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Dog Overcrowded Household 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

I get daily emails and private messages about dog deaths within the same household. You can read when or why dogs kill other dogs here and here. The articles discuss some of the more common reasons canines kill dogs they were living with for some time. Today, I want to add a very important notion about dogs you might not know. I am referring to the invisible spaces that govern non-verbal behaviour. 

Canine Spaces 
Dogs live under one rule: live to see another day. Consequently, dogs evolve under invisible spaces that serve to protect and keep them alive. The three spaces have names and functions, which, I will describe in a minute. First, I want to establish dogs are not pack animals. They are not wolves; therefore, dogs do NOT function socially like wolves. Yes, canids share behavioural similarities, but they all evolve in different niches. Dogs evolve in a niche that does not require cooperation to hunt; consequently, dogs are solitary animals that come together for specific needs but do not live together. 

Second, humans created dogs for humans, not other dogs. The human-dog social bond outranks the dog-dog social attraction. Many scientific experiments demonstrate that dogs follow human cues more easily than their wild counterparts do. Dogs actually seek assistance from humans, not other dogs, to solve problems. Proof is in the pudding, when the ball rolls under the sofa, my dog asks me for help, not my other dog.

Back to the topic. The three spaces are critical, social, and public. The red circle represents my dog Albear. The critical space is in light blue. It is calculated from the tip of the dog’s nose to the end of its back, excluding the tail and projects outward all around the dog, just like an invisible bubble. The yellow space is the social space and it stretches outward from the dog to approximately 150’, which is 45.7m in metric. Finally, the public space of a dog extends to approximately 1.5 miles or 2.4km. 

Reasons for Communication 
Dogs have adapted their language to accommodate these distances. Their language evolved to fill in the gaps, so to speak. Think about it for a minute. If you were far away from a friend and tried to signal her with your eyes I'm over here! would your friend see you? Most likely not. You would need a bigger signal like a fully extended arm waving in her direction. Conversely, if you are next to each other, the arm signal will appear out of context; therefore, you will make a small signal, say from your eyebrows, to signify follow me. 

Dogs have adapted their language in the same manner. If a dog perceives a conflict at the extremity of his social space, breaking eye contact will not work. At a far distance, the dog needs to adapt his communication. In this case, he would likely lower his tail and ears. If the dogs are next to each other, breaking eye contact is more appropriate. To summarise, big signals, aka behaviours, communicate information to far away dogs while small signals communicate information up close. 

Dog Overcrowded Households 
You probably realized while reading that a house can become overcrowded with two or more dogs, especially if the dwelling is small and the dogs are large. For an untrained eye, dogs might seem to live in harmony, yet as a professional, I see dogs displaying displacement behaviours, stress signals, agonistic postures, and so on. Silent conflicts often take place in front of humans, but when people are absent, dogs settle their unresolved quarrels and conflict resolution frequently leads to death. If you have a strong stomach, watch this video (very graphic, but not gruesome). It will give you an excellent understanding of how silent conflicts can occur in front of your eyes, and how powerless we are to solve them. Then, imagine all this occurring while you stepped out.

The best way to avoid overcrowding is to evaluate the size of the house, dogs, and history of the animals. Dogs that have had past conflicts, with an injury history, are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviours again and most likely with an escalating response. The following image demonstrates the space required for two medium sized dogs to coexist comfortably. This means each room the dogs find themselves in would need to be minimally 6’ by 12’ or 1.8m by 3.7m. A two-bedroom house surface would have to be no less than 1152ft2 (ft2 = square feet) or 107m2 (m2 = square meters). These measurements only refer to critical spaces, ideally, dogs would require a house that covers their social space needs. That would make for a very BIG house; actually, it represents a 22 500ft2 or 2090.3m2 building. 

Last Considerations 
Before you embark on a journey that involves multiple dogs in your house, please consider their space requirements. For each comment I receive on the articles mentioned in the introduction, I receive two emails about unnecessary deaths. Approximately a quarter of the people who write to me have witnessed the death of their beloved pets. These traumas are lifelong lasting and most cases end with the death of the attacker/s, so in reality, two or more dogs have died because of overcrowding. If you watched the video, you now know you will never be fast enough to curb the death of a dog nor could you stop the attack. The average time it takes dogs to kill animals smaller then themselves is approximately 3-5 seconds. Yes, seconds. Canines are very efficient predators; never forget that, and never assume My dog would never do that! Avoid dog overcrowding through prevention, for it remains by far the best medication.



Bill 128 Kills All Dog Breeds 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

I didn’t think I would have to write about breed specific legislation, aka BSL, so soon after Montreal reversed the BSL by-laws forbidding certain breeds. So, why am I writing? Because the provincial government wants to pass a province-wide ban on breeds, and dogs you didn’t think would be targeted, are. 

As such, all Staffordshire terriers, Bull terriers, Rottweiler, and eventually Huskies, German Shepherd, and all northern breeds and mixes of those breeds will not be allowed to reside in the province. Think about that for a moment, look at your dog or your friends’ dogs, and tell me without any doubt you can guarantee the breed/s of your mixed dog. Genetic tests can’t even prove your dog is a specific breed, let alone a combination of breeds.

When you stop to think about it, assessing dog breeds based on looks is equivalent to trying to identify the real Tom Cruise from his look-a-like. Unless you know who their parents are, there's no way we can differentiate them. When I assess a dog, I'm guessing which breeds were its parents, and contrary to what you might hear, nobody can identify the genetic makeup of a breed based on looks. 

Veterinarians will be obliged to identify breeds visually and assess dangerousness. If your pure bread or mixed dog is classified as dangerous, regardless of circumstances, it can be sold to research facilities or laboratories who conduct animal testing. Yes, you read that right. The provincial government wants to end your precious pet’s life in the most horrific way possible: torture. 

The most concerning thing about Bill 128 is that it’s written to bypass Bill 54 which declared dogs and other animals as sentient begins. So, on one hand, our dogs are sentient beings, but on the other hand, they can be disposed of and tortured at will. If you are not outraged, you should be.

I will make this blog brief. Contact your representative and politely tell them what you think of Bill 128 and their disposable dog law. Use every social and print media you can think of to protest and say we do not want this law because ALL dogs are at risk. ALL dogs in these images are at risk.

Below is the link to Bill 128, read it, get informed, tell your veterinarian because they don’t know, tell your family, friends, and finally, get you dogs genetically tested, even if unreliable, it’s all you've got should you need it in court one day.


Proposed Bill 128

No Need for International Dog Adoptions 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr

Photo (c) CBCThe rescue industry has a new source of dogs. Big rescue organizations go to South Korea or the Philippines and bring back canines destined to be on a restaurant or on the home menu. Some dogs come from the street while others are family pets stolen and sold for human food. This might seem as an honourable cause, yet a few reasons tell us it’s a bad idea. 

Today’s news headline is one of those reasons. The first case of dog influenza has been confirmed, and the dogs in question come from the latest seizure made in South Korea; most likely, they are the canines who were destined to be eaten, but the story doesn’t tell. In my opinion, the coincidence is too obvious to be a random occurrence. Rescues are directly contributing to the spread of diseases. Plus, what right does one culture have to tell another culture what they can or cannot eat?

Another reason to not import dogs from other countries relates to population control. Most of the worldwide dog population lives as free roaming or feral animals. The vast majority survive by eating trash and a few handouts from tourists. When feral dogs reproduce, puppies are pushed away from the immediate environment because there’s not enough food to sustain an entire family. Once the 4-month-old puppies leave, natural selection controls populations. Dogs die from famine, diseases, or accidents. When rescues pull out litters, what they don’t see are dogs breeding to fill the now empty niche. Rescues are actually contributing to the problem; they are not solving the overcrowded worldwide dog population crisis.

My pet peeve is the actual, or should I say factual, problem feral dog populations pose to urban societies. When rescues pull dogs out of their environment, they are not prepared for our climate or environment. Most of these animals live on the street and are poorly socialized to live in such close proximity to one another. Serious behaviour problems are common in imported dogs. Furthermore, local human populations from those countries are not educated as too why sterilization should be a priority, or why sanitary living conditions or breeding should be mandatory. 

Finally, rescues should focus on dogs that need help within our borders. Quebec euthanizes approximately 500 000 dogs per year. I believe we have more than enough adoptable dogs in Canada without having the need to fly halfway across the world to get ill or socially maladapted animals. I believe we need to educate, not perpetrate. What do you think? 


Wednesday, January 10, 2018 -- The dogs in this story that imported from South Korea came from an organization in the USA. Please follow the link to read their statement


Why I Don’t Use Lures to Train Dogs 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr

Many dog trainers use lures to train dogs. Lures are most often food, but they can be toys or even safety. There are multiple reasons to use lures, but the most common motive is to teach new behaviours. I don’t use lures to teach a new behaviour and you will read why in the following paragraphs. 

Lure Definition 
The Oxford dictionary defines lure as something that tempts or is used to tempt a person or animal to do something. The lure can be any primary need such as food, water, safety, sex (yes sex), social contact, thermoregulation (environmental temperatures), etc. In essence, a lure is anything the dog wants. Often times, food is used as a lure. 

Lure Pros & Cons 
The following reasons are not an exhaustive list, but it does convey the main reasons for or against lure training. Furthermore, this is my list and doesn’t represent the entire Dogue Shop students or staff’s reasons to lure or not to lure. For my part, I can honestly say, I’m a lure free trainer. 


- Speed: lures allow dog trainers to capture behaviours faster. 

- Efficacy: lures produce a desired or intended result. 

- Learning: models the dog into a behaviour. 


- Efficacy: unreliable if the lure is not faded out immediately. 

- Learning: doesn’t allow for problem-solving skills to develop. 

- Confusion: lures are cues and rewards at the same time. 

- Generalisation: We can’t lure exotic animals into behaviours. 

Why I Don’t Use Lures to Train Dogs 
Lures can, and often do, become crutches. When lures are not faded out in the initial capturing sequence, they become difficult to eliminate later on in the training process. I know many renowned dog trainers promote the use of lures because it’s easy, and there lies problem number one. I believe luring is lazy training because lures don’t teach dogs how to think and problem solve. Problem number two is the co-dependency, which develops when trainers use lures.

It’s too easy to go back to luring when dogs don’t respond to the cue, and with time, the lures lose their efficacy and behaviour deteriorates. The third problem is found within the definition. The word tempt means to present a desirable stimulus (primary need) to someone (or an animal), but not give it to them in the hopes they exhibit the desired behaviour. The animal might not exhibit the desirable behaviour, thus, the trainer will repeat the lure sequence. 

Problem number four is, to me, the most compelling reason why I don’t use lures. Exotic animals can kill us if we bribe them, and in my practice, if I cannot use a technique with all animal species, then I’m not using it with our dogs. Lure trainers argue dogs are not exotic so we can lure them, it’s easier. It might seem easier (that is totally debatable) or faster, but I prefer to take my time and teach animals how to problem-solve and think for themselves, and that includes dogs. 

Dog Social-Cognitive Learning Theory 
If you think social-cognitive learning is just about imitation, then you do not understand social learning. Learning to learn is the foundation of social-cognitive learning theory, and let me tell you when you learn how to use the theory, your animal will present you with behaviours you never thought were possible. 

Social learning is easier and faster than luring, but to see the process, dog trainers must allow new ideas to take root. The same applies to exotic animals. Wolves that learn how to learn will offer new behaviours faster, their behaviours will be more reliable, and the outcome will be a deepened bond. Finally, social learning requires A1 capturing and shaping skills, which when compared to luring might take a tad longer, but in the end, the animal will outperform a lure trained a dog.


Dog Umwelt  

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

Umwelt is pronounced o͝omvelt and is defined as the world as it is experienced by a particular organism. For the sake of this article, we will discuss the canine Umwelt or the world as it’s experienced by the dog. Why address this particular topic? Because you will vote on November 5th and I feel it’s important you know why you should not vote for the current mayor. 

The Dog’s experience of the World 
The dog experiences the world in a very different way when compared to humans. First, dog vision isn’t their go to sensory organ. I’m sure you already knew that, but most humans tend to forget because our Umwelt relies strongly on vision. Second, the dog’s sense of smell offers a dimension we cannot even begin to understand as people. Dogs can taste smells…. What?! Yes, dogs can taste odours through their vomeronasal organ located behind their incisor teeth on the upper jaw. Thirdly, dogs can hear high-pitched sounds much better than we can. In this way, dogs complement humans. 

You can see how different sensory intake modifies your perception of the world. Dogs cannot see red, yet for humans, red is an eye catching colour, which requires attention. What is obvious to you is imperceptible for your dog and vice versa. My dog can smell high cortisol levels in other dogs (and people) and will react strongly to the olfactory trigger. I, on the other hand, am left in total darkness. 

Emotional Umwelt 
Dogs experience emotions. That too, I’m sure you already knew. What you might not know is that dogs have a bigger limbic system or smaller frontal lobes, it depends on your point of view, which means dogs react very strongly to emotional triggers. I always say dogs don’t talk with flowers, they talk with teeth. When dogs are unhappy or scared, they want the negative experience to go away, and canines will do whatever it takes to make that happen NOW. The opposite is also true. When dogs experience joy, they will do whatever it takes to make the joyful event occur again. 

We, humans, tend to stay with our negative emotions for way too long. Some people repeatedly recite negative emotions throughout the day. The negative emotions should have been addressed while they occurred, not three days later. Plus, when we get upset, it takes all the energy we have to say stop, I don't like this , and when we finally do, we tend to sugar coat it. We are a strange species that way. I think we can take a few life lessons from dogs and deal with our emotions as they unravel. 

Why Vote Projet Montréal 
Why a political paragraph in a dog article? Because the current mayor has disrupted the dog Umwelt, and in doing so, has disrupted our experience of life too. When we make decisions about our lives, it’s important to keep Umwelt in mind. What do we want to experience as a collective humanity? What do we want for our dogs and cats? Why should you care about politics? The answer is simple because a world experienced by a collective group should be a positive one

My duty to my dog and myself is to demand our leaders care about us and all the experiences we chose to have within that collectivity. I think there’s room for public safety laws and dog ownership, regardless of the breed. When you hit the polls, and god knows I hope you do it in large numbers, consider Umwelt as your life experience, and how you can control the outcome through politics. If anything, look at all the unnecessary money spent, that alone should be a green light for change. This time around, I propose we try a woman as our leader. Valérie Plante, from Projet Montréal, is my choice because she cares about our and our dogs' Umwelt. If you don't know who Valérie Plante is, follow this link. I guarantee you, she will make Montréal the best experience of our collective world.


To Ray Coppinger - Cheers! 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

If you haven’t heard the news already, Raymond Copping died on August 14th at the age of 80. Ray left his family, friends, dog professionals, colleagues, researchers, and students too soon if you ask me. If you didn’t know Ray, you certainly missed out on a wonderful person and scientist. We exchanged on and off throughout the years. Sometimes we talked about dogs, OK, we mostly talked about dogs, but often times we talked about life and our experience of it. This piece is for him. 

The First Time I Met Ray Coppinger 

I first met Ray was in 2003. I say first because I met him a second time for the first time, in person that is, later the same year. I was scheduled to translate his weekend conference on the evolution of dogs, so we met online first. The topic covered his then popular book: Dogs. We exchanged messages back and forth on terminology and evolution concepts to help me master the content and offer a high-quality translation. 

When we talked over the phone, our conversations often ended off topic. Ray and I would talk about our lives, our dogs’ lives, and our role in it. He would ask me complex questions that made me think. The hardest question he asked during those discussions was Why did you wait so long? He asked the question not for him but for me. He wanted me to reflect on why I had waited so long to live my passion. I would later discover, Ray always wanted me to think, and at that, he succeeded. 

The Second First Time I met Ray Coppinger 

The second time I met Ray, it was for the actual weekend conference. When we met, it felt more like a reunion than a meeting. Needless to say, we hit it off. I meet Lorna, his wife, and the three of us talked about a lot of stuff during that weekend, OK we mostly talked about dogs. We discovered our mutual fondness for wolves, dogs, beer, writing, and storytelling. When the weekend ended, it was hard to say goodbye. 

We parted knowing we would stay in contact, but somehow, it didn’t make it any easier. When I got home that night, I felt changed inside. Ray had that super power, you know, the one where he transforms into a little bug that crawls into your brain and makes you think and do things. He also had the freeze super power. People would go about their business and Ray would say something outrageous that made everybody freeze and look at him. I will miss that the most. 

Ray Coppinger – Life Changer 

The last fourteen years have been a blessing, and thanks to Ray’s persistent recommendation, I met an awesome group of wolf people. I don’t go to Wolf Park as often as I wish I could, but when I do, I remember Ray’s voice Go to Wolf Park! as I enter the premises. You never know the impact you have on someone’s life until it’s often too late. Ray has certainly changed my life. Wolf Park has also greatly influenced who I am, and I’ll make sure to tell them one-by-one. 

Ray sent regular emails to check on me. He would drop a one-liner like What are you doing now? Explain the universe in 200 words, and my all-time favourite, Tell me a story. I would write elaborate stories about my life with a different theme each time. Sometimes, Ray gave me a grade. The following is an excerpt from a 2016 email. 


I love your e-mails. Your few words make me laugh and think at the same time, not an easy feat when it comes to these two responses of mine. 

What am I doing now? 

In the realm of once upon a time, a beautiful princess lived in a time where fast paced lives and stress ridden bodies ruled the land. The princess told a story which to this day is remembered by all. In a time not so long ago, there was much ado about a native sorceress who could talk to the mighty Adlet. The sorceress was already juggling multiple employments when the mythical creature came and tried to persuade the sorceress to bestow upon humanity the book of languages. 

The task was a destitute attempt to merge incompatible ideologies, or so it seemed. On one hand, the sorceress new the codex would change the kingdom forever. On the other hand, she knew time would only accelerate once she found herself taken by the manuscript. 

In this kingdom, the speed at which time passed was not the same as in other worlds. The writing of such a codex meant certain banquets would be omitted. Saddened was the hag. Her desires were not congruent with her heart's desires. The manipulation of time was beyond her powers and to make due with the devil's request would require a change in her almanack. 

The native sorceress took on the task and began the composition of Adlet's proze. To this day, the sorceress still implores the mighty powers above to slow down time or decapitate slayers who, to the king's profit, kill time passages and replace them with false ideological pretences. 

To which Ray answered, amongst other things, Gaby -- great essay -- I can just see that "native girl."

Other messages were more personal in nature and most often revolved around writing. I remember telling Ray about my crazy idea. Little ole me, a dyslexic person, wanted to write a book. He thought it was a marvellous idea and never made me forget. I’m almost done with the book and wish I could have given him a copy. He knew what the topic is about and one day, when you read it, you’ll know why his encouragement was a blessing. I learned one thing from Ray and it’s never, ever, think within the box. For that life lesson, I’m forever grateful. 

Blessings From Above 

A few years ago Ray broke his leg pretty bad. I remember our discussion as if it were yesterday. He started the conversation with his freeze super power one-liner You owe me another zoo jacket! Obviously, I went What?! He told me about the ordeal and I cried, sometimes of laughter, sometimes of sadness. That event wasn’t easy for him. 

In retrospect, Ray was the kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime. He was a genuine human being who cared about people and animals. He loved to read about dogs but loved to write about them even more. He is, was a generous and kind scientist who cared about research and what each person could bring to the table. He was also compassionate when it came to my stories and rants. 

My students have heard me talk about Ray over the years; I just hope they got to know him a little through me. I will miss his encouragement and dedication to my passion, our passion. I will miss his emails, his lists of people to contact, his writings, his knowledge, but most of all his contagious desire to educate. They say what goes around comes around, Ray certainly made sure of that. 

If you didn’t know Ray…………... the only thing that comes to mind is sucks to be you!


Dog Social Learning Boom 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

As more and more people discover social cognitive learning theory (SCT), I’m reminded just how slow the dog training and behaviour industry evolve. I practice and teach social learning on a regular basis. Actually, I’ve been writing about SCT for over a decade now. Although people claim social learning is new, rest assured, it’s not. The science of imitation in the form of Do As I Do (DAID) has been around since the 50s. 

Social Learning Brief History 
Once upon time, two scientists by the name of Keith Hayes and Catherine Hayes did a research on a chimpanzee's ability to imitate (Hayes and Hayes, 1952). In their paper, the researches mention their chimp learned the rule of imitation and would copy a signal after the request “Do this”. From then on, the Do As I Do protocol was born. More recently, advances in dog imitation come from Ádám Miklósi’s leading team of researchers, more specifically, Claudia Fugazza (2014, 2015). For those who don't know, Claudia gave a weekend seminar at the Dogue Shop during the summer of 2017.

Social Learning Experience
My experience with SCT via imitation proves to be the fastest, most efficient training approach, and proves to be a wonderful complement to other training methods. Eleven years ago, I foretold my clients and students SCT would revolutionise dog training. It does. Science finally caught up, and we are happy the Dogue Shop school is leading the way. Every other day, Albear and I  work on a special SCT project and will share info once available.

Meanwhile, We use SCT to teach many aspects of behaviour varying from emotional control to cognition, trust, and attachment. Because social learning requires cognition and memory, certain dogs will outperform others. That should not come as a surprise. The environment is also a predictor of learning; therefore, we modify space as needed to facilitate animal learning. 

The side effects to SCT are resilience and fatigue, the good kind. I’ve talked about social learning and resilience in the past, so if you follow my blog you know what I’m talking about. Resilience serves to heighten emotional threshold, which allows dogs to evolve in their environment as best as they possibly can. DAID will help us achieve that prerogative, faster and more efficiently.

Future of Dog Social Learning
Social learning will not replace behaviourism; it will complement it. With my experience, I foresee other learning theories, which will benefit dog training in the next decade, hopefully the sooner the better. People need better human intervention strategies, clients need a less expensive and time consuming training method, and dogs need clarity and direction from people, not commands and reprimands. 

The future of dog training will change in the next ten years, and I’m very excited to see other trainers and schools embark on the social learning bandwagon. Until then, I’ll keep you posted on new learning theories which will undoubtedly change the forthcoming decade. 



- Fugazza, C. (2014). Social learning and imitation in dogs (Canis familiaris). Doctoral Thesis. Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Science Doctoral, Hungary. 

- Fugazza, C. and, Miklósi, Á. (2015). Social learning in dog training: The effectiveness of the Do as I do method compared to shaping/clicker training. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 

- Hayes, K. and Hayes, C. (1952). Imitation in a Home-raised Chimpanzee. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology. Vol. 45, 5.  pp. 450-459 doi: 10.1037/h0053609

Dog: Pragmatic Predator or Parasitic Partner? 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

When humans started to express themselves on cavern walls, dogs were soon portrayed in various scenes ranging from attack to hunting. Where dogs truly hunting with humans or did dogs simply tag along because they saw a great opportunity to catch scraps of food left by human hunters. Today, we'll explore human and dog relationships; are dogs true companions, or have they evolved as symbiotic partners. The answer might surprise you.

