Impulse Control

In human psychology, impulse control refers to peoples’ ability to delay gratification or resist their immediate desires, impulses or temptations that could harm them or others. In short, impulse control means self-control or self-restraint.

DogFiveThe general goal of all dog training is to teach our pets impulse control. We want them to resist their immediate desires and, instead, comply with our cues or commands. Accomplishing this allows us to keep our pets under control, ensuring their safety and comfort, as well as the safety and comfort of others. For example, dogs who have been taught to come when called or to wait a moment for permission to go through doors can be kept safe from many dangers, such as getting lost or hit by cars. Likewise, dogs that have been taught to sit politely to greet people won’t jump up and injure or upset them.

Sitting Before Leash Being Attached & Going Outside 

Does your dog go banana’s when the leash comes out of the closet or drawer when its time to go out for their daily walks?

Dogs learn by association, which means that your dog is being rewarded for getting excited every time the leash comes out. This is because, even though your dog is excited to go out, you still hook up their leash and proceed to go outdoors as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, your dogs behavior was ultimately rewarded by going outdoors – which is what they wanted to do in the first place!

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Your dog wants to go outside, and we need the dog to remain calm while attaching leash… So how do we get there?

By changing the association of the leash of course!

The value of the leash is high for your dog. Your dog knows that when the leash comes out that the reward is to go outdoors. (Best place ever!)  So we need to change that association to reflect calmness.

So How Do We Get There?

1) Alternate the location of your leash. By putting the leash back in the same spot each time, your dog will quickly figure out that when you walk towards the drawer that is walk time! So place it in different spots around the house to begin with.

2) Reach towards your dogs leash – if your dog gets all excited, walk away from the leash. (Repeat as necessary)

3) Once you are able to pick up the leash, ask your dog to sit. Try to use your cue only one time – hand signal or verbal.

4) Attach the leash.

5) For this next step you can either let the dog wander around with the leash attached for a couple minutes, or you can unclip and repeat the previous steps as needed.

6) Remember – The ultimate goal is to outside. Repeat the previous steps a few times and on the best & fastest response, you will proceed outdoors for your walk.

7) Try doing this several times a day – Even if you are not going out on a walk. It will help your dog understand, just because the leash has been brought out, it doesn’t mean you are going outside just yet.

Your dog will soon start to realize that when his bum is on the floor and he is remaining calm, that is when he gets to go outside. Patience is key to this exercise. It may take a few repetitions before your dog starts to piece it all together.PeopleSeven

Waiting At Doorway

By teaching your dog to wait at the door and not bolting out can be a potentially life saving skill.

Your dogs understanding of the door right now is that if the door opens, he is allowed to leave. Wrong! We must change the idea that when the door is open, your dog must remain behind the door until we release the dog by the word “Okay.”

So How Do We Get There?

1) Start by attaching your dogs leash to his collar. (This is for added safety).

2) Once the dog is calm and ready to go outside, start to open the door.

3) If the dog moves toward the door, close the door back over and use your counter command such as “Ah-ah” or “”Oops” to let the dog know that wasn’t correct.

4) Once your dog backs away or sits back down, try to open the door again.

5) If the dog stands up or moves towards the doorway, repeat by closing the door.

6) Once the door is fully open, say “Okay” and proceed through the doorway for your walk. You do not need to reward with treats, as the reward is to go outside!

7) Practice this on the door leading to the backyard. The value to go outside is still there, so its a great opportunity to practice impulse control for going into the backyard as well!

Remember: Going outside is very exciting for your dog. So this skill may take a few repetitions before your dog starts to understand how it really works.

Be patient – It will be worth it in the long run!

Written by Lauren Hurley, RDAII, DCBCE – Owner Kayenna Kennels & Training Services

REX to the Rescue!


We are really excited to announce that for the month of February, for any new businesses that sign up for advertising, we will donate 100% of your advertising fee to ARF!

Eligible spaces:

Advertising on any Vendor page (Under Calgary Pet Services) is $100 for a six month space. Your ad will appear below any current adverts on a first come, first served basis.

If you are interested and would like to participate, please send us an email at!

Ad Dimensions are 231px x 314px, 72 DPI. Design services available from REX if requested at an additional fee.

Fine Print: all advertisers must be approved by REX. Current advertisers are eligible to participate for any NEW ad space. Offer expires Feb 28th, 2014.


“We have been advertising with Rex in the City for only about a month. We inquire on where our clients heard about us throughout all of our serving offerings, and we have started to see them refer to Rex in the City more and more. We have ourselves under the free listing, but the advertising allows us much more visibility, and allows for great target marketing at an incredible rate! We look forward to building a long-term relationship with this excellent site!”

Megan Armstrong, CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA
dogma training & pet services inc.

“Dear Rex,

It is minus 30 with the windchill today. I have rescheduled a few of our outdoor appointments. Usually with this spare time I would be designing, printing, and delivering advertising materials. Honestly, I am warm and toasty in front of my computer answering emails and phone calls and setting up appointments for the new year. When I ask clients where they found my number the answer is astounding…REX! REX! REX!

So, Thank-You Rex for keeping me good busy. It is so refreshing to know I can spend more time with my clients than with my advertising materials!”

Reanne Heuston
Pest 2 Pet Inc

What is REX?

We have had a lot of requests lately to join our directory, which is FANTASTIC! However, with every applicant we do accept, we have to turn two away and that’s the yucky part. We are finding a lot of people taking it personally, so we felt an explanation is in order!

REX was created for three main reasons:

  1. For the positive dog-training community to have a place they felt comfortable sending their clients for assistance for other dog-related services.
  2. To reward the businesses that are doing right by our pets, and giving them a place for them exclusively to shine.
  3. To hopefully create change in the industry. When businesses are rejected, some DO change and improve once they learn WHY. This is the best part of REX.

When a business or advertiser requests to be part of our directory, their business is presented to a board of positive dog trainers for review. Luckily, among this group of talented people, we have a lot of combined experience in MANY facets of the pet industry.

Since this site was created for us, if any member does not feel comfortable with a listing it is removed or rejected. We have grown tired of seeing unethical businesses with large marketing budgets duping people into believing they are what’s best for your pet when we feel differently. This is NOT saying that every business that is rejected is unethical in our eyes! This is not the only reason for rejecting applicants.

This is why even our advertisers (and bloggers) are screened and we have turned down MANY advertisers that have offered us funding. It is our belief that it would be hypocritical to list amazing businesses, and allow people to click through to poor quality products and services.

So, if you apply to REX and are not accepted, please do not take it to heart. This site was created for a particular reason, and probably most businesses are not going to be a fit. It’s nothing personal.

There have also been rumours that we here at REX are anti-breeder. We aren’t really sure HOW this happened, but this is not true. To hopefully assist local rescues, we have listed them on our site. We also list featured adoptables. Just because we are PRO rescue, does not make us ANTI breeder. We simply do not have the man power, time, or money to screen every breeder out there. Because we feel that finding a good breeder is VERY important, we cannot possibly even scratch the surface for proper screening in this area and therefore will not attempt to. Several of our members have dogs from reputable breeders.

Please keep in mind that NO ONE gets paid to run this site or to review the businesses. It is volunteer driven, and paid for. We do this for the animals. We do this to hopefully take some of the weight off the shoulders of discerning pet owners looking for help. The money, and pleasing the applicants, is definitely not a priority.

REX is, and will always be, THE place to go for quality pet services and products. We will not compromise that for any reason. Thanks for understanding!

Conditioning a Thundershirt

The Thundershirt and Anxiety Wrap are becoming more and more mainstream and popular as people see the benefits for animals who are anxious, fearful, overly excited or aroused, or animals that find it difficult to settle.

thundershirt-def-picIn order for them to really work best they have to been conditioned. Meaning, the animal must have made a good association with the Thundershirt or it could just as easily work to cause even more distress in the dog. When insufficiently conditioned, there is also the possibly the shirt could become a cue that something bad is about to happen.

For example, if the only time you use a wrap or shirt is when a thunderstorm is imminent, it may actually become a predictor of the scary storm. If no previous conditioning has been done, the shirt may simply not work at all, or it may cause the dog further stress and discomfort.

However, if the shirt is initially used when it is NOT needed and paired with fun, food, toys and comfortable relaxing time with you, then it can be used during times of duress and provide comfort and enhance relaxation – similar to how swaddling may comfort a human baby.

To properly condition a Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap, toss a ball or present high value food (break out the good stuff, like chicken) as soon as you first show it to your dog. When the item is removed, also remove the fun, toys or food. When the item is re-presented, all good things happen again. As soon as you notice your dog looking for the food, fun or toy when the shirt is presented, you are ready to move on. Start touching your dog with the item. Every touch equals food, fun or toy. Again when touch predicts food, fun or toy, start opening the velcro then food, fun, toy. When the sound of velcro ripping open becomes a predictor of great things, start draping the shirt over the dog. For every drape over, food, fun, toy. Slowly do up the neck strap, doing up and undoing both equal food, fun, toy as does the belly strap.

cd_calm_companionOnce you are able to get the shirt or wrap secured with your dog feeling really good (not just comfortable), play some games that your dog enjoys, give him a food toy with very high value food in it, or use Through a Dog’s Ear or Relax My Dog from iTunes, and do some gentle massage or TTouch on your dog. Keep these sessions short. The more that you can do short sessions with quality good stuff occurring when the shirt or wrap is present or being worn, the quicker your dog will make a good association with it, and it will become a useful tool to help your dog relax in stressful situations.

Additional tips:

• Take care with heat. If it’s hot outside only use the shirt for very short periods of time. During training, start with 10-15 seconds of wear and build up from there.
• Start training well before you intend to use the shirt or wrap.
• Only move to the next step when your dog shows a conditioned emotional response in that the item or wearing the item causes him to actually look for the good things. If your dog stops moving, lowers his head, eyes, yawns a lot – stop and take 2-3 steps back in your training and stay there for a while. If you feel you are moving too slowly, slow down even more!
• Never leave your dog unattended in the shirt or wrap.
• Do NOT use it before your dog is happy to wear it, otherwise you will likely undo all your work and your dog will find wearing the shirt stressful.

Written by Kirsten Rose, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA, KPA-CTP, of Canine Minds and Manners.

If you are one of our directory businesses and you are interested in writing a guest blog, please email with your idea!

Top Holiday Gift Ideas for Dogs and Dog Lovers!

It’s that time of year again! People are hustling and bustling about shopping for their human friends and family members. BUT, let’s not forget about our beloved pets! Over the years, there has been a rise in the number of people who are not only shopping for their own pets, but for other’s pets as well!

Really, what could be more fun than shopping for someone who loves everything and is always grateful? Here are some very cool gift ideas for the pets, and pet lovers, in your life!

Many of these local vendors and products will be available at the Canine Christmas Market on Sunday, December 8th from 11AM-5PM. The market takes place at Sit Happens! at 2333 – 18th Avenue NE in Calgary, AB. REX will be there too, so see you there!

A Luxury Pet Bed


Bowsers Pet Products

Bowsers Pet Products has some of the most luxurious and beautiful beds available for pets. They have their very own, in-house designers who keep on top of the latest trends in home decor. Their beds are manufactured in Canada, using the highest quality zippers (same as the ones used in the luggage industry), high memory virgin polyester fibre, and certified upholstery grade fabrics.

There are dozens of fabrics to suit every home, and beds to tickle the fancy of any of your furry friends!

Bowsers Beds are available online and at our REX approved vendor – Tail Blazers – Copperfield.


Kyjen StarSpinner

Food Dispensing Toys

What are food dispensing toys? They are toys that are designed for the enrichment, and mental stimulation of our canine pets. During the cold Calgary winters, we spend less time exercising our pets. This can lead to boredom amongst our canine companions which can create destructive behaviors. At holiday time, we are even busier, and we have guests, and there is so much going on that Fido can really get the shaft in terms of their bonding and exercise time.

