Staff Profile: Lori Nanan

Staff Profile: Lori Nanan

Lori Nanan graduated from The Academy in 2013 and since then, has seen her life change in more ways than she could have ever imagined. As a member of The Academy staff, Lori provides orientation and support to new students, runs special projects and feels incredibly lucky beyond words to be a part of something so close to her heart. 

In her "day job", Lori works as the Canine Behavior Education Coordinator at Women's Humane Society in Bensalem, PA. In addition to teaching classes to the public, Lori runs educational workshops, where she often has the opportunity to expand upon what she has learned through The Academy in a way that makes it accessible to more people. Lori's true passion is working with shelter dogs and loves helping those who are fearful, shy or experiencing kennel stress adjust more easily. Mooka (seen below) is a dog who trembled in her kennel, but through something Lori affectionately calls "desk fostering", not only came out of her shell, but thrived with one-on-one attention and was even able to learn some fun tricks before being adopted.

Lori also works for Academy Grad, Malena DeMartini, who is considered the expert in treating separation anxiety in dogs. In this job, Lori gets to utilize skills she gained in her previous career as a counselor and case manager. One of the things Lori has learned in this position is that people who have dogs with separation anxiety are among the most dedicated dog owners out there and she loves being able to support them.

One of Lori's side projects is Your Pit Bull and You, an educational resource that focuses on highlighting pit bull type dogs in the most positive light, but carries the very important tagline "Animal Learning Isn't Breed Specific". She is incredibly proud of the message and the culture around Your Pit Bull and You, which has attracted an extremely savvy, kind and dedicated audience. 

 Lori has a dream: a world in which all dogs are trained without pain. Lori hopes that through each of her endeavors, she is helping create that world and strives to do so every day.

Lori has a motto and it's one that helps her get through even the roughest of days:

            "Dogs make the rest of life bearable."

Dogs really are such a gift and they deserve for us to not only love them, but to truly understand them. Understanding and utilizing the science of animal learning and behavior is not mutually exclusive with loving our dogs. In fact, in understanding them, we can actually create deeper relationships with them. Lori's goal is to help people who love dogs have both.

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Dog Trainers' Dilemma

Dog Trainers' Dilemma
Dog Trainers' Dilemma
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An Open Letter to Owners Who Think Treats are Bribery

I understand.  You don’t want to use treats to train your dog because he should learn appropriate behavior without having to be bribed.  If you reward him with treats, it degrades more important rewards such as your approval.  He’ll never learn right and wrong.  You want him to respect you.  He’ll also become dependent on treats and won’t perform when not bribed.

I get it.  I do. 

But the thing is this.  You’re wrong.  And you’re wrong in both senses of that word.  You’re inaccurate, because you’re firing moral psychological software, evolved for social interchange in humans, at a dog, who will never be molded into an upstanding member of society.   And in spite of your good intentions, you’re morally wrong because you will inevitably end up employing pain and fear to motivate him.  The science is in and the consensus of every reputable professional organization has converged on its findings: pain and fear are detrimental and inhumane, and don’t instill moral goodness in your dog.  They just terrorize him into doing more of what you want.     

It could be you’re not interested in the science, that you’re too far down the path of finding it emotionally unbearable to motivate your dog with chicken that no amount of reason or evidence will sway you.  If that’s you, I can’t help you.   You have a tolerance – or perhaps an appetite - for dogs cowering that I will never understand.  Eventually the law will catch up with the science and you’ll be prohibited from strangling, hitting, shocking and scaring your dog, but until then you’ll be able to indulge that need. 

If, however, you are amenable to evidence, and you don’t get a little charge out of seeing him cower, or see it as a sad but somehow necessary evil, read on.  Consider that you are causing a dog to suffer without any attendant upgrading of his moral being (your objective) because of this choice.  It’s an illusion.  He won't thank you one day.  He’ll never do what’s right because it’s right.  He’ll just keep wishing you’d stop scaring him. 

Google “evolution of the desire to punish social transgressors” and you’ll get a large, cross-cultural, robust body of research on the urge we have to morally police other members of society.  It affects everything from justice systems to child-rearing.  But dogs aren’t people.  They don’t have the complementary software to learn the right and wrong we feel compelled to teach.  They can, however, learn safe and dangerous, and so we fool ourselves that this is proof that we’ve morally improved them when we eschew treats and instead intimidate, and they then do less of what bugs us.  Because, make no mistake, righteousness or your approval isn’t driving him.  It’s the yelling, hitting, poking, kicking, strangling, digging pins into his neck, and electric shock that’s making him act closer to the way you want.  If you saw a keeper do any of this to a meerkat at the zoo, you’d call the cops. 

Sleazy trainers know you wish to create this moral being and will prey on you, telling you that these things don’t actually hurt or scare him.  They’ll label fear “respect.”  They’ll tell you that treats corrupt.  If you want to believe it badly enough, your cowering dog won’t matter as much as his fictitious moral improvement does. 

It’s an understandable error, conflating dogs and children.  Dogs are in that role in our families, and our morality instincts make it all feel very compelling.  I’d like to give the last word to two colleagues who gave me terrific insight in a recent discussion among trainers about this phenomenon.

