Where’s Julie Posluns Going?

So, the reason why Julie Posluns didn’t teach the last session of Tricks class, or the one coming up is because she’s on her way to St. John’s, Newfoundland, to pursue her Master’s degree.

She’ll be studying at Memorial University, Faculty of Science, in the Cognitive and Behavioral Ecology Program. Their dog lab is called the Canine Research Unit, or CRU for short.

What’s really interesting is their area of study is around canine social behaviour. Read this:

We are especially interested in the behaviour and cognition of all types of dogs (domestic dogs and wild canids). Our main work is focused on canine social behaviour: how do dogs communicate and interact with each other, and what factors affect these social interactions? We are also interested in how factors like a dog’s temperament, or personality, influence social behaviours, and whether measuring stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, can give us insight into how these factors interact with each other.


A lot of their research is done at dog parks!

Dog Park Research!

Some of the studies that are going on there right now are really neat as well:

  • Studying social interactions between dogs in multi-dog households
  • Whether dogs and owners have similar hormone-driven bonds as infants and mothers (of the same species)
  • Analyzing dog behaviour at dog park, considering factors like sex, age, etc.

Considering there are 3.5 million owned dogs in Canada (the actual number is probably higher, as many are unregistered), you would be surprised at how little scientific research is being done on our best friends. At ClickerExpo 2010, Dr. Patricia McConnell urged young people to pursue advanced degrees and make canis familiaris the focus of their studies. Similarily, at ClickerExpo 2011, Dr. Clive Wynne was able to list all the universities around the world that were studying dogs – including the UWO Dog Cognition Lab, where our friend Krista Macpherson is working. Surprisingly few! There just isn’t as much in the way of research going on with dogs as you’d imagine.

Modern, professional dog trainers owe a lot to scientists, going back to Pavlov, to B.F. Skinner, all the way to scientists like Ray CoppingerBrian Hare, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, and Alexandra Horowitz, just to name a few. Even researchers without Ph.Ds have contributed considerably to our professional – Kellie Snider, MSc, from the University of North Texas, developed Constructional Aggression Treatment, which itself is a great aggression treatment protocol, and served as foundation for protocols like Behavior Adjustment Training. Science gives us insight and helps us as dog training professionals do better. The way I train today is different than I how I trained last year, and the year before that, and it’s thanks to science. I can’t comprehend how some dog trainers have been doing the same thing for years… even decades… and never stop to see what’s new.

Although our industry is temporarily losing one of its best trainers, and When Hounds Fly is losing an irreplaceable instructor, and all of us here are going to miss her dearly over the next two years, I am so happy that a brilliant dog trainer like Julie is going to be contributing to the body of knowledge that will help all of us be better dog trainers and dog owners.

On a personal note

While we patiently await for Julie to help everyone by expanding our knowledge of dogs by completing her research project (we can thank her then), few people know that she has already helped me in a number of profound ways.

When my partner and I first got Duke in 2006, and he was causing trouble and picking fights at Trinity Bellwoods, she taught us how to teach him to fetch a ball (Give him a treat when he brings it back, duh). That kept us sane and allowed us to keep exercising him and he learned to ignore dogs and stop fighting. Without that, who knows if I would have ever made it to become a dog trainer and open this school?

She was also the first person to email and introduce herself to me in January 2010, the same week I opened the school. At the time I wasn’t even sure if I’d make the month’s rent, or if I could actually quit my day job, but she expressed interest in teaching here and it inspired me to grow the school so we could have the best instructors in the city. One year after that email, we launched registration for her super-popular Tricks Class.

Fast forward to today – two and a half years from that first email, I’m now super proud of all the talent that teaches here.

Although she’s leaving Toronto, we’re going to continue working on our latest project, which is our online/distance dog training school, at Treatpouch.com.

So, to Julie, thank you for everything.

Were you a past student of Julie’s, either when she was teaching out of a community centre years ago, or at the old It’s A Dog’s Life, or were you lucky enough to take her Tricks Class at When Hounds Fly? I’m sure she’d like to hear from you and see what you and your dog’s up to – her email is julie at roverachiever.com

p.s. Her dog walking company, Rover Achiever, lives on – Rachael Johnston, one of our instructors here at When Hounds Fly, now walks Julie’s old dog walking groups along with her other team members, Emma and Matt. You would be lucky to have any of them as your dog’s walker!

2 Replies to “Where’s Julie Posluns Going?”

  1. Thanks for writing this Andre. As a fellow dog walker I can say that Julie has left a positive mark on the industry. Rover Achiever couldn’t be in better hands in her absence, but we’ll all still miss her. Good luck, JP!

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