a compelling and scientifically sound argument for never using shock. Ask the veterinarians in your community if they are familiar with the AAHA Guidelines, especially those that are AAHA accredited facilities. If they are not, print a copy and share it with them. You might even highlight the most important parts.

Even though the ESVCE Position Statement on Electronic Training Devices focuses primarily on Europe, being one of the most recent position statements, it is a valuable resource anywhere. Ask the veterinarians in your community if they are familiar with this document and if they are not, print a copy and share it with them.

On the Web

The Shock-Free Coalition website is full of excellent information for you to review and share with others as you help spread the word about the importance of educating people about the use of shock. This material is freely available to you for when you need to speak to clients and others about the reasons for selecting positive reinforcement training as opposed to using aversives.

A special thank you to Susan Nilson, the BARKS from the Guild editor-in-chief, for her contributions to this article.


American Animal Hospital Association. (2019). AAHA behavior guidelines offer solutions to managing behavior problems with your pet. Available at:

Anderson, E. (2012). What is Shock Training? – Is It Really Just A Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained. Available at:

Blackwell, E.J., Bolster, C., Richards, G., Loftus, B.A., & Casey, R.A. (2012). The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods. BMC Veterinary Research (8) 93. Available at:

Brewer, P. (2019). Do let the dogs out: Huge fines for pet confinement part of ACT animal welfare overhaul. Available at:

British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (2019). Position Statement on Animal Training. Available at:

British Small Animal Veterinary Association. (2019). Position Statement on Aversive Training Methods. Available at:

British Veterinary Association. (2018). Aversive training devices for dogs. Available at:

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. (2015). Humane Training Methods for Dogs – Position Statement. Available at:

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (2010). Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs: Project Code AW1402. Available at:

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (2011). Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training: Project Code AW1402a. Available at:

European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology. (2017). ESVCE Position Statement: Electronic Training Devices. Available at:

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004). Dog training methods—their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare (13) 63–69. Available at:

New Zealand Veterinary Association. (2018). Use of behaviour modifying collars on dogs. Available at:

Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Guiding Principles. Available at:

Polsky, R. (2000). Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 3 (4) 345‐357. Available at:

Sandgrain Films. (2017). Shock Collar [Video File]. Available at:

Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J., & Jones‐Baade, R. (2005). Stress symptoms caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs (Canis familiaris) in everyday life situations. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine. 5th International Veterinary Behavior Meeting. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 139‐145.

Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J., Ott, S., & Jones‐Baade, R. (2007). Clinical signs caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs in everyday life situations. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 105 (4) 369‐380. Available at:

Schilder, M., & van der Borg, J. (2004). Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science (85) 319–334. Available at:

Shock‐Free Coalition. (2019). Myths and Misconceptions. Available at:

The Kennel Club. (2018). The Kennel Club and Scottish Kennel Club Welcomes the Scottish Government’s Effective Ban on Shock Training Devices. Available at:

Tudge, N.J, & Nilson, S.J. (2016). The Use of Shock in Animal Training. Available at:

Tudge, N.J, Nilson, S.J., Millikan, D.A., & Stapleton‐Frappell, L.A. (2019). Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People. (n.p.): DogNostics Career Center Publishing –

Yin, S. (2011). Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful – A New Study Reveals Some Answers. Available at:

Yin, S. (2012). How Technology from 30 Years Ago is Helping Military Dogs Perform Better Now. Available at:


American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines:

European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology ‐ Position Statement on Electronic Training Devices:

Pet Professional Guild ‐ Rattlesnake Avoidance Training Using Force‐Free Methods [Webinar]:

Pet Professional Guild ‐ Member Search:

Pet Professional Guild ‐ Position on Shock Training:

Shock‐Free Coalition:

Shock‐Free Coalition Pledge:

Other Related Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

Hanson, D. (2004-2018). The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars, Available at:

Hanson, D.  (2018) Helping Your Dog Thrive with Brambell’s Five Freedoms, Available at: Brambell’s Five Freedoms

Hanson, D. (2018, 2019). Things I Wish I Had Known…, Available at:

Hanson, D. (2006). Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility, Available at:

Hanson, D. (2006). Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care, Available at:

Hanson, D. (2018). The Shock-Free Coalition: What’s Next?, Don Hanson explains how to keep the momentum going once you have signed the Shock-Free Pledge,

Hanson, D.  (2018) Celebrating the 1st Year of the Shock-Free Coalition – +R Rocks, Available at:

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Podcast – What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training

Podcast – The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show: The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudge

©27-Jul-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

What’s In A Name – The importance of choosing and using your dog’s name wisely

< A version of this article was published in the July 2019 issue of
Downeast Dog News>

<A short link to this post –>

Your dog’s name is an essential signal you will use when you want to communicate with them. At its most basic, to your dog it means “pay attention to whoever said my name,” and if you want it to work at its best, it should mean “paying attention to whoever says my name results in yummy rewards!”

Choosing A Name for Your Dog

If you adopt a puppy, from a breeder or a shelter, you will be able to name them anything you want. However, I suggest you spend some time thinking about the name you pick. There are personal factors to consider, as well as practical considerations.

Practical Considerations for a Puppy Name

  • Choose a name that is at most two syllables; a name that is short and distinct. While Princess Margaret could be a marvelous name for a dog, its length may make it less effective. I would suggest you use Princess, Maggie, or Mags for training. Short names are easier for dogs to recognize.
  • Choose a name that is unique and will not sound in like a verbal cue you use for training or the name of someone in your home. For example, “Clown” could be an excellent name for a dog that is an incessant goofball. However, it sounds like the verbal cue, “Down.” That could make things confusing for your beloved Clown, so perhaps “Goofy” would be a better name. Avoid selecting a name that is similar to the names of others, animals, or people, that live in your household. Having a Joe, Moe, and Beau, all in the same house could become very confusing. Moreover, those names also sound like “No,” a word that most pet parents use far too often.
  • If you follow the above suggestions, your dog’s name can be anything you want it to be.

Practical Considerations for an Older Dog

Most older dogs we bring into our families will already have a name. If the dog already responds cheerfully to their name, keep the name, even if you are not fond of it. We adopted our dog Shed when she was five years old. We were told the name was an abbreviation for Sh**head, which was a reason not to like the name. However, Shed responded to “Shed” with joy and enthusiasm, so that remained her name.

Our dog Muppy was picked up as a stray in Mississippi when she was about 18 months old. She was pregnant so went into a foster home for 8-weeks where she was named Marlene. Somewhere between her foster home and her transfer to a rescue in New Hampshire, she became Molly. When we got her, she did not respond to either name, and so we took some time to get to know her personality. After about a week, she became “Muppy.” She has been with us for six years now, and everyone agrees that her name suits her well.

Personal Considerations

It’s your dog so you can name her anything you want; however, other family members may wish to have a voice in the matter. I suggest the adults have veto power so that they can ensure that the name is practical, as noted above. For example, it is entirely within the realm of possibility for a child to believe that “Mister Fluffy Pants” is the best name ever, but, I suggest you meet them halfway. Get the puppy something (a bowl, a bed, a collar, etc.) labeled “Mister Fluffy Pants” but agree to use something shorter for training; perhaps “Fluffy.” Whatever you choose for everyday use is the name that should be on your dog’s ID tag and microchip records.

If got your puppy from a breeder that will register the litter, they might have a say in the puppy’s registered name. Our Golden Retriever, Tikken, was bred by Mariner Kennels and was born on Martin Luther King Day. Mariner considered her to be part of the “Freedom” litter and wanted her registered name to include the words “Mariner” and “Freedom.” Our choice for Tikken’s registered name was “Mariner Freedom Fighter,” which led us to the name Tikken < FMI >.

Do not feel compelled to choose your dog’s name on the first day, or before you bring your puppy home. However, recognize that you do not want to wait too long. From the moment my wife and I met Gus, even before we chose to take him home, we knew he was a “Gus.” The longer he was with us, the more we were convinced we chose wisely. With Tikken, Dulcie, and Muppy, it took us some time to select the name that suited them.

Practical Considerations for All dogs

NEVER use your dog’s name in anger or frustration. Doing this just once may cause your dog to want to avoid you. It can take lots of work to recover from this mistake.

Frequently reward your dog, with food, for responding to their name < FMI – >

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

Remembering Tikken –

Dog Training – The Name Game –

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, ME 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, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©8JUL19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >