Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Are You Suffering from Puppy Amnesia?

"Our old dog NEVER acted like this!"

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that sentence from a new puppy owner.

Time has a funny way of changing our memories, it seems.  Most of us fondly remember our adult
dogs' puppy days as full of puppy breath, puppy snuggles and fun.

Oh sure, there were the occasional potty accidents, and chewed shoes.  But faithful old Fido
never was as much of a handful as our new puppy!

Or was he?

Whether Fido is still with us, or he's crossed over the rainbow bridge to the land of endless dog
bones and tennis balls, we remember his puppy days through rose colored glasses.

What is puppy amnesia?  It's what happens when we get a new pup, and find ourselves surprised
at the amount of mischief the new dog gets into, and how much work raising this new little canine

It's completely normal for dog owners to have 'puppy amnesia' about raising their last dog -
especially if it's been a long time since they've raised a young pup.

At it's worst, puppy amnesia includes comparing our new dog to our old dog - forgetting all the
trials and tribulations that came along with raising our old dog into the wonderful companion we
cherish so much.

As a professional dog trainer going on 30 years in the business, I have had the bittersweet
privilege of having clients return to train their new dog with me, after the first dog I trained with
them has passed away.

It's all too normal for me to hear,

"This new puppy is so much work!"
"He's always into something!"
"Our old dog was so much easier to train."

I have to smile when I hear these laments.  Because I was often right there for the training and
raising of the older dog.  And, because I'm a bit of an email pack rat, I sometimes even have old
email exchanges about the old dog - full of many of the same puppy raising challenges and
questions and complaints.

So, the next time you catch yourself pining for the puppy days of your old dog, keep in mind that
no dog is perfect...and puppies are almost never 'easy'.  

We're just lucky that Mother Nature paints our memories rose & gold when it comes to easily
moving on after the stress of puppy raising is past.

But, those precious moments of puppyhood are all too fleeting - so enjoy your pup while he or she
is young and full of mischief; because the precious moments with our dogs pass by in a flash, and
all too soon we will wonder where the time has gone when we're looking at the graying muzzle
and clouding eyes of our beloved senior dog.

Want to learn more about how to have a better relationship with your dog?  Call us today and
schedule a training session!

Jennifer Hime is the owner of Front Range K9 Academy. She can be reached at

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Wait! Don't Ditch the Crate!

It's that time again - time for a post on a subject that comes up so often in our training sessions with our clients that it's worth an article:

The subject is:  Keeping Dogs Crate Trained...


"Wait!  Don't Ditch the Crate!"

In this post, I want to address a big mistake that so many puppy and dog owners make:  

Un-crating their pups or dogs too soon (or at all).

Too many owners view the kennel or crate as a temporary training tool - just to get them through potty training and the teething/chewing phase of puppyhood.

What they're missing is the entire concept of the crate - not just as a training tool for puppies, but as a lifelong tool that is useful for every dog, of every age.

So - why should you keep your dog kennel or crate trained throughout life?  

Here are my top 5 reasons:

1.  Potty Training!  Most owners think their pup is fully potty trained long before the process is 100% complete.  In fact, the AKC notes in their handouts to new puppy owners that most pups have an increase in accidents around 6 months of age, even if they had previously been on track with potty training.  

This is most likely because the pup wasn't fully potty trained, but instead, the owners were supervising the pup closely and paying such good attention, they've begun to establish good habits.  But habit take time to be cemented.

So, if you make the mistake of thinking your pup is 'done' potty training too early, you might stop supervising quite so closely, and suddenly, the pup starts having accidents again - simply because you weren't consistent in supervision and getting them out in time.

Until your pup has gone a full 6 weeks with NO accidents, you're still in 'training' mode - that means you need to keep supervising the pup closely whenever she's loose in the house, and keep using the crate when you can't watch her.  This will help your pup get solid on potty training - developing both the mental and physical control you're seeking.

