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Author Archives: Ottawa Canine School

Turn your dog into a CHEW-A-HOLIC

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Dogs have a biological need to chew. Even though chewing is normal and healthy, it can still be a regular problem—for you and your furniture. Whether your dog is a puppy or a newly adopted grown dog, get him hooked on chew toys instead of your shoes.  Kong and Nylabone make a wide variety of durable, good quality products that can meet your dog’s chewing needs. 

Prevent mistakes. When you can’t supervise, put your dog in an enclosed, dog-proofed area with a sanctioned chewie. 

Teach good chewing choices. Dogs have texture preferences, so try to match what yours like. If he is attacking the couch pillows, try giving him plush toys. If he is eyeing the table leg, try a bone. Praise liberally when your dog chews something allowed.

Interrupt mistakes. If your dog chews the wrong thing, interrupt and trade him for something he can chew on. Praise liberally when he does.

Why I left my six-figure job

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Why I walked away from a six-figure job.

by Chantal Mills

In 2003 I was a High School Guidance Counsellor. It was what I’d aspired to become when I started my teaching career, nearly a decade earlier.  I had achieved my goal, and was living my dream by day, and obsessed with learning as much as I could about dogs by night. I couldn’t wait to spend my free time either with dogs or learning about them.

In 2004 I signed up for an expensive course to learn how to become a dog trainer. I never thought it would lead to opening a dog training business. My goal was simply to put a stop to the intense drive I had that was keeping me awake, pushing me to know everything I could about dogs. I mistakenly thought that by taking the professional dog training course, by having the information and by doing the hands-on work, it would satiate my hunger for knowledge.

In retrospect, the love of animals has always been there. Growing up, you’d find me in my neighbour’s barn, either hanging out with the horses or helping with the milking of the cows. I have pictures of me sleeping in the mud room with our dog because I didn’t want him to sleep alone. It’s a bit embarrassing but I’ll tell you anyway… I would take walks in the forest with arms outstretched, in the hopes that birds would feel welcomed to land on my arms. I talked to the animals and asked that they come out of hiding. In grade 7, I set up a phone interview with a veterinarian in Alfred, Ontario. He was very generous with his time. That conversation convinced me that I wanted to become a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, my talents lay not in math and science, and by the time I was in University, my calling to become a teacher was loud and clear. My love of animals did not disappear whilst in University. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the time, near the end of the semester, I bought a Golden Retriever puppy and hid him in my dorm room in the hopes that I would never get caught. Trying to raise a puppy on the 16th floor of a dorm residence during exam time, all while keeping him secret, was not my best idea.  I learned a lot from that experience. Barney had a great life despite my clumsy start with him. He especially loved swimming and trying to rescue anyone else who was trying to enjoy the water.

After graduating from the Professional Dog Trainer program, my dog training career just took off. At first, my aim was to make enough money to pay myself back for the course.  Before I knew it, I was teaching group classes in a community centre. In a parallel universe, my teaching career was taking its own direction. In 2007, I  became a Vice-Principal, all while doing my dog training on the side. Here is a picture of me with my dog Everest. I’d bring him to work weekly so he could spend the day with the kids. They took him for walks and read to him. Both the kids and Everest loved it.

In November of 2009, my son was born. During my maternity leave, I opened the Ottawa Canine School.  I extended my maternity leave for as long as I could, but in the summer of  2012, I had to make a decision. I resigned from teaching.  Walking away from a job I loved, a six-figure career, a generous amount of holiday time and iron clad job security was not a decision taken lightly.

Friends and family called me “brave” and “courageous” but to be honest, I never felt any fear. I never felt as though I was being brave. The road that took me toward becoming a dog trainer was a road I could not not take. The decision to open a dog training school and jump head first into the world of business felt like the absolute right thing to do.  Going for it was not optional, it was destiny.



No doubt about it, there is a lot of work for those in the dog training industry. I once heard someone say “where there are dogs, there are problems” and I suppose for those in the dog training business, that is good news! But not everyone should become a dog trainer.

Are you wondering if perhaps a career in dog training is for you? I’ve got a little checklist for you. 

If you love animals but are not a people person, dog training is not likely to be a fulfilling career for you. If you thought dog training was about dogs, you’re right. But it’s also about helping people. In fact, I’d argue that dog training is more about people than about dogs.

Want to know more about the dog training industry and perhaps how you can go about becoming a dog trainer? Get the free guide.

We are moving!!

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In 2010, when we were first setting up the current location of the Ottawa Canine School, my son was 7 months old. We’d set up the Jolly Jumper in the middle of the room while we worked away. 👶 Andre, who is now retired from the Ottawa Canine School, worked tirelessly to help get the school ready. His wife, Donna, brought her tools and miter saw and helped us so much. 🙏 My husband, Matt, did a stellar job tidying up all the electrical panels and random wires hanging from the ceiling.

And today, we are at it again. My team is excited for the change and we are excited to bring you an even better dog school experience.💖

We went to see the space last Sunday for the first time and I snapped this picture of my son, now 8 years old, running around the floor of our soon-to-be new space. We will be putting down the same thick rubber mats that the dogs love. But in the meantime, it’s a young boy’s dream race track!


We are thrilled to be able to offer you a bigger space and an enclosed outdoor area! We are not going very far at all from our current location , but it will be an exciting change for all.⭐️

Our new space has had a fresh coat of paint (or two, or three…), thanks to the amazing Len of Commercial Painting and Renovations Ltd.  A BIG shoutout also goes to Cindy from Randall’s Paint for the paint colour consult and vision.

All the electrical work is now complete. Sexy LED strips have been installed thanks to Stéphane at SBL electric.

Now the next step, of getting settled in begins. Matt, hubby and behind-the-scenes support extraordinaire is already all over this. He has been the Canine School’s #1 cheerleader since its conception, in the back of my mind. I still have the card he gave me after I got my very first client. Matt stays in the background, but the OCS would NOT exist without him. I am ever grateful for his tireless, generous support.

The amazing OCS team is incredibly supportive, offering skills, time, help. We make a good team. Even trainers enrolled in the Dog Training Certification program are offering help. We will be ready, come snow, freezing rain, hell or high water, to open our NEW DOORS on January 1st.  Ok, make that January 3rd because, you know, we do need to celebrate the new year after all! And so do you!


Here are a few pictures of the work in progress.

Even the ceiling was painted. What a job. Rubber flooring will be going down between Xmas and New Year.


The reception area’s inspiring view. It’s so close to the Park!

Matt, the electrical engineer, simultaneously looking at the floor he wants to redo and the electrical outlet that needs a new cover. This will be our new reception area.





If you still believe in ALPHA, you should watch this…

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Dr. David Mech says he is to blame for the term ALPHA being used incorrectly today. In 1970, he wrote a book in which he’d labelled the “top wolf” as Alpha. In the many years since then, all 47 of them, Dr. Mech and other scientist have learned so much about wolf dynamics. Dr. Mech now recants what he originally said about wolf dynamics. Wolf packs are a family, with a family dynamic and members work together. There is no Alpha Wolf trying to dominate the rest of the pack.

Dr. David Mech had based his original wolf pack theory on a pack of wolves living in captivity.

In 2010,  33 miners were trapped for 69 days in a mine in northern Chile. You may remember having heard about it on the news, or you may have seen the movie about it (called The 33). What kind of conclusions would scientists make about human dynamics if those 33 men were the subject of their study?

“Actually, you know, I am very much to blame for the term Alpha being used with wolves. I published a book in 1970 that now has  over 110 ooo copies in circulation. And in that I labelled the top wolf in the pack the Alpha. And I did that because at that time, that’s all that science knew. But, we’ve learned a lot. That book was published in 1970 and in the 35 years since that time we’ve learned a lot. One of these things we’ve learned is that the term Alpha is really incorrect when applied to most wolf pack leaders.” – Dr. David Mech (Senior Research Scientist)

Lost dog! Now what?

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My dog Everest is now 11 years old and has a few adventures under his belt. He has a history of escaping.  Scratch that. Everest, like any warm blooded dog, has been known to take advantage of opportunities for adventure when he thinks no one is looking.

What’s that? Grandpa didn’t close the front door properly? See you later! The gate in the backyard was left open? Why yes, I do think I will explore the neighbourhood, thank you very much. During his adventures in the ‘hood, Everest has ended up in a neighbour’s home. Thankfully, these kind folks didn’t mind one bit. In fact, they enjoyed the unexpected visit, praised him for being a very good dog and told him he was welcome to come back any time! Everest took that praise to heart and has ended up in backyards, front porches, garages, and even in a grocery store… not always with the same warm reception as you can imagine.

If you have a pet, you too probably have stories to tell about the time they escaped from the house, the car, the park or the backyard. Often, all is well that ends well, but sometimes, days go by and we are still searching for our beloved furry companion.

Here are some things you can do if you have the unfortunate experience of losing your pet:

Search the neighbourhood.  Check the local park, the trails, your regular walking route.
Take a picture (or have one on your phone) to show other dog owners. Bring a leash with you, squeaky toy and treats. I have a special toy that I bring for these occasions. It’s my emergency toy that Everest RARELY gets to play with. It looks like roadkill and it squeaks. By waiving it around and making it squeak, my hope is that Everest will see or hear it and come to me.

Utilise the power of Social Media.  Helping Lost Pets Ottawa (helpinglostpets.com) and the  Ottawa and Valley Lost Pet Network (ottawaandvalleylostpetnetwork.ca) are great resources and have many followers on Facebook and Instagram. Social media will be key in quickly spreading the news of your pet’s disappearance. Include a picture or a description, the street or area you last saw him or her and tell folks how to contact you should they find your pet. Don’t forget to include its name. Indicate any special markings and any particular medical or behavioural issues.  Ask folks to share the information. The more people who know about your lost pet, the more likely you are to recover him. You may also want to consider posting an ad on Kijiji.

Make eye catching posters. Choose one or two clear and recent pictures of your pet and put the posters in as many public places you can think of. Include important and relevant information, such as your contact
information and where the pet was last seen.

Check in with Veterinary Hospitals in the event that your furry one has been brought there.

Report your pet as lost or stolen. Contact the Humane Society as found animals are sometimes brought there. You can fill out a report online at: http://www.ottawahumane.ca/services/lost-and-found/claim-your-lost-pet/lost-animal-report/ or email landf@ottawahumane.ca

Report, report report! If you suspect theft, report it to your local police station.

If your dog is microchipped, report your dog to the microchip database. They will then know to inform you if anyone tries to re-register the chip number associated with your pet. (aside: make sure your microchip information is all up to date)

Last, but not least, don’t give up hope. Keep sharing the information about your pet. We know of pets that were found after days, weeks, even years.

Case in point, the story of BooBoo the cat who went missing from her home in California FOUR year ago recently turned up at the Guelp (Ontario!) Humane Society. Thanks to microchipping, BooBoo’s owners were found.

Full article here

Nutrition or Marketing? Don’t be fooled

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As I was perusing the “New Movies Added” section, I came across a movie called PET FOOleD. I have not watched it (yet), but based on the title & the trailer, I can safely assert that it is about the pet food industry.

Though I am not a canine nutritionist, nor a vet, I have done a lot of reading about canine nutrition and do believe that we should not blindly purchase what is being marketing to us.

Some interesting reads along the years have come from the Whole Dog Journal. I was a subscriber for a few years. A big part of their mission is to educate people about nutrition and canine health.

