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Trick or treat!

Trick or treat!

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[/trēt/ Noun:  Something that gives great pleasure. An act of providing something for somebody else at one’s own expense]

When you think of the word treat, what comes to mind? A nice Belgian Wheat Beer? A piece of dark chocolate? A day at the Nordik Spa? All of the above?

For my dog, a treat is a cookie that he gets as part of our daily routine, an off leash romp or a simple walk in the neighbourhood. Treats, however, have no place in our training regimen. We are not offering a special rare indulgence. In fact, if we treated our dogs when training, we would find it incredibly unsuccessful.

Before you start wondering if I’m about to start promoting some unsavoury training methods, let me reassure you that we absolutely do use food, toys and fun activities in our training. We call them reinforcements and we give them to reinforce the wanted behaviour.  For example, a small piece of cheese can be used as a reinforcement for a behaviour and we must not be stingy with our training aids when our dog is learning a new behaviour.

The reinforcer is given as a consequence of the dog’s behaviour and consequently, makes him want to repeat said behaviour. The reinforcer is anything that the dog truly enjoys. It is also something that can be given quickly and enjoyed quickly  (which is why food is ideal). My dog LOVES to play in the snow, but if I used this as a reinforcement when training a new behaviour, it would not make for an ideal training session. My dog also likes a good bum scratch, but this is not as powerful as a piece of cheese.

Most trainers I know love to use food because it is quick and easy to deliver, but for some dogs, the best reinforcer is a toy. Tugs are great in training, provided your dog loves the game !

What are some of your dog’s favourite things, that you can use as a reinforcer?

Remember that CONSEQUENCES (and not cues or what we used to call “commands”) drive behaviour!



Chantal Mills No Comments


At the Ottawa Canine School, WE LOVE DOGS and WE LOVE COFFEE! Not just any coffee, but freshly roasted coffee from beans that are organic and have been traded fairly. Barking Barista coffee is just that – Artisan coffee, hand roasted in small batches for ultimate freshness & your tasting pleasure. We offer only the best, fairly traded, beans.

What does this have to do with dogs you ask?

Quite a bit! We are passionate about helping dogs. While you are enjoying a very delicious cup of coffee, you are helping dogs too because part of proceeds goes to help dogs in need. Drink coffee. Help dogs.

A bit about us.

The Barking Barista coffee company is a husband & wife venture. Matt is an engineer by day and coffee roaster by night. He uses both his engineer brain and his creative/intuitive side when roasting. Chantal is a teacher and the owner of the Ottawa Canine School. It only made sense to roast great, fresh, organic, fairly and often directly traded coffee and have part of proceeds go to the dogs.

Some of the dogs the Barking Barista has helped so far.

Since its launch, in December of 2013, the Barking Barista has helped BREEZY, a dog who was severely beaten, received the treatment she deserved and was adopted (and even attended some classes at the Ottawa Canine School with her new owners!)   The Barking Barista has also helped GIBSON the Schnauzer, in early 2014 when he needed a bit of help with his medical bills. Gibson is well knows in the local rescue world and has done a lot to help rescue dogs. It was time to give back a little. Part of proceeds also went to help CAPTAIN and other dogs from the Sit With Me Rescue. Chantal had a chance to meet Captain  and he is a very sweet dog, though at the time, he was still very groggy from his most recent surgery. The vets do believe that he has suffered quite a bit of physical abuse, which may also be the reason he is blind in one eye.

You can read about our donation to the Ottawa Dog Rescue in this blog post .

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.

Where to get Barking Barista coffee

Barking Barista coffee beans are available in person at the Ottawa Canine School at 401 B St. Laurent blvd.(same building as Full Cycle). You can also order online.

Visit our website to see where you can pick up a bag of beans: www.barkingbarista.com

like us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/Barkingbarista

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.

Happy Howlidays

Chantal Mills No Comments

From everyone at the Ottawa Canine School,

We wish you and yours a very happy holidays! May you enjoy some extra cuddle time with your animals, extra long walks with your canine friend and a few lazy mornings just taking in the beauty of the simple things.

We hope to see you in the new year!



We are moving!!

Ottawa Canine School 6 comments

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…

Ottawa Canine School 2 comments

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!



Preparing for baby

Chantal Mills No Comments

CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are expecting. Your life is about the change, baby. And for your dog ? Well, a lot is going to change too! The toys won’t all be his anymore. The noises will be odd and what about those smells ? The hardest change may just be not being the centre of attention anymore.belly_and_dog21



Dogs love routine, consistency, yada yada… you know this already. So of course they will notice,  that their life is changing.  They start noticing way before the baby arrives. Because dogs are so in tune with us, they can notice that our routine is changing. Perhaps you are sleeping more or maybe your work schedule has changed or perchance you are changing things in the home to get ready for baby. All these things can have an impact on rover.


I believe they notice the smell of pregnancy. Dogs have 250 million more scent receptors than we do (on average) so it only makes sense that they can smell the hormonal changes going on during pregnancy. Everest often came up to my belly to sniff me while I was pregnant.  There was a cute moment, when Dominik was just a few days old, where Everest came up to smell my belly, then went over to smell the baby, looked at me and then settled in his favourite spot. I like to think that it was a bit of an “ah ha” moment for him.


there is a lot that you can do to prepare your dog for baby.

You are the centre of your dog’s world. A new baby doesn’t have to upset your canine companion. With a bit of management and training, you can avoid the stress and anxiety a baby can bring into a dog’s life.

When I was pregnant for my son, I had 2 dogs and 1 cat. There were a lot of things that I did before Dominik was born that really made a difference. Practicing basic obedience in various areas in the house was hands down the best thing I did.  A sit/stay is really useful when you are changing a gross diaper! A solid “go to your bed” is handy when you are trying to feed a messy eater, or doing tummy time on the floor. I also spent some time teaching the dogs which toys were off limits. Everest is a toy shredder and I suspected that baby would be upset if he found all of his toys ripped and gutted. This was surprisingly easy and I didn’t need to buy TWO of Dominik’s favourite toys just in case 😉

Both dogs adjusted really well to this little furless creature. There was one scary moment, the day our Great Dane Hemingway met the new baby. I had Dominik on the floor and Hemi came by to sniff him. The sniff was very gentle, but then came the big old tennis racket sized paw. Yes, Hemi pawed the kid. Unfortunately, my mother was there and she was horrified… she thought I needed to rehome the dogs. Fortunately, Hemi was so sensitive that our reaction to his pawing was enough to make him never want to do that again. Had he been persistent, unpredictable, snappy and snarly I would not have been as encouraged.

Today, our son is 7 years old. Hemingway passed in August. Everest is now 11 years old. I have my son and Everest’s relationship grow and deepen. It’s moving to watch, and, I like to think, it all started when Dominik was in my womb.



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