If a pup is un-crated too early, especially overnight or when you're not watching him, he can sneak off and have accidents - sometimes in places you don't even notice!  So, if you want a truly potty trained dog, keep the crate training going for at least the first year.

But what about the adult dog who is already potty trained reliably?  Well, a crate is still a good place for that dog, because sometimes accidents do still happen; especially if a dog is ill - and wouldn't you rather have the 'mess' contained to the crate than all over the house?  Or better yet, a dog who doesn't want to mess his crate, so whines and tells you he needs out, instead of sneaking off to make a wreck of the carpet in the living room?

2.  Teething - their are actually THREE phases of this stage for most dogs, and having a safely crate trained dog is vital during the 3rd stage.  

Yes.  You read that right:  THREE teething phases - not just two.  The first happens around 14 to 21 days, when the pup cuts its milk teeth, or baby teeth.  

Then, those first teeth begin to be pushed out by the adult teeth coming in - around 4.5 to 6 months of age.  This is when you see a major jump in mouthiness, biting, and chewing on anything and everything, as the pup works its adult teeth into place and loses its milk teeth.

But wait, it doesn't end there!  Most dogs go through a third, and final stage of 'teething' (really just major chewing, and setting of those adult teeth) - this stage generally occurs around 9 or 10 months of age, and can last until a dog is 18 to 24 months (2 years) old.

During the 3rd teething phase, your dog has the strength and power of his adult jaws and teeth, and the restless energy of a teenager; so you can see why it might be important to still have a dog who easily accepts being crated when you're not around to supervise!  Those adult teeth and jaws can pack a punch of about 300 lbs or more per square inch of the jaws...that equals major chewing power - and major destructive power to furniture, rugs, walls, etc., if your dog is unsupervised and is a heavy duty chewer.

3.  Social Status & the Canine Den - for anyone who's gone through my training classes at Front Range K9 Academy, you know that sleeping space is seen by dogs as a valuable resource that reveals where a dog's place in the family hierarchy is.  

 But even more important, dogs who are positively crate trained tend to view their kennels as their own special den or bedroom.  

For some, it's an escape from kids or other pets.  Or just a place to go curl up and take a nap - exactly as you view your own bedroom.  Why would you want to take that away from your dog?  Most dogs need a place to feel completely safe and relaxed - the crate is just this great hideaway.

4.  Travel!  If you plan to travel at all with your pooch - whether just across town to visit your family, or across the country - having a dog who travels quietly and safely in a crate makes everything easier.  

Plus, when you get to your destination, having a dog who readily accepts her kennel and will just flop down and take a nap while you and your family go out to dinner is much safer and less of a worry for you.  

The owner of a happily crate-trained dog doesn't spend their entire visit wondering if their dog has eaten their parents' couch, or soiled their college roommate's rug. 

5.  Safety & Vet Visits - if, Heaven Forbid, your dog is every seriously injured, or needs a procedure that requires him to spend the night at the veterinarian's office, you can be sure he'll be in a kennel of some sort.  

A dog who is used to going into one kennel will usually readily accept another kennel, even if it's not their own.  

A dog who is resentful of being crated, or who panics and tries to escape, or is simply stressed out the entire time is a dog who is a danger to himself, the vet and the staff.  Plus, all that stress is hardly helpful to an already stressed immune system.

But the dog who stays quietly in a kennel or crate without any issues is safer, and easier for the veterinary staff to help.

There it is - my top 5 reasons you should KEEP your dog crate trained.  

This doesn't mean they need to spend every second of their unsupervised lives crated.  Many dogs earn their freedom and can have free roam of the house at night or during the day while their owners work.  

However, even for these very trustworthy pooches, I still don't recommend ever completely ditching the kennel.  By keeping your dog doing some 'crate time' throughout its life, you'll have a dog who travels well, can stay at the vet's without danger, and has a safe den (bedroom) to call his own.

That's it from this end of the leash.

Jennifer Hime is the owner and training director of Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.  You can find her at

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Living with Canine Aggression - The Nature of Things

            So it happened… the moment every trainer who works with aggression cases dreads: the phone call, email, or tearful visit from an owner to tell you their aggressive dog had an “incident.”

Despite your warnings. Despite the management protocols provided. Despite, in fact, the training they’ve been doing with you. As you learn the details of the “incident” – which is nearly always some variation of “I made a mistake, I let my guard down, I thought he’d be ok with (insert person, animal, situation)” – you put your head in your hands as you vividly recall that “Come to Jesus” discussion (or three) you had with your client about the dangerous behaviors of their dog.

As a trainer, I can’t lie to you: in that moment I’m really frustrated. I told you this would happen. I gave you my honest, expert opinion that you paid me to give. I provided you with a safety plan. And yet in a single moment, it all went out the window. Why?!?

It’s a question that keeps me up at night. There are plenty of trainers who just write it off as client laziness or complacency, and to be sure there may be a few cases where that criticism is justified. But for the vast majority of my clients, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Most of my clients are conscientious pet owners who love their dog and don’t want him to hurt anyone, who are willing to put in a ton of time, energy and money into helping their dog. They fully acknowledge that the fault of the dog’s “incident” lies with them.

So where’s the disconnect?

While I don’t know for sure, I suspect it lurks in our human nature – those parts of us who want to forgive, who want things to be a certain way, who want to believe the best of others, including our beloved dog. And I think, that part of us that needs to learn certain truths the hard way. I can tell you something fifty times, but until you experience it you don’t really believe it. You might even hear my voice in your head telling you put his muzzle on, but your heart whispers, “maybe he’ll be ok” and you make the decision to give it a try.

And then it happens, and the force of truly knowing hits you like freight train. Your perspective fundamentally shifts and will never be the same again. In that moment, you suddenly understand what terms like “always” and “never” mean to your relationship with your dog. There are no more “what ifs” or “maybes,” just reality staring back at you from the eyes of the dog you still love but can no longer trust. That is the moment when you become the responsible owner of a dangerous dog…but unfortunately that realization often comes with a heartbreaking price tag.

If you still harbor hope for a normal dog… or wonder if safety protocols will really always be necessary… or hear that whisper “maybe he’ll be ok” – you aren’t there yet.

I’ll do my best to help you, but I’m still trying to figure out how to impart to you that for the sake of your dog and others, you have to get there faster.

Don’t risk the safety of others because you love him, or feel sorry for him and/or yourself - certainly don’t risk it because you’re tired, or sick, or think your trainer doesn’t understand your dog. These aren’t mistakes you need to make yourself in order to learn how to safely handle an aggressive dog, but sadly far too many clients do.

When you decide to live with an aggressive dog, it comes down to a very simple choice: Be a responsible owner, or don’t.

Jennifer Pearson is Senior Trainer and Behaviorist at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO. She is an Applied Animal Behaviorist (Master of Science, University of Edinburgh's College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine), an animal-assisted clinical social worker (Master of Social Work, University of Denver), and teaches classes in the fireld of the human-animal bond (University of Denver).  Jennifer can be reached through the Front Range K9 website at:

Friday, November 23, 2018

Dog to Dog Introductions - Avoid these TOP 3 MISTAKES

"Nice to meet you!  Let's be friends."

Every year, we get a lot of questions about how to go about introducing two or more dogs to each other - especially this time of year, when a lot of folks are traveling with their dogs for the holidays.

Sometimes, owners are introducing a new puppy or dog into their home.

Other times, it's a matter of visiting friends and family with resident dogs.

Or perhaps, friends or family members with dogs are coming to your dog's home turf to visit.

So, it's time to talk a bit about the best way to go about these introductions without running the short-term risk of fights and stress; and even more importantly, avoiding the long-term risk of one or more of the dogs becoming permanently fearful, reactive, aggressive, or otherwise anti-social.


When we hear about problems developing with introductions to dogs, it's most often because of the top 3 things owners do wrong from the very start.

1.  TOO MUCH - many times, owners allow too much intimate, intense contact between dogs who aren't familiar with each other.

Think about that for a moment:  You and your dog are in a totally new environment.  You may have had a long time in the car to get there.  Everyone is excited, wound up, distracted, and generally not in their normal, mellow zone.

Your friend's dog is in it's own home, and will be sizing up your dog to see what kind of personality it has (especially if this is the first time they've ever seen each other).

In the initial chaos of arrivals, a lot of sniffing, nose-touch greetings, and general excitement is the last thing anyone needs. 

Keep in mind - dogs are very much like people, when it comes to meeting strangers.  How would YOU like it if you were being touched, sniffed and snuffled, intimately the moment you met someone new?

Likewise, for the resident dog - make the human-to-dog comparison.  How comfortable are you with someone entering your comfortable home in a highly excitable state - yelling, bouncing off the walls, etc.?

Training Success Tips:  Make sure all dogs are under control (leashed, crated, etc.) and give them some space to just settle down and observe each other.  Our Settle Exercise is a great way to do this.

Even better, having the dogs meet on neutral ground first can be very helpful.

Be sure you are familiar with canine body language, so you can read stress signals and be a good judge of what the dogs are feeling.

2.  TOO FAST - just like the 'too much' problem, owners very often don't give their dogs enough time to settle in and be ready for the next step in greetings.

Instead, they end up just tossing the dogs together willy nilly, after very little time - hoping for the best; as opposed to letting the dogs experience each other for a while from a distance, in a calm, relaxed manner.

Training Success Tip:  Be sure to allow enough time for all dogs to calm down and experience each other from a distance before allowing actual sniffing, meetings, or play.  This could take more than one practice meeting session to be safe.

3.  TOO LONG - last but not least, even if the greetings and play are going well, most owners leave the new canine friends together for too long.

For dogs, time just seems to move faster than for us.  I sort of think of this as the '7 to 1' rule we use when calculating your dog's age in human years.  

If we use this guide, a minute to us is like 7 minutes to them.  Likewise, an hour to us becomes 7 hours for them.

Now think about that in relation to visiting - even with folks you like to be around....7 hours is a long time!

So, if you're leaving newly introduced dogs together too long (even those who are getting along okay at first) you run the risk of  trouble developing.  

Dogs left together, hanging out playing intensely for too long, can lead to "it's all fun and games until someone gets tired and cranky" issues.   The dogs simply have had enough of each other and need a break.

So...what are the fixes for the "Too Much, Too Fast, Too Long" problem? 

What we should do is shoot for several very low key, very short, calm, positive introductions - specifically where the dogs work together (sits, stays, settle exercise, appropriate heeling, working walks, etc.) before any play is expected.

Again, meetings on neutral territory are best, if possible.

And remember, play is intimate.  Do you immediately 'play' with strangers?  Nope - it takes you time to decide if you want that level of intimate contact.  The same thing holds true for dogs.

If you follow the steps to positive introductions of taking things slowly and under control - will all dogs get along?  

Unfortunately, no.  Just like we don't like every human we meet, some dogs don't like certain other dogs.

If the dogs who aren't such big fans of each other just have to be around each other, then good obedience skills and spatial management is the key.  Using well-practiced & proofed 'go to place' commands, stays, leashes and crates to keep everyone calm, under control and safe is the priority.

So?  You might ask what the big deal is.  Perhaps you've had dogs all your life, and so have your friends and family and you've never had a problem just throwing them together to work things out.

Well, while some dogs seem to get along with everyone - some do not.  And if you want (or need) the dogs to get along and have a successful, long-term relationship, taking some time and doing things right can make the difference between creating dogs who are life-long friends... or life-long enemies.

Jennifer Hime is the owner and training director of Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.  You can find her at

Monday, July 2, 2018

Top 5 Reasons Using Food can be a PROBLEM in dog training

As promised, Front Range K9 head trainer Jen Pearson, MSW, MSc has countered my previous blog, "5 reasons you SHOULD train with food" .  

So, here we go:

As a pet dog owner, the idea of reward-based training is likely very appealing to you – after all, you love your dog and want her to be happy! When we see a dog with laser focus and attentiveness to her handler, it looks awesome, right? She takes her treat eagerly and may even offer other behaviors in the hopes of keeping the game going. What could possibly be wrong with a training system that does that?

            If we, the motivational trainers, would be brutally honest with ourselves (and with you, our clients!), there are in fact several problems that have the potential to seriously impact the human-canine relationship when food is involved. Here are my top five concerns about utilizing food in training:

1. Food = Love


The first thing that comes to mind is how rewarding with food takes over a relationship – it’s not just during “training” time, but motivational trainers rely on having food stuffed in pockets, baggies or pouches every moment we’re with the dog. “Reward behaviors you want to see again” is a solid learning principle, but in reality we’re shoveling cookies at our dogs for the most basic of responses and feeling guilty if we have to just pat them when they sat next to us because we ran out of treats. Healthy relationships aren’t about tit-for-tat, transactions, or a “what’s in it for me” attitude.

2. Food can be addictive

There are serious mental health problems associated with addictions, as well as eating
disorders. Have you ever suffered from an addiction, or known someone who has? It is a profoundly unhealthy state of being… for any species. And yet, motivational trainers are carefully and deliberately making dogs actually addicted to training. Just like with gaming patterns – whether online, lottery or in casinos – in the earliest stages and lowest levels, we reward every attempt. Then we start to reward only for really good attempts, until eventually it’s more random. Our dogs have become like the person at the slot machine, continuously pulling that lever thinking, “Next time! I’ll get my payoff next time!” Some dogs (and people!) can get addicted to food, and paired with a reward schedule designed to create addiction, and I have to wonder how ethical it is to try to turn my canine friend into an addict hoping for his next fix.

3. “Happy” vs functional

To most people, training-addicted dogs look “happy” to do their task – they’re very focused, intense, and bouncy. But are we mistaking desire, excitement and pleasure for happiness? Addiction creates desire for sure, and there is certainly excitement in anticipating the “fix.” There’s no that doubt addicts feel pleasure when they get their drug of choice. But are they fundamentally happy? Or are they living in a constant feedback loop of seeking and acquiring? 

Both children and dogs of today seem to need instant gratification in order to feel “happy.” But good parenting doesn’t mean you try to make your kids (2- or 4-legged!) happy all the time! In fact, doing that would actually make you a pretty poor parent. In the end, the job of a parent – and a dog trainer – is to produce functional members of society. If we try to protect them from any stress, and never teach them how to handle situations where they don’t get what their way, we haven’t done our job.

4. That moment when…

Motivational training depends upon our dogs wanting what we offer them – there’s no way around that. If it’s food, our dog has to be hungry (or addicted). But even addicts get their fill, and there are moments when they may not want their drug. When those moments occur during an emergency, like a loose dog in traffic, we’re in trouble… and so are our dogs. Every rewards-based trainer, if they are honest, knows that sinking feeling in your gut when you watch a dog make the choice to refuse their reward – whether because they’re under too much stress, or because there’s something more interesting out in the world (squirrel!). And biology insists that such moments will occur – there are times when eating simply isn’t appealing, no matter how many repetitions you’ve done!

5. Time fixes everything

In short, it doesn’t. And when we allow ourselves to recognize that simple life truth, a major tenant of “positive only” training collapses. Our dogs aren’t robots, and trying to program them as such – the “you just need to practice more and they will do it out of habit” mentality – doesn’t respect the dog’s nature as a thinking, feeling being with the ability to make choices, both wise and poor ones!
You know what I’ve realized really does work? Showing the dog the whole picture:
·       If you make Choice A, the consequence will be X.
·       If you make Choice B, the consequence is Y.
·       Sometimes consequences are pleasant, and Choice A is something I like… so X is something you like.
·       But other times, the consequence (Y) is unpleasant because I need you not to make Choice B again.
It’s unreasonable and unfair to ask people to live with their dogs’ poor behavior choices for months or years, if there is a clearer, more efficient way to get the message across. It seems to me a much more well-rounded education for our dogs.