Keep your dog happy and busy with a nice selection of food dispensing toys, and visit our REX approved vendor – Mungo’s Books – for a wide selection of food dispensing toys.

Custom Pet Art

This is an AMAZING idea that would be such a unique gift idea for someone who LOVES their pet. Find a local artist who commissions portraits from photographs. Either submit a photo yourself to get painted as a gift, or purchase a gift certificate so your friend can choose the image themselves!

Check out our REX approved artists who do fabulous artwork of family pets!

Art by Robyn Millar

Art by Robyn Millar – 50/50 split – top half painting, bottom half photograph

Custom Pet Photography

Here is another great way to support a local artist, and surprise and amaze a friend or family member with a fabulous and unique gift idea! Purchase a gift certificate from your favorite pet photographer for a session with a portrait credit. Allow the recipient to arrange the session and possibly participate in it themselves.

BrindleBerry - Custom Pet Photography

BrindleBerry – Custom Pet Photography

Many custom pet photographers work with their clients to help them choose products and artwork to suit.

Check out our REX approved Pet Photographers!

Simply FIdo Penguin

Simply FIdo Penguin

Simply Fido Toys

These adorable toys just had to be included in this list! They make such an adorable gift for the eco-conscious dog owner in your life! Simply Fido toys are organic and non-toxic and ADORABLE!

Pet Waste Removal Gift Certificate

EVERY dog owner with a yard has to scoop poop. In the winter, cleaning up dog poop can be a nightmare! Leave it to the experts and purchase a gift certificate for a local pet pick up service.

Check out our REX approved pet waste removal services!

Dog Training Gift Certificates

Do you know a pet parent that is constantly complaining about their dog’s behavior? Purchase a private training consultation from a trainer like Wigglebums Training, or have them take a class with a trainer like Canine Mind’s and Manners. They will have something to keep them busy during the winter months, AND be teaching their pup how to be an amazing canine citizen at the same time! No excuses – it’s bought and paid for!

Check out the many REX approved positive dog trainers in Calgary!

Make a Donation to Charity in your Pet’s Name

If you are shopping for the pet or person that has everything, consider making a donation to a local pet shelter or rescue in their pet’s name, or your friend’s name. It’s win win!

Check out our listing of local pet shelters and rescues on REX.

NiteIze LED products for pets

NiteIze Meteorlight K-9 LED Ball

LED Toys and Tags

A great stocking stuffer! Winter days are so short, but our dogs still want to, and need to, play! NiteIze’s large selection of LED products can make that happen! Everything from lights for your dog’s collar, to glowing, flying disks and balls; it will be easy to track your dog and her toys!

NiteIze products are widely available at several of our local, REX approved Healthy Pet Food & Supplies shops.

A Decorative Pet Bowl

Unleashed Life Pet Bowls

Unleashed Life Pet Bowls

A decorative, designer pet bowl not only enhances home decor, but makes FIDO feel like a KING! There are several different designer pet bowl companies out there, but one of the most luxurious we’ve found is Unleashed Life’s collection. They have something to suit every home; Style…not reserved for humans!

A sampling of Unleashed Life’s bowl collection is available at Tail Blazers – Copperfield.

Healthy Treats and Pet Food Gift Certificates

Dogs are appreciative of treats – ALWAYS. If you are thinking of gifting dog treats to a friend’s pet, ensure that you buy the best! Many pet owners are very educated on the difference between a junky, and a healthy, pet treat.

Tail Blazers Gift Card

Tail Blazers Gift Card

If you are concerned because a pet has allergies, or you just aren’t sure what to pick, a gift certificate for a specialty pet shop may be the answer! Or choose one ingredient treats that have novel proteins like elk, bison, or duck. There are many available on the market now, and these treats usually end up being a dog or cat’s favorite anyway!

Healthy pet treats are widely available at several of our local, REX approved Healthy Pet Food & Supplies shops.

Donate and Replace Toys and Beds

This is really not a gift idea, but in our home we clean and donate all of our dog toys. The dogs get a complete new set of toys wrapped in their stockings, and the local rescues and shelters get our used toys (still in good shape and cleaned). Our pups also get new beds, and the shelters get our old ones all cleaned up and refreshed!

Many of these local vendors and products will be available at the Canine Christmas Market on Sunday, December 8th from 11AM-5PM. The market takes place at Sit Happens! at 2333 – 18th Avenue NE in Calgary, AB. REX will be there too, so see you there!

What is Reiki and how can it help your pet?

Have you ever heard the term Reiki, and weren’t sure exactly what it meant? The word Reiki is a Japanese term for “universal life force energy”. This universal life force energy is widely known eastern cultures; in Japan, it is called “Ki”, in China it is called “Chi” and in India it is called “Prana”. It is slowly becoming more mainstream in western cultures.

BrindleBerry - Custom Pet Photography

Reiki is a Japanese holistic healing modality, which is based on the practitioner channeling energy through her, and into the client. This allows the body to enhance and accelerate its own innate healing ability. Through a series of hand positions (either directly on you, or just a few inches above your body), the practitioner allows the energy to flow through. Your body will take the energy it needs, and use it where it needs it most.

What can Reiki do for you? Reiki is used to support physical, emotional and spiritual healing. We can manifest disease and other physical problems through un-released emotion or trauma. Reiki can assist with the releasing and healing of these emotions or traumas, and is the perfect compliment to traditional medicine or other non-traditional therapies.

Reiki can help with issues like: fear, anxiety, stress, insomnia, pain, injury or illness, and it can be used in tandem with traditional medicine to assist in the healing of serious diseases. Reiki will cause no harm and only works to benefit both the giver, and the receiver.

Animals love Reiki almost as much as people do, and they can also manifest disease through un-released emotion or trauma. A pet that is strongly bonded with their human can often manifest their person’s disease or emotions as well.

Many animals – especially cats – are more than happy to accept Reiki when they are healthy and when they are sick, it will help calm them, and help them heal faster. Reiki can help your pet with fear, anxiety, illness, stress, injury, and pain. It can also assist them through life transitions, such as passing.

With rescue pets being so popular these days, many animals have un-known histories and may have brought some baggage home with them. Reiki may not be a cure-all solution, but pared with compassionate, reward-based training methods, it can help your pet become more confident and comfortable in your home.

If you are looking for alternative healing modalities to help you and your pet, Reiki might just be exactly what you are looking for. I invite you to try it. You may be surprised at the results.

Written by guest blogger Julie Bousfield, Level II Usui Reiki Practitioner. You can contact Julie at

* Rieki is not intended to replace traditional medical or veterinary care. It is recommended that you see a licensed veterinary or health care provider for any physical or psychological ailment you or your pet may have.

If you are one of our directory businesses and you are interested in writing a guest blog, please email with your idea!

Training should be enjoyable for your dog, not stressful…

The other day I saw a lady training her young puppy. She was teaching him to walk on leash by pulling him around, while he was attached to her waist. She was using leash yanks and contact with her foot to “correct” the dog for trying to sniff, explore, and be a normal puppy. It seemed to me that she was trying to do what she had been taught by her dog trainer, but it bothered me that the puppy was being treated this way, knowing the negative effects this type of training could have on him. As discussed in previous articles, the first few months of a puppy’s life are a critical time for shaping his future temperament or the way he will relate to people, other dogs, and his environment. Early negative experiences and the associations the dog may form can contribute to behavioral issues, such as fear, aggression, and reactivity. Our dogs have no choice in how they are treated and trained, yet they are greatly impacted by our decisions. It is our responsibility to ensure that our dogs are well adjusted, safe and secure. As their guardians, we certainly don’t want to cause unnecessary distress for them.