The Dog Food Project has also been eye opening. There are a lot of articles on this website. Some may need updating, but a lot of great quality information. I particularly like how it is organized, with sections on reading labels, choosing a better dry food, determining how much protein is too much protein, feeding your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet, and so on. I don’t think they’ve forgotten to include anything! You could certainly spend days reading the content on that website.

The Dog Food Advisor is another good site. Though it has a lot of US brands that we don’t carry here in Canada, it also ranks dog foods that are only available in Canada. I love how everything is analyzed and easy to follow. Dog food brands are given a star rating. You can look up a specific brand, see how it graded and why, and make a better choice. I like this as a quick reference guide. However, I much prefer the aforementioned sites before you learn how to read labels and can make a sound choice without second guessing.

If you’re curious about the Pet Fooled movie, here’s a trailer. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought of it!



The LINK between Domestic Violence & Animal Abuse

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It will come as no surprise to you, I’m sure, that there is a link between animal abuse and domestic violence. According to the Alberta SPCA, unknowndecision-making regarding leaving an abusive situation is negatively impacted by the presence of companion animals, and perhaps, to an even greater degree, by the ownership of livestock.  The statistics are significant: 59% of abused women who had animals
delayed leaving out of concern for their animals.  The full report can be accessed at albertaspca.org/cruelty

It is a real concern. What happens to the animals when a partner leaves an abusive relationship? In Ottawa, we now have an organization called SafePet that connects victims of abuse with a safe place for their pet. The pets are fostered until it is safe to be reunited with their family again. Find out more on their website: http://safepetottawa.com

What about legislation? What does the LAW say as 8149dcb5d1dfb3c75c1749559899bccfto what happens to the abused animals when a marriage dissolves in Canada? I haven’t yet found anything significant in my research. What I have found so far is more focused on regulating the animal’s behaviour rather than people’s behaviour towards animals. I’m either looking in the wrong spot or there is nothing to find. The State of Alaska is addressing the issue of what happens to pets living with domestic and/or animal violence when a marriage dissolves. Alaska has devised the most comprehensible bill in the U.S. (if not the world).  “Alaska HB 147 was signed into law on Oct. 27. The law, which takes effect on Jan. 17, 2017, will allow victims to petition the court for a protective order that the abuser may not remove, harm or dispose of any animals in the household, and to grant her exclusive care and custody of them. Peace officers investigating domestic violence cases must inform victims of this provision. The law also declares pets to be marital property and gives courts authority to decide individual or joint custody when people divorce, with consideration of what would be best for the animal. It also defines an act of animal abuse in this context as domestic violence.” (Link Newsletter, November 2016)

This article below is from the November 2016 Link Letter. Permission to repost was granted. Check out more on the link between animal abuse and domestic violence on their website: www.nationallinkcoalition.org

Alaska Legislation Allows Courts to Consider Pet Well-Being in Marriage Dissolutions and Pet Protective Orders

The State of Alaska has enacted the most comprehensive bill in the U.S., if not the world, addressing animal abuse committed to intimidate a spouse or partner in domestic violence settings. Gov. Bill Walker signed HB 147 into law on Oct. 27 in a ceremony that was widely awaited by the domestic violence, animal protection and Link communities (See the May 2016 LINK-Letter).

The measure, which takes effect Jan. 17, 2017, includes the following groundbreaking provisions:

  • The amended statutes AS 25.24.160(a),
    AS 25.24.210(e), AS 25.24.220(d), AS
    25.24.220(g), and AS 25.24.230(a) now
    allow Alaska courts to consider the well-
    being of animals when determining custody The new law will allow courts to consider animals’ well-being
    or joint ownership by a couple as part of a when awarding custody in divorce cases, include pet care costs in divorce proceeding. Such a provision has divorce decrees, add pets to protection-from-abuse orders, and long been established in child custody cases define animal abuse as an act of domestic violence.
  • Courts may now also amend divorce or marriage dissolution agreements relating to child custody and support, visitation, division of property and retirement benefits, and spousal maintenance to include ownership of an animal, taking into consideration the well-being of the animal.