Jennifer Pearson, MSW, MSc is head trainer at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.  She can be reached at

Keep in mind, this blog and the one just before it were part of a challenge for two long time dog trainers, Jen Pearson and Jen Hime, to argue the side of the point that is actually counter to our training instincts.  We both enjoy the discussions this topic has sparked, as well as expanding our training comfort zones!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

5 Reasons you SHOULD train with food

Most of my dog training clients know that I prefer to train WITHOUT the use of food as a reward for most dogs.  

That doesn't mean food is a bad thing in training.  

In fact, there are a lot of instances where food is very helpful!  But as a 'non-foodie' trainer, treating a dog is not the first thing I reach for in my dog training toolbox.

So, since we've welcomed Jennifer Pearson, MSW, MSc to our team, and she's got a long background in the correct use of food in training, I decided to issue a challenge:

I'm sharing the following article that I've put together on the MERITS OF TRAINING WITH FOOD, and Jennifer Pearson is writing a counter article - on the downsides of using food in training.

More than anything, this is an exercise for the 2 lead trainers at Front Range K9 Academy to stretch our brains and our belief system boundaries by presenting and arguing for a view that is actually the exact opposite of our own natural training instincts...

So without further adieu, here are 5 reasons why you SHOULD train with food:

 1. Clarity

If your timing & delivery of food is correct, and you’re careful to use your treat as a reward and not a bribe* – then there are not many ways to be more precise and clear about the EXACT behavior you liked, than to train with food.

If your dog is food motivated and understands marker training, then shaping very specific behaviors is comparatively easy when using food in training.  

This is because the combination of using a marker or ‘bridge’ at the moment the behavior occurs, followed by the food treat you’ve paired with the marker allows the dog to know exactly which behavior you liked and are rewarding.

It’s a little bit like taking a snapshot of the behavior, showing it to your dog, and saying, “See this perfect sit?  That’s the behavior this cookie if for.”

(*TIP:  a bribe comes before a behavior...a reward comes after a behavior!)

2. Food is a great way to tell what frame of mind a dog is in.

If you have a dog who is normally very food motivated, and he won’t eat when you’re in new places, or if he’s overexcited, or afraid (like at the vet’s office) – then you should realize he’s either too distracted or too stressed to eat, let alone learn much. 

It’s normal for a dog’s food drive to drop when he’s under too much pressure.  

Think of it like this:  If you’re driving to work on a sunny day, on your normal route, and traffic is light…you probably have no problem drinking your coffee and maybe snacking on a banana along the way.

BUT, if you’re in a strange town, in a rental car, at night, in a blizzard, and you can’t find your hotel – you’re probably not feeling like eating!

The same thing happens for most dogs; if the pressure of excitement or stress is too high, they lose their appetites. 

So, if you’re working on something new or tough with your dog, remember that your dog’s level of food drive is one way to tell just how stressed he is.

3.  Stress-Reduction

Tying into the idea above about stress-gauging and eating:  

If your dog is a bit stressed, but is able to eat, the act of eating can stimulate a dopamine release in your dog’s brain –  and these ‘pleasure chemicals’ can influence the activity you’re doing in a positive way.

This technique is commonly used when we’re trying to change a dog’s mind about a stressful situation or object.

By example, if a dog is afraid of motorcycles, we find out how far away we have to be from motorcycles for the dog to be able to take a treat.  From that point - called a threshold - we can gradually desensitize the dog anytime he sees a motorcycle and stays relaxed enough to take the treat from that distance.  Eventually, the dog will begin to see the motorcycle and look for the food reward – making a positive association with motorcycles and food. 