BrindleBerry - Custom Pet PhotographyMy purpose in writing this article is not to criticize other trainers or negatively judge people who are just trying to do what they have learned in an attempt to train their dogs. Instead, I am asking all dog guardians (and trainers) to think about the training methods they are employing with their dogs, and to question whether or not the dog is subjected to stress or discomfort as a result. I think we would all agree that it is not ethical or humane to intentionally subject another living being to unnecessary stress and discomfort as part of teaching or training. Our parenting styles reflect this, but the treatment of our dogs often seems to have escaped this consideration. In fact, the lady I watched working with her puppy had her children present, observing the negative example she was setting through using physical corrections to enforce arbitrary rules. If dog guardians were aware that many of the training methods they are using cause a great deal of stress for their dog, I am confident they would not choose to treat the dog this way, and risk the potential damage this may cause.

I know this from personal experience. Years ago, I began my dog training career using correction-based methods which focus on stopping what the dog is doing “wrong” and often employ physical “interruptions”, force or coercion to get the dog to comply. At the time, I thought I was doing what was best for the dog. It was only when I learned more about canine communication and body language that I recognized the dogs were feeling stress, pain and fear of being harmed, due to the methods I was using. This, of course, led me to change the way I worked with dogs. One of the hallmarks of correction-based training methods is that there is very little attention paid to the dog’s emotional state, body language or signs of stress. Instead, the focus is on control and enforcing compliance. If you do not recognize that you are causing your dog to experience stress, you will continue to subject your dog to this unfair treatment.

Please look objectively at your dog to assess whether he is comfortable or experiencing stress when you are training him. There are many obvious signs of stress: visible whites of the eyes, whining or vocalizing, ears back, tail tucked, low and tense body posture. Some more subtle signs of stress include lip licking, paw lifts, yawning and shake offs. Plenty of literature is available regarding canine stress signals if you are interested in finding out more. Many positive reinforcement-based dog training schools offer seminars on this topic. Becoming more knowledgeable in this area and being able to read the dog’s body language and understand what the dog is communicating will make us much better trainers and guardians, and improve our relationship with our dogs.

I strongly encourage all dog guardians to think about the effects of your choice of training methods on your dog, and avoid “correcting” your dog if at all possible. Using aversive training tools such as pinch collars, choke collars, shock collars, and even compressed air sounds intended to interrupt behaviors by frightening the dog is correction-based training. While these tools may appear to “work” by suppressing the dog’s problematic behaviors, thus fixing the problem for the people, there can be damaging results for your dog and your relationship with him.

When we realize that our dog is not intentionally doing “bad things”, and that there is likely a very good reason for his behaviors, we can give up the role of enforcer and the need to quell any perceived challenge to our authority. When training our dog, we should try to understand his motivations and teach him what we would like him to do instead, using non-confrontational methods that do not cause him stress and discomfort. Positive reinforcement training allows your dog to make choices, motivates the dog, and encourages him to work with you rather than against you. It not only results in well-behaved and well -adjusted dogs, but is also much more enjoyable for both the dog and its guardians. If you would like to learn how to train your dog using positive reinforcement methods, please contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area.

Written by certified professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant, Cheryl Wittevrongel, of Happy Tails Dog Training.

If you are one of our directory businesses and you are interested in writing a guest blog, please email with your idea!

Professional Photography helps increase adoption rates in Calgary

There is a new trend taking the rescue world by storm in the Calgary area that is affecting adoption rates in a tremendously positive manner. Rescues and shelters are switching from having amateur photographers take their adoption photos with cell phones, to enlisting professional pet photographers for the task!

The main problem with photos taken by amateurs is that they are often taken indoors in low light with flash, which causes those “demon” eyes that are so frequently seen in pet photos. Amateur photographers may also unknowingly include clutter and other distractions that professional photographers avoid – allowing potential adopters to focus on the animal. When people see something special in an animal, and they connect with the photo, the animal has a better chance at getting adopted.

And let’s face it – getting an animal adopted involves the same marketing principals that selling a car does. The animals need to look good, desirable, friendly, and they need to appeal to the potential adopter.


Julie Bousfield, Director, Media Coordinator at ARF in Calgary adds:

“Dogs and cats with engaging stories and professional photos always get more interest and applications than the animals who have neither.”

HeARTs Speak is a charitable organization created as a resource to help professional photographers improve and get more involved with their local rescues. And with their over 400 members in 12 countries, there are no shortages of available pet photographers to take up the challenge.

