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Tag Archives: dog training

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

Ottawa Canine School 1 Comments

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.

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)

Coprophagia… when poop is a delicacy

Chantal Mills No Comments

crotteAccording to Wikipedia, Coprophagia  is the consumption of feces.  Coprophagy refers to many kinds of feces eating, including eating feces of other species (heterospecifics), of other individuals (allocoprophagy), or its own (autocoprophagy) Some animal species eat feces as a normal behavior; other species may not normally consume feces but do so under very unusual conditions.

Ok. That’s disgusting. Why do dogs do this?

Thcrottemonsieure reality is that from a dog’s point of view, dining on a Crotte Madame or a more traditional Crotte Monsieur just isn’t as revolting as it is to us. Not all dogs do it and I count myself quite lucky to have never owned a poop eating, face licking pooch. I have, however, worked with many dogs that do find it terribly appealing. One in particular would run up to any defecating dog and indulge in snurding (snacking on turds… yeah, I just made that word up) before the gooey goodness even hit the ground. This dog’s great pleasure was to go to the dog park and wait for snack time, to the horror of his doggy parent, as you can imagine

The theories abound as to why some canine companions, who are well fed at home, are dedicated to the poop diet.  Some say that dogs think it’s a valuable resource because humans rush to pick it up. Humans want to put a turd in a bag quickly and efficiently, therefore, said turd must be valuable. Apparently this would explain why a dog may want to eat it before we have time to claim it. I, on the other hand, am not so sure about this
whole resource guarding theory mainly because it assumes quite a high level of analysis from the dog’s perspective.

Others have theorized that dogs are drawn to it because something is missing in their diet (specifically Vitamin B).  Some dogs would, accorcrottesnackding to this theory, eat poop to compensate for a lack of certain minerals and vitamins? Seems like a crappy way to get your daily dose… but if it’s true, the fix would be pleasantly easy: just give the dog extra vitamins and minerals. It is also worth investigating if your dog is absorbing nutrients properly. If that is the case, simply adding them to his diet may not be the solution. Some folks have had luck adding enzymes that contain papain (think meat tenderizer) to their dog’s diet, to help with malabsorption issues.
pooppartySome dogs enjoy it as a frozen treat, otherwise known as Le Poopsicle. Others are cool with it at any temperature, as long as it’s not their own.  It stinks, I know, but is it dangerous? The answer, I’m afraid, is that it may be not only dangerous, but potentially fatal.  This is especially true when dogs prefer to dine on others’ dung. Dedicated poop eaters are at a higher risk of becoming infected with heartworms, hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms and of contracting parvovirus, giardia, salmonella and E. coli

If your dog is afflicted with coprophagia, you may want to visit your vet to make sure they haven’t been infected with anything and to also rule out the following health issues, which may also be motivating your dog to indulge:

  • cushing’s disease (increase of appetite)
  • thyroid disease (increase of appetite)
  • parasites
  • pica
  • malabsorption syndrome

If, like me, you have a dog who sticks to the regularly programmed dine-in option, please be mindful of others that are struggling with their coprophagic dog. The best thing we can do is pick up after our dogs. Not only is it part of being a responsible pet owner, but it helps in stopping the spread of disease. Doggy doo is not good for the environment. It’s not fertilizer – it kills grass and, if left alone, it can end up in our water supply. No one wants to step in it either. I like to consider doggy do pick up as a way to check in on my dog’s health. I know what I should be picking up and if it’s not what’s expected, it’s valuable information to have.


Try as we might, we still can’t remove all the poop from our dog’s environment. So what do we do to stop a dog from indulging? Management is always the first step in any training plan. This could mean keeping your dog on leash to prevent him from reaching the delicacy. It could also mean muzzle training your dog so that he can run around and play, but not eat anything that would be off limits. Training can also help.  A solid recall, for example, would be golden. Being able to call your dog away from a tempting snack… yes please! You could also teach your dog that turds are aversive, but that requires a lot of management and getting to the feces before (or at the same time as) your dog. If your dog has coprophagia, you are probably already scouting out the environment for brownies, but teaching your dog that they are evil, sounds like a strategy that is unrealistic and exhausting.

If you are struggling with this issue, we can help. We offer a Total Recall class, private lessons, and we also have a (free) lending library stocked up with great resources.




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