The next step is to very gradually reduce the distance between the dog and the motorcycle, using food to keep the dog in a positive frame of mind.

By using food in this way, we can actually change a dog's brain chemistry - and their behavior about stressful events or objects in their worlds.

4. Using food can speed up the process of training.

As pointed out above, when used correctly, food can greatly improve your dog’s understanding of what you want, as well as increase dopamine in the system – giving the dog pleasure and increasing his desire to work for more food.

While all of this is good, you must be careful not to use the food as a bribe, but only as a reward; and must understand that in many (most?) cases, dogs working for food will almost always need you to continue to use food in training.

While speeding up the training process may seem like a positive thing, just recognize that there are no shortcuts in training.  

Also, folks on the opposite end of the training spectrum might also point out that using electronic collars also speeds up training!

All of this leads us down the rabbit hole of debate regarding training methods in general - a discussion for another day.

5. Using food can give YOUR brain a break.

If you’ve done much training at all, you know there are different levels of connection with your dog at different times.  

Sometimes he’s totally focused on you; others, he’s more interested in the birds, the wind, the dog across the street, or just not really in the mood to train…

The same is true for US, as humans.  Sometimes, we know we just need to get through 20 minutes or so of training homework to keep our dogs on track, but we’re tired!  It’s been a long day at work, dinner needs to be made, the human kids need help with their homework, and you feel a migraine coming on….

If you’re too tired, too busy, not focused, or just not feeling connected to your dog at the moment, food can be a great way to tell your dog you liked what they did, without having to engage with them further.  It’s certainly a way to ‘pay’ your dog for a job well done, when you’re just not up to connecting to him with praise, play, or affection.

While this use of food does work and can be used occasionally, I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular technique.  

After all, the dog & human emotional bond is an exceptionally strong one – it’s probably at least partly why you have a dog – so in the end, I am still in favor of using that bond to reward the dog more often than using a tidbit.

Whew!  There you have it - 5 reasons food can be good in training...

A good reminder for those of us who 'never' want to use food:  It DOES have a place in good dog training!

Stay tuned for the flip side of the coin in Jennifer Pearson's upcoming article on the downsides of using food in training.

Jennifer Hime is the owner and training director of Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.  You can find her at

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Mental Gymnastics - Thinking for Ourselves in the "Information Age"

I recently received an article from concerned relatives, regarding the dangers of feeding a raw diet to pets.  

As most of our Front Range K9 Academy clients know, many of our trainers (including me) feed a natural, balanced, raw diet to our pets.

At first, upon reading the article, I was angry.  Very angry.

I hear fellow raw feeders bemoaning the fact that their veterinarians, or family members, or friends argue with them against a raw diet, for a number of reasons.

But I thought - having been in the professional pet industry for 28 years, having a partner who is a veterinarian (who supports raw feeding), and just being my amazing, wonderful self - I thought I was immune to this nonsense.

Then, I started doing what I love to do best - mounting a counter argument.

I felt I needed to write the following response.  So, this is not a blog about raw pet food.  Nor about dog training.  But instead, it's a post about considering the source of information coming at each of us - at light speed - every hour of every day.  

Until we learn that all information is owned by someone....until we learn to consider where information comes from and who is profiting from that information, we will be unable to decipher what is good information, and what is not.

The article I received was the answer to a question about raw feeding.  The answer was provided by the famous (infamous?) Dr. Oz.  While I won't go into the many, many concerns by medical industry professionals about the validity of Dr. Oz's credibility in general, receiving the article did give me something to really think about.  (Despite the fact that the article's author gives no links, footnotes, or other annotation regarding the validity of information stated as fact...I will try not to make the same mistake here.)

No - I gave no consideration to the article's content, which was basically an alarmist response to the 'dangers' of feeding a raw pet diet due to contamination by bacteria, including Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria.

