Jennifer Arnold, founder of Canine Assistants

by | Sep 14, 2016

Jennifer Arnold—the founder and executive director of Canine Assistants, which trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities and author, most recently, of “Love Is All You Need: The Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach To Educating Your Dog”—recalls 13882609_10154059083169263_1937824894480620203_nhow she’s adored dogs since childhood and, as a teenager, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (since revised to polychondritis), along with being unable to get a dog from California service dog pioneer Bonnie Bergin, helped launched Canine Assistants. That path was marked by obstacles, long waits, personal tragedy—but also, Arnold notes, by perseverance (the organization was officially started in 1991), a vision and sense of quest, when she confirms that she views her work with dogs as a calling. Arnold outlines the tenets of her Bond-Based Choice philosophy, which holds that dogs are social learners, and once they’ve bonded with their humans, the dogs become experts at reading the humans’ signals and can learn to make good decisions for themselves, thereby reducing the anxiety that she feels has become pervasive in canines. As one element of cultivating that bond, she9780812996173 describes the notion of food sharing with your puppy, offering, for example, the dog—who’s still off leash–a bit of string cheese, then taking a bit yourself, and so on, and then that dog later welcomes the leash, and what happens next. (She says this method can also work with older dogs.) Arnold explains how Bond-Based Choice eschews commands and cues, recounting an anecdote from the new book about a man and his son, with a form of muscular dystrophy, who arrived at the Canine Assistants facility and was initially frustrated over the lack of commands, but came to view the experience—and the relationship his forged with his dog—as awe-inspiring. Owing partly to some email inquiries that arrived in the days before the show, Arnold spends some time addressing her position on breeding dogs for this work versus using shelter dogs, and how—and why–that position has shifted. (

herd_of_catsALSO: I spoke briefly with Nash McCutchen, from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB), about a $25,000 grant the organization recently received, for the express purpose of spaying/neutering of feral and other outdoor cats. This allows HSTB to help with Trap Neuter Vaccination and Return (TNVR) of feral colonies in the Tampa Bay area, and to temporarily provide free spaying/neutering of people’s personal outdoor cats. (

COMEDY CORNER: Bill Burr’s “Dog Trainer” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken”


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