Trainer Ann-Marie Brady Levine summarizes the against-grain error we make:

“[In the case of children], it *is* what we're doing, teaching them species-appropriate behaviours. In dog training, however, we are often asking the dog *not* to engage in his species-appropriate behaviours.  We're asking him to do something at odds with his behavioural programming.  And for that to work, we have to make it worth his while.  Much as you would if you were asking your toddler to walk on her hands instead of her feet.  Praise wouldn't cut it, especially the first time you went for a stroll on a gravel road.”

Veterinarian Dawn Crandell further explains the divergent objectives of dogs and humans:

“The reward for kids behaving in a socially acceptable way is social - they make friends, people are nice to them, others think highly of them.  All this can be understood by a human brain and has value, to a human.  Dogs have no concept of all those subtle social human interactions and to suggest or think that they do is the ultimate in anthropomorphism.”



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Why Dog Trainers Are My Heroes

Dog Trainer Life 1

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Go Canada

Go Canada II

A fantastic movement is on in Canada to ban shock collars.

Here is the information site, including a link to the petition needed to get it considered by parliament.

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A Very Tired False Dichotomy

After video surfaced of trainer Jeffrey Schultz hitting and making a dog scream, Schultz defended his actions by saying that the context (the dog snapping at him) was omitted in the video.  In a follow-up story on CBS by Jeff Paul, a past client of Schultz, Gary (who did not want his last name used) suggested that such measures were the thin line protecting children from being bitten and dogs from euthanasia.  His reply when asked by the reporter if it’d be concerning if his own dog were so treated:

“Absolutely it’d bother me. But what would bother me more is if my dog bit some child at a park and then at some point it’s euthanized,” said Gary.

This logic has been completely debunked by all available research, such as herehereherehere and hereposition statements by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the American Animal Hospital Association behavior management guidelines, and the clinical experience of thousands of practitioners who treat the most serious cases and explicitly warn owners away from people such as Jeffrey Schultz.  Because what he does actually increases the likelihood of aggression in dogs.

There is no context, circumstance or back-story that makes this stuff appropriate.No Hitting

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Obedience is a Transaction, Not a Comment on Your Relationship

A superb blog post by Jess Miller that deconstructs the contention that “respect” can function as a motivator in dog training, along with why it’s appealing to people to wish for it to be so.

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User-Friendly and Fail-Safe

Housesoiling is always near the top of the list of behavior problems associated with relinquishment.  Dogs also take a fair amount of abuse in the name of pottying.  I have a current advanced student in Fort Lauderdale, Helen Verte, who is dazzling in many ways, but who has outdone everything I’ve ever seen on the topic of housetraining.  It’s a one-hour, twenty-buck webinar, with the two great virtues of dead-on accurate, field-tested, can’t-fail information and engaging, client-friendly language and examples.  Cherry on the sundae is it carries a CPDT CEU credit for trainers.  She’s making noises about making it available as a lunch & learn for vet practices locally and I so hope she does that.  Muah to her for this contribution.

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What Do Owners Want?

Buffy IX Flipped


The Academy has enlisted the services of a marketing expert to find out what dog guardians want in pet dog trainers.

If you are a trainer, please share the survey link below with your clients.

If you are a dog owner, we would love if you could spare the time to get involved by completing the online survey. It should only take about 10 minutes. Your responses will be collated centrally and independently – they won’t be attributed to you personally. The link to the survey below – just click and you’re there.

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Can You Hear Me Now? You’re Freaking Me Out



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Flogging Children Used to be Cutting Edge ABA Too

Campaign 1


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Tired of Leading?

Pack is Crack 

If you’d like to participate, go to the Facebook group Out of the Goldfish Bowl and get ahold of the template to build your own (or your dogs’) to submit to Leonard.

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Neil Hits It Out of the Park (Again)

Even if you’re like me and not a football fan, you might find this podcast on the physics of football fascinating.

Roman Numerals

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The Continuum Generator

Proponents of the use of pain and avoidance in training like to place themselves in the middle ground, using words like “balanced” to describe themselves and “extremist” to describe trainers who get the job done without hurting dogs.  The most cursory examination of this framing, however, reveals that the underlying assumption – the reasonable, middle position is to employ pain and fear along with rewards – is faulty.

It’s basically a rhetorical trick.  For instance, the force free could claim the middle ground by saying,  “I’m a balanced trainer because I use a judicious blend of prompting, shaping via approximation, capturing and reward removal.  I used to be more of an extremist, using and defending the use of motivators such as pain, startle and fear, but started migrating in the 1980’s toward this more reasonable approach.”

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Are Dogs Pack Animals?

This 2009 piece is from a now-defunct previous blog.

When I first got into dog training, the mantra was “dogs are pack animals.” It was never questioned: dogs were strong bonding animals and fit into human families so well, sometimes to the point of developing bona fide disorders like separation anxiety. And a lot of behavior was deconstructed with social hierarchies in mind. Nobody examined what dogs do when they are not inserted into human families, i.e. are free-ranging. So a while ago I took a look at what is known about feral or semi-feral populations of dogs around the world. It turns out there are many such populations.

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From the Incomparable Nando Brown

Nando Poster


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They’re Just Like *Pagers*


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