My initial response in reading the article was, "Of course bacteria are present - it's raw meat!"  

But being the intelligent, educated person that I am, I use the same precautions when preparing my dogs' meals as I do when handling raw meat in preparation for my human family's meals.

Hand washing, cleaning utensils and dishes, and prep. areas with hot water and detergent, are of course vital - regardless of whom the meal is being prepared for.

So it wasn't Dr. Oz's fear mongering that affected me, but instead the idea that we, as a society, continue to be taken in by almost anything we see or hear - in print or on the screens - be they television or computer screens.

In a world where we are literally battered with information in the form of words and pictures nearly every waking minute, it can be hard to decipher good information from bad.

In spite of the increase in media attention to "Fake News," it seems we're still unsure of how to interpret the messages coming at us.

This hits home for me not only as a raw feeder, but as a dog trainer.  There is a major split going on in the professional dog training community regarding methods, tools, and techniques - with each side having valid arguments.  But instead of working together for the good of the public, the dogs, and our industry, we have been reduced to mudslinging and hurling emotion-laden, often unsubstantiated claims at each other.

The same is true in the pet food world, with big business going to the mattresses to keep commercial pet food bringing in the big bucks. 

As more and more owners are turning to raw pet foods, either purchasing through small companies, or by making their own, the big commercial pet food industry is swinging for the fences - pouring big bucks into sponsorship and 'research' and as much media attention as they can get - that will back their claims that raw feeding is dangerous for pets and humans.  Of course they will argue this point - they don't want to lose profits! 

If you doubt this, check out the yearly financial statements for the 3 companies that own/produce the majority of all dog food brands.

They are grossing $61 billion a year:  Nestle' Purina brought in a not-to-shabby $11 billion in 2015; Colgate-Palmolive was at $15.2 billion for 2017; and the largest of them all, Procter & Gamble/Mars, made $35 billion in 2017.  This information is readily available as public record.

What does this have to do with Dr. Oz's article? 

Well, I did just a bit more research into the good doctor and his corporate sponsorship.  Sure enough, guess who I found?  Direct corporate links to his 'trusted' sponsors include L'Oreal (owned by the Nestle' corporation), and Head & Shoulders (owned by Proctor & Gamble/Mars Corporation - yes, the company that made $35 billion in pet food profits last year.)

What is missing from Dr. Oz's article is the other side of the argument - that commercially processed/sold pet food is just as risky for the very same bacteria found in raw dog foods. 

As recently as January 2018, yet another recall was issued for commercial dog food - with Listeria found in the food - and the source of the bacteria?  Human grade green beans!  You can read more about it the Food Safety News.

In 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association updated its online information regarding Salmonella found in commercial dog food, stating in the article that, "No pet food is immune from the possibility of Salmonella contamination."  The entire page can be found here.

The research above took me less than an hour to complete.  But how many of us take even a small portion of our day to question what we read online & in print, or hear on the news?

I would challenge each of us - regardless of what subject matter we're thinking of - to consider the source of the information we are receiving.  

In particular, is the information being presented in a way that is designed to provoke some emotion in us?  (The Dr. Oz article is clearly aimed at causing fear.)

Big business spends billions a year on public relations and advertising aimed at tickling our emotions.  When we act from our feelings instead of our common sense, they've hooked us - and we'll spend, spend, spend with them.

And secondly, I would urge every person to ask themselves, "Who might profit from spreading this information?"  Remember, in our current example, Dr. Oz gets sponsorship from the very companies producing commercial dog food - a source that stands to lose a lot of money if consumers abandon their products.

On the flip side, I can't imagine that my small, corner butcher is out to take over the world by selling me raw meaty bones, organs, and other products I feed my pets.

In the end, I know my family members were only expressing concern for my own safety.  And I appreciate that love and concern - whether the claims for concern are legitimate or not.

Food for thought.

Jennifer Hime is the owner and training director of Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.  She can be reached through her website, at