Companionship Relationship 

Dog owners, it seems, struggle to answer the why do you have a dog question. It’s funny how the simplest question is by far the hardest one to answer. I've asked this question to the majority of my clients for the last 20 years. It's true the majority of people answer companionship as the number one reason, but decades later, I still don’t have a clear reason as to why people share their lives with dogs. Let me explain.

I’ve always found the companionship answer to be superficial and meaningless. Think about the definition of companionship for a moment and you'll be propelled into the realm of confusion. To illustrate my point, consider the following definitions. 

- Companionship: a feeling of fellowship or friendship. 

- Friendship: a state of mutual trust and support between individuals. 

- Fellowship: friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests. 

Can your relationship be explained by these definitions? I think not. Here’s why. A companion relationship relates to a shared social structure, common linguistics, and mutual interests between two individuals. Although similar, humans and dogs don’t share the same social structure, nor do people talk dog or share mutual interests. I don't know about you, but I don't have the urge to roll in dead insects, eat poop, or smell other dogs' behinds. It's true we are two social species, but I don't bark or growl at people when I'm uncomfortable or angry. In other words, dogs are not human companions. 

Partnership Relationship 

A symbiotic relationship, on the other hand, is an exchange between two different species; the relationship can benefit or hinder both individuals. Symbiotic relationships are essential to organisms that enter them because they offer a balance which is only achieved by working together.

Humans have bred dogs based on symbiotic relationships for generations. Hunters employ dogs to find and bring back prey; farmers need dogs to organize and move livestock; public safety officials breed and train dogs to serve and protect; the entire terrier group saw the light of day to assist in vermin control. Throughout the decades, dogs have entered human lives with a very specific purpose in mind. A symbiotic relationship is by definition a working partnership, not a companionship. When a dog enters a home it should be to fulfil a service, whatever the service need be. To deprive an animal of performing the work it was created for is, in my opinion, cruel and abusive. 

I’m in a symbiotic relationship with my dog. As my work partner, Albear offers educational lessons to aspiring puppies; he helps facilitate my human interventions; he assists me when my medical condition reduces my mobility; consequently, my dog is my partner. In return, I provide healthcare, excellent nutrition, training opportunities, comfortable sleep areas, play sessions, and exploration situations. 

Canine Conundrum 

The conundrum lies within the reason people have dogs: companionship. Although social media is omnipresent in our lives, people feel lonelier than ever before. The emotional isolation is often compensated through dog interactions. Unfortunately, dogs make poor surrogate people. Companionship relationships with dogs are truly parasitic ones. One abuses* the other till the relationship breaks down. Unfortunately, re-homing, abandonment, or death severs the dysfunctional link. 

Thankfully, it is possible to change a companionship relationship into a symbiotic partnership; however, one question needs to be answered before I can explain how to change dysfunctional relationships into a functional one. Tell me, why do you have a dog?



- Merriam Webster. (2017). Retrieved from

- Bekoff, M. & Pierce, J. (2009).  Wild Justice; The Moral Lives of Animals. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

* takes more than gives in return: human or dog.

I kissed a Wolf and I Liked it! 

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

Actually, I kissed many wolves throughout my career and yes, I did like it. The question is why? Why do we seek inter-species interactions and displays of affection? Some people risk their lives to touch an animal, while others purposefully buy illegal exotic animals off the black market only to realise how dangerous those animals are. Today, I’ll share my views, knowledge, and experiences with you to try answer the question. 

Big Bad Wolf 
Growing up in Goose Bay, Labrador, my childhood was undoubtedly atypical; however, I know the stories most kids were told led them to believe wolves were bad. Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Mr. Wolf and the Three Bear, Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, and Little Wolf's Book of Badness, to name a few, all tell us how wolves can’t help themselves express undesirable behaviours (read eat, kill, injure, etc.). Thank goodness, our childhood stories couldn’t be further from the truth. Wolves can, and do, control their impulses. 

In our disconnected urbanised life, we have come to cherish the stories of our youth. As such, the yearning to reconnect with nature is what motivates most people to seek inter-species connections. To satisfy their desires for social contact, proximity, monotony relief, non-judgmental encounters, or unconditional love, people go to great lengths. Some people even die in the process of fulfilling their needs. 