Founder of HeARTs Speak, Lisa Prince Fishler, started the organization with the belief that collectively, photographers are stronger. The situation for animals in shelters around the world stands a better chance of improving working together – as a team.

Professional pet photographer, Holly Montgomery, of BrindleBerry – Custom Pet Photography has been a service professional member of HeARTs Speak for about three years and was previously on the membership committee with the organization.

“There is a kinship in the pet photography world; a real, genuine desire to help animals and get more into good homes. A photographer that specializes in pets does it because they have a real love and understanding for them! There is no other reason a photographer would take on the extra challenges of photographing pets.”

Theresa Swain (also a member of HeARTs Speak), of Thousand Woofs Photography for Dogs would agree. She has been taking photographs for ARF for about 10 years – which ultimately led her to taking photos of dogs professionally.

“I volunteer my time taking adoption photos because it’s a great way to combine my passions: photography and animal rescue. I feel it’s a win-win for me and for the animal, who will hopefully get more exposure and adoption applications with a good photo. It fills me with a great sense of accomplishment when I hear that a dog I’ve photographed has found a home. It’s a small piece of the rescue to adoption puzzle, but it’s the way I can best help.”

And as HeARTs Speak’s membership continues to increase, more rescues are becoming savvy to the positive affect that professional photography has on adoption rates. ARF, AARCS, Heaven Can Wait, Beagle Paws, and Pound Rescue, are just a few area rescues taking advantage of professional pet photographers for their adoption photos.

One thing is a definite – adoptions rates in Calgary are on the rise, and that is in part due to professional adoption photos.

Written by professional pet photographer, Holly Montgomery, of BrindleBerry – Custom Pet Photography.

If you are one of our directory businesses and you are interested in writing a guest blog, please email with your idea!

On-Leash Greetings – Should Dogs Say Hello?

While out on a walk with your dog you encounter another guardian walking with their dog. Should you approach one another and have your dogs say hello? How can you tell if an on-leash greeting will go well or end with the dogs growling, barking and lunging at each other?

We have the best intentions and want our canine companions to make lots of doggie friends, but we can create stressful greetings for our dogs without being aware we are doing so. On-leash greetings, in particular, have the potential to cause negative associations.

BrindleBerry - Custom Pet Photography

How do you feel about your dog meeting another dog while on-leash? Are you nervous of how things might go? Have you and your dog experienced other on-leash greetings that didn’t go well? When you see another person and their dog walking do you pull the leash tight? If so, your dog has picked up on all of this. Our canine companions are very aware of our body language and emotions, and without meaning to we have signaled there is something to be concerned about.

What if your dog loves other dogs and has participated in other on-leash greetings without a hitch?  In fact, your dog and the other dog are so excited to meet one another they begin to bark in excitement and pull you towards each other. Most times we think this is a sign the greeting is going to go well, but pulling on leash hampers our dog’s natural body language and the level of excitement can create tension between the dogs.

Being able to read not only your dog’s body language, but the body language of dogs you are not familiar with is important. A wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog. The position of the tail is important – is the dog’s tail tucked or straight up in the air? If there is a wag is it a slow and loose or agitated and tight wag?

How is the other dog looking at your dog? Are they staring without looking away, moving slowly, and is their mouth closed tightly? These are clear signals that an on-leash greeting may not go well.

Sometimes dogs that participate in on-leash greetings learn to expect it and when they can’t greet (if another dog doesn’t want to say hello) they may get frustrated which can lead to barking and lunging at the sight of another dog. And, the other guardian might not be able to manage their dog if the greeting needs to be interrupted. However, if you do decide to have your dog say hello while on-leash, please keep the greeting short and ensure the dogs are not straining to get to one another, approaching head on and staring. You should be relaxed and have enough slack in your leash to allow your dog to move without tension. Most dogs, when greeting, will approach each other from the side to engage in sniffing and they typically turn in a circular motion, which can cause our leashes to get tangled so be prepared for this. It is also a good idea to ask the other guardian if your dog can say hello first.