Advocates (both human and canine) were on hand on Oct. 19 when Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signedinto law the historic HB 147


  • AS 18.66.100(c) now allows domestic violence protective orders to grant petitioners possession of a pet, regardless of the ownership of the pet. In addition, this provision must now be printed on the form providing notice to a victim of domestic violence. Alaska joins 30 other states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with Pet Protection Order provisions.
  • Petitioners can now also ask the court to issue a protective order that requires the abuser to pay support not only for the victim or minor children, but also for pets in the petitioner’s care.
  • Under new terms in AS 18.66.990(3), Alaska now joins eight other states where an act of animal cruelty to a pet within a domestic violence context is also defined as domestic violence and can be prosecuted accordingly. Such provisions already exist in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. In addition, Louisiana and Arkansas are believed to have provisions whereby a history of animal abuse can be defined as emotional abuse and presented in domestic violence prosecutions as an enhancement to penalties (See the February 2016 LINK-Letter).The amended statute AS 18.65.590 now defines a pet as “a vertebrate living creature maintained for companionship or pleasure.” It does not include dogs owned primarily for mushing or pulling contests or practices or animals used primarily in rodeos or stock contests.

Barking Barista and the OCS

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If you have been to the Ottawa Canine School (421 St. Laurent blvd), you may have seen Barking Barista Coffee on the shelves. Barking Barista is co-owned by Matthew Ellis and Chantal Mills, husband and wife team behind the brand. Chantal is also the owner and head trainer of the Ottawa Canine School, which is why it came to be that part of proceeds from the coffee sales goes to help dogs in need. You can read more about the story and people behind Barking Barista Coffee Roasters here.

Just this past Saturday, the Barking Baristas had the pleasure of hand delivering a special donation to the lovely folks of the Ottawa Dog rescue. . “Donation time always gets us a bit giddy, as not only do we want to craft the best, most delicious cup of coffee but we also have an unstoppable drive to help animals in need. Hand delivering a donation is our biggest reinforcer. It’s why we care so much about every part of the coffee roasting process. It is what fuels the drive… that, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.” – Chantal


Andrea Valois, President and Co-Founder of The Ottawa Dog Rescue (pictured here with puppy mill survivor Chanel the Chihuahua), contacted us many months ago. She had heard about our coffee from a friend of hers, who enjoyed a cup when we served it up at Etsy Made in Canada. He raved about our coffee and told her about how we help dogs.  For the last 10 months, we have been putting aside a portion of our proceeds  in support of the Ottawa Dog Rescue.




Left to right: Andrea Valois (with Chanel) Chantal Mills, Matthew Ellis. Picture taken at the Beechwood Farmer’s Market, where the Barking Baristas can be found Saturdays between 9am and 2pm.

The Ottawa Dog Rescue is a registered charity and has been in the community for 3 years now. They are an all breed, foster based, volunteer run rescue dedicated to saving abandoned, neglected & abused dogs. If you wish to donate directly to them, it’s easy peasy! You can do so directly on their website.

Here are some of their adoptable dogs… I know!!! Irresistible








Thank you to everyone who has purchased beans, hot coffee and cold brew coffee, or given us money “for the dogs”. You have helped make this happen and I can tell you that the donations are deeply appreciated.

Request support for a dog or rescue in need

If you would like the Barking Baristas to know about a dog in need, we’d love to hear from you.  Reach out and request our support, or request coffee for your fundraiser. Find out more about how we help.

Drink Coffee. Help Dogs.


Pictured: Chantal (owner of the Ottawa Canine School and co-owner of Barking Barista Coffee Roasters) holding Puppy Mill survivor Chanel

The Dog, The Gorilla, and the Gun

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Here’s a good article that has some interesting things to say about the recent incident involving a child at a zoo:

The Dog, the Gorilla, and the Gun


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