Desire Motivates
The desire to interact is motivated by an intrinsic curiosity we share with all living creatures. The connection itself is reinforcing because it satisfies our need for closeness. When we associate with others, neurobiological processes are triggered. Mirror neurons instil empathy, which in turn, deepens the attachment through increased mirror neuron activity. When you touch a dog, a dolphin, a wolf, a whale, a cat, or whatever animal you happen to come by, your brain is firing like mad. 

Your fight or flight defense system is also on high alert and releases epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) hormones. The joy of the interaction also contributes to the hormonal cocktail by releasing serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. In essence, your body experiences your emotions, and your emotions experience your body. One could say you become addicted to relationships, so to speak. 

My Experience
Another reason we love to interact with animals is the environment. Like animals, we both enjoy open spaces, fresh air, clean water, cool breezes, and wholesome foods. So, when we happen to cross paths with animals, we rejoice and often turn to our inner child for guidance. The young human ambassador in us takes center stage and starts an inter-species dialog. In the exchange, we share our secret message: I love you

Of all the exchanges I’ve had with animals; of all the kisses I’ve given or received; each encounter shares the same components: trust and empathy. We believe, in that very short moment, we are connected to a power bigger than ourselves. In some cases, size is an actual component of the inter-species meeting, but what I’m referring to here is the figurative bigger power. 

A shared moment with my fellow wolf is one of unity. For a brief second in life, I become one with an animal that trusts me so unconditionally, it’s ready to break the intra-species bond and create an inter-species relationship. At that very instant, I feel accepted for who I am. The infinitely small fraction of time creates a lifelong, unforgettable, experience based solely on trust and empathy. 

Personal Boundaries
When I interacted with my first exotic wild animal, a goose, I was probably four years old. Geese were everywhere, so it wasn’t hard to find and interact with them. If anything, geese would seek out people first. It was a strange encounter, but a memorable one. I also remember when, a few years later, I picked up a garter snake and played with it. All was wonderful, till I showed the snake to my grand-mother. She screamed; the snake disappeared. 

I’ve always had a high attraction to animals and vice versa, but, I’ve never forced animals into interactions they didn’t desire. I approach all animals (yes that includes dogs and other domestic animals) with baby steps. On the final approach, I let the animal make the decisive move. They choose to interact, or not. I’m simply a passive observer. 

Human-Animal Bond
To answer the question, we seek inter-species interactions and displays of affection because they make us feel good. Heck, an entire industry saw the light of day because humans desire connectedness and unity in a disconnected and divided world. If we didn’t love animals so much, we wouldn’t have zoological institutions or marine mammal parks.

Before I end, I’d like to add I’m not here to pick a battle with you on the pros and cons of captive animals. I’m simply here to share with you reasons why the human-animal bond is so powerful. Please keep that in mind when you comment or send nasty e-mails. On the other hand, if you had an experience with an animal that changed your life, please share it with us in the comments. As you know, we conduct animal-assisted therapy and would love to hear your human-animal encounter story.


Morphological Characteristics  

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE

Morphological characteristic is a newly debated topic to which I’d like to shed some light. Recently, or should I say finally, the city of Montreal established what the morphological characteristics are for pitbull type dogs. The topic is once again a compilation of nonsense criteria, and I’d like to discuss the reasons why. 

Dog Physical Characteristics 
Here is a list of the morphological characteristics for pitbull type dogs in Montreal. I know it’s a little long and confusing, but this is what mayor Denis Coderre’s team came up with five months AFTER the by-law was passed. You’ll find my explanation or clarification, in red, next to the criterion. Professionally speaking, the following twenty points seem improvised and are highly discussable.