Nicky Blackshaw is a CPDT-KSA and Certified Professional Dog Trainer at Pet Potential

If you are one of our directory businesses and you are interested in writing a guest blog, please email with your idea!

Choosing a Pet Photographer

I understand that choosing a pet photographer can be very confusing for the average pet guardian. I imagine it to be akin to my fear of finding a mechanic. My knowledge of cars is NA DA, so it’s a scary experience for me!

Perhaps the biggest contributor to all the confusion in the photography world is that no two photographers are alike. They all have different services, prices, packages, products, and they likely all have a very different style, process, and focus (pardon the pun!).

Sheltie in Flowers

People in search of a pet photographer seldom even know what they are supposed to ask when shopping around. So, all too often the typical questions: “What do you charge for an 8×10”, and “Do we get to keep the digital files?” are the only questions that are being asked. In reality, most people don’t really want these products anyway – these are simply the only questions that come to mind!

To make matters worse, the answers to these questions can often be misleading, and even more often they don’t make the decision making process any easier. I suppose it would be like calling around when looking for a mechanic to fix your transmission and asking what they charge for an oil change. Sure, you can compare the pricing of an oil change from one shop to the next, but are you any closer to getting your transmission fixed or finding out what their customer service is like? Not likely.

So, here are a few of what I consider the important things to research when looking for a pet photographer.

How much experience do they have working with your pet type? A photographer that claims to specialize in many types of photography (babies, families, pets, maternity, weddings, etc) is not a specialist; they are a generalist.

Pets, and dogs especially, require an experienced person to work with them and bring out the best in them for their portraits. Someone that is not experienced with pets, may not recognize the signs of stress (or worse, be the cause of the stress) and may not give them the time and space necessary to adjust. This will result in photos full of drooling and stress panting and not likely something you will want to hang on your wall.

Walking Horse

Ask the photographer to describe their process. Do they take the photos and provide them at low cost to you on disk? If so, are they edited? Light edits, or full edits? What is the resolution of the photos – ie how big can they be printed? Do they have a suggestion for where to get your images printed?

Alternatively, you may find a boutique/custom photographer that spends more time with you and is actively involved in the process with you. Ask them if they will help you choose products, product styles to suit your home, and maybe even make suggestions for gifts etc.

Many people find that they are just too busy to sort through hundreds of files and print their own products and the disk ends up sitting in a drawer or worse, lost.

Boutique photographers go through the painstaking process of narrowing, or culling, your session down into a few amazing photos for you to choose from. They use labs that use archival papers and inks ensuring they last for decades. And, they will assist you in choosing suitable products and have your artwork ready to hang and show off immediately. <insert sigh of relief here!>

What is your budget? My best piece of advice to you when it comes to talking dollars and cents is to sit down and figure out your budget. When you call or email around, ask each photographer what suggestions they have for you given your budget. Pay close attention to how much time and effort is involved in their answers. Do they have a payment plan if something you’d like is just out of your reach?

After all, isn’t it better to get a little of what you really want, than a lot of something you don’t?

Make sure your personalities mesh! If you end up choosing a boutique pet photographer, you may end up dealing with them several times over the next few weeks/months/and possibly years. Do you like them? Are you getting the service you are expecting from them? Are you getting quick and thorough responses?

If you feel you don’t click with a particular photographer, it may be best to try another. In my experience, the entire process is so enjoyable when everyone gels.

Ask around! Word of mouth is always something that makes people feel more comfortable, and if you can find a person you trust that speaks highly of a particular pet photographer – this is the best-case scenario for you! Ask to see their photos, and products, and ask them about the experience.  Many custom photographers offer referral incentives for their current, and new clients as well! And almost EVERYONE loves showing off photos of their pets!

Do you have any questions that weren’t covered in this article? Feel free to email me at or leave them in the comments below for everyone to see! Don’t be shy – we pet photographers want to help you!

Aussie in Flowers

Holly Montgomery is the owner/photographer at BrindleBerry – Custom Pet Photography, in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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