  1. Muscular, short-haired, powerful and athletic-looking dog. Dog has square shape when viewed laterally. By definition this characteristic includes ALL dogs from the molosser group, and could possibly include deep chested Labradors, Boxers, Doberman Pinchers, etc. 
  2. The male weighs 12 to 35 kg (27-77lbs) and is 36 to 53 cm (14”-21”) high at the withers. The female weighs 10 to 30 (22-66lbs) kg and is 30 to 50 cm (12”-20”) high at the withers. Height to weight ratio is usually proportional. Weight as a breed characteristic can open the door to malnutrition and subsequently abuse. 
  3. Its coat is close-hair, short and smooth. It’s unclear if only single coats are allowed. The criterion doesn’t say if dogs are considered pitbull type animals if they have double, 2-5 secondary hair, coats. 
  4. Its head is wedge-shaped when viewed laterally or above, but round when viewed from the front. This is confusing. Most dogs have a wedge shaped head when seen from the side. As for a round shaped head when seen from the front only a few breeds like Bulldogs (English and French), Pugs, Dogue de Bordeaux, and possibly Boston Terriers come to mind. 
  5. The head is about 2/3 the width of the shoulders and 25% wider at the cheeks than at the base of the skull. I wonder if the measurements are actually calculated or guesstimated. 
  6. The distance from the back of the skull to the eyes is equivalent to the distance from the eyes to the tip of the muzzle. Again, this is so general that most dog breeds conform to the criterion. 
  7. Well-defined stop. No mention of the stop’s angle is discussed or proposed: 45o, 60o, or 90o area all well defined.
  8. The muzzle is straight and square. A bit better, but still too general to decide the faith of dogs. 
  9. The lips are tight and dental occlusion is normal. I’m uncertain how this condition can be considered since it’s impossible to prove if the dental occlusion is a biological breed characteristic or genetic fault.
  10. The eyes are small and triangular when viewed laterally. They are round or slightly elliptical when viewed from the front. I’m trying not to let my opinion interfere, but common, this describes pretty much the entire canid genus.
  11. The ears are high set and small. Again, this criterion is too general to decide the faith of a dog. I mean, official CKC and AKC breeds banned by the city of Montreal have very specific ears and ear placement shapes and sizes. So why not be a little more clear?!
  12. The neck is muscular. All canids have a muscular neck. FYI: the neck is the second most powerful muscle after the jaw. 
  13. The shoulders are a little wider than rib cage at the eighth rib level. This is getting a little ridiculous. So many dogs fall into this category. If you cross a Bulldog with Labrador this characteristic is highly likely to occur. 
  14. The elbows are not prominent and front legs are parallel. Obviously, it's a dog. But, on a positive note, thank God most pitbull type dogs out there have misaligned legs which disqualify them as pitbull type.
  15. The front legs are heavy and solid looking. Hun?! My mother use to say When you don't know what to say, say nothing.
  16. The front is massive, with a comparatively delicate back. This describes most dog breeds, maybe except sight-hounds. The problem with this criterion is that if you mix any breed with a massive front you'll get this definition, without having any terrier in the mix. Mix a Bulldog with a Dalmatian and you'll get a pitbull type dog according to Denis Coderre and Anie Samson.
  17. The back slopes slightly from the withers to the rump. Which would mean their back legs are shorter than the front. doesn't this contradict point 16, 18, and 19?!
  18. The hips are broad for firmly attached muscles and the hind legs are muscular. I can't take these descriptions, they're so misleading and confusing. Obviously muscles are firmly attached to broad hips, it's a dog people. 
  19. The hocks are low and the hind legs appear slim under the knees. In other words, the back area is a great big muscle, firmly attached (as we just learned) to short, thin legs. I'm starting to wonder how this dog can actually stand. 
  20. The tail is of medium length, becoming slimmer from the base to the tip, and generally kept down. Pardon my expression, but WTF?! Sorry, I just lost it for a second. This is a definition for Every. Single. Dog. Tail. 

Do you see a problem with Montreal’s pitbull type dog criteria? If not, let me point it out. The problem is the following; there’s no indication as to which criteria and how many of them turn dogs from non pitbull to pitbull type dogs. The above document only states, and I quote "several of the morphological traits listed". When the life or death of an animal depends on objective observations as means of classification, one would expect to have measurable data and a set number of characteristics. A dog body could be measured and compared to a template, so why not create one?! For example, if a dog conforms to a minimum of 17/20 characteristics, which were measured and determined as a positive match to the predetermined standard, then, and only then, would you have a pitbull type dog.

Morphology Isn't Guess Work 
Pick a breed, any breed, and read through the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) or the AKC's (American Kennel Club) list of morphological criteria. You’ll find that what makes a Staffordshire Bull Terrier different from an Bull Terrier isn’t just the word Staffordshire. The AKC and CKC have very specific standards, plus subjects from a breed need to have a pedigree in order to be called a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or Bull Terrier. There’s simply no guess work in determining a purebred dog. 

I think the city of Montreal, and other BSL cities, need to clarify this question. People need to know how many of the criterion qualifies their dog as pitbull type and to which extent. If a 90o stop is required, does a +/- 5o rule apply? If a dog has twenty of the above mentioned criteria, but has a misaligned dental occlusion, is the dog immediately disqualified? Does a dog need to have all twenty criteria to be considered pitbull type? 

Morphology Shishmology 
I want to end with the notion that dogs aren’t machines. They come in many, many, different shapes, sizes, and colours, and to qualify them based on nonsense criteria is simply irresponsible and unprofessional. Dog caregivers need a better defined morphological chart. Furthermore, elected city officials need to step up and take their biased and idiotic approach to dangerous dog management and try to make something professional and coherent out of it. Till then, I know who I’m going to vote for, do you?


- PIT BULL-TYPE DOGS: MORPHOLOGICAL TRAITS. (2017). Retrieved from March 8th, 2017