Maria McNeil on Social Media for R+ Trainers  

Social media is necessary for any business owner, dog trainers included.  But it’s also a complicated place to navigate and try to figure out if you don’t have a user manual.  I’ve heard some amazingly qualified positive reinforcement trainers say they don’t know where to get started on Instagram, so they avoid posting.  

I’ve certainly had to fumble along and made a few mistakes as I’ve grown my account.  

Maria McNeil is the opposite.  Where I’ve fumbled, she’s gained ground.  Her love for data, the algorithm and down-to-earth posts have grown her account @toosmartdogs to 116k followers. 

Maria is a dog mom to 2 stars of her account, Bodhi, a Merle border collie and Sonny, her black-and-white sensitive soul.  She posts about enrichment and is passionate about helping humans and dogs live their best lives. 

Behind the scenes, Maria is also passionate about helping force-free trainers excel on social media, and while most people tend to gatekeep tips and tricks, Maria shares her knowledge. 

When I asked her to come on the podcast to chat about dog enrichment, she suggested helping force-free trainers on social media instead, and I jumped at the chance! 

I know you’ll love Maria as much as I do, and I am so excited to introduce you to her and her account if you haven’t followed already! You can follow her on Instagram @toosmartdogs 

This episode is brought to you by my book Urban Sheepdog.  I wrote it to help you better understand your herding breed dog, especially those struggling to fit into urban or non-working homes. It’s a part user manual and part love story, and it’s available on Amazon worldwide.  The Kindle edition is now available, so pick it up today and fall deeper in love with your dog. 

Zak & Bree George on Using Social Media for Advocacy  

Many social media influencers and trainers avoid calling out abusive dog trainers because of backlash from those who choose to hurt and scare animals in the name of training.  2023 was a hard year for many of us because there was a movement calling the force-free community “extremists” if we decided to voice concerns over abusive practices.  

While we’re trying to make strides in the unregulated industry, it feels like we’re losing ground to this aggressive and harmful crowd.  

Enter Zac George and his wife, Bree. Zac is a dog trainer, author, TV show host and social media star.  Zac is an absolute powerhouse with almost 500K followers on Instagram and 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube.   You can follow Zak on Instagram at @ZakGeorge, check out his lineup of books and check out his YouTube account here

If you spend any time on Zac’s account, you’ll see he pulls no punches when it comes to speaking out against abusive training methods. 

For that reason, Zac and his wife Bree are the unsung heroes of 2023.  Refusing to be concerned about losing followers for speaking out, putting themselves in the direct line of fire of these harmful trainers and using their platform for advocacy is a huge breath of fresh air. 

I do speak up when I can, but I don’t have the fortitude or the size of platform that Bree and Zac have, so I wanted to sit down with them and find out why they are so passionate about using their social media to be advocates for the animals that have no voice in how they are trained.  They make no apologies for their advocacy and are truly lovely people. 

While we do so with care, we do discuss abusive training practices, so please take care while listening.  I sat down with Bree and Zack from my home office, and they took time to chat from the middle of a desert in Arizona. 

To get involved, check out their Instagram account and click on the link tree in their profile.  There are position statements, form letters, information, and many ways to get involved. 

This episode is brought to you by my book Urban Sheepdog.  I wrote it to help you better understand your herding breed dog, especially those struggling to fit into urban or non-working homes. It’s a part user manual and part love story, and it’s available on Amazon worldwide.  The Kindle edition is now available, so pick it up today and fall deeper in love with your dog.  Simply search Urban Sheepdog on Amazon. 

Sheepdog Trials and Border Collies with Lisa Wright  

This is the episode you’ve all been waiting for. We’re getting into border collies and talking about sheepdog trials!  

What started as a couple of men making a bet in a pub in Wales in the 1800s has become an international sport with everyone of all ages competing on many levels with their dogs. 

My guest today, Lisa Wright is a retired professional dog trainer.  These days, Lisa and her dogs are multi-USBCHA Open trial winners, Canadian Championship double lift finalists, Calgary Stampede finalists and Meeker semi-finalists.  

Lisa is the President of the Canadian Border Collie Association, past vice president of the APDT and, my favourite thing, she’s Griffin’s breeder.  

These days, she is focused on trialling and has no current breeding plans.  Lisa lives on her farm in Athabasca, Alberta, with her dogs, her husband Travis, and their sheep and livestock guardian dogs. 

In this episode, Lisa explains what a sheepdog trial is, and we dive into one of my favourite topics, border collies! 

Lisa sat down to chat right off of her win at the Hurricane Hills trial with her dog Star, who is Griffin’s mom. 

This is an excellent primer on sheepdog trials, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Aggression with Erin Maloney  

Erin and I sat down to chat about some specific factors in aggression cases, but we ended up scaling back and focusing on an overview.  This topic is so broad, and Erin will be back to dive deeper into aggression!  This episode is a great place to start for any guardian or trainer looking to understand their dog and what drives these unwanted reactions.  

Erin is a CTC from The Academy for Dog Trainers.  Erin works in person and virtually in Canton, Ohio.  Erin lives on a farm with her husband, two dogs, Sadie and Strider, horses, chickens, cats and much more.  

You can see her on Instagram @raisingpawtential and her website!

Sled Dogs with Kristi Benson  

If you've ever wondered about the life of sled dogs, Kristi is here to give us a primer on these fantastic dogs. 

I had the opportunity to work with ex-sled dogs at the BC SPCA.  They were unlike everything you'd imagine if you watched Balto, from their looks to their personalities.  They were fun, quirky, smart and looked like a regular mixed breed dog to the novice eye. 

Kristi takes us on a deep dive into their life, personalities and how they come into regular homes.  

Kristi is an honours graduate from The Academy for Dog Trainers and an Academy staff member.  She has a fantastic, award-winning blog and many online course options for dog guardians.  You can see more about Kristi, read her blog and purchase courses here

This episode of the podcast is dedicated to Troy.  Troy was one of the many sleddies we had at the shelter, and I was also honoured to be part of his journey post-adoption.  Troy waited over a year for his own home, and when he was finally adopted, he hit the jackpot.  Troy has since passed away, but I'm sure he's running, wherever he is.  

Please note: we mention the unfortunate aspect of dog culls in this episode.  While we do not go into details or share any graphic details, that may be unsettling to some listeners.  


Understanding Meat Trade Survivors with Maja Kolankowska  

Maja is a talented trainer from Montreal, Canada.  She works in person and virtually through Ivy League Dogs.  

Maja and I have something in common: we both started training in shelters.  Maja’s skill set is unique, though- she worked with dogs rescued from the meat trade.  These dogs came with a unique set of challenges.

Maja weighs in on what it’s like to work with and adopt them and how they differ from other dogs, including street/free-roaming dogs.

Maja is highly recommended if you’re in the Montreal area and need help with your dog.  

While we do not discuss these dogs beyond their housing, life and behaviour, this topic may be distressing to some listeners.  We recommend taking care while listening!  

Bringing Cats into the Spotlight with Zazie Todd  

Although I’ve worked with thousands of dogs, I’ve worked with many more cats.  Most cats who came into the shelter were not cared for on the same level as our dogs.  When I started managing the shelter, only 6% of cats who came in as strays were claimed by their owners.  We increased this number over the years, but most people don’t see their cats as they do dogs.  I’m hoping this podcast will nudge cat welfare in our homes closer to the goalpost!

Even in caring homes, cats often take a backseat.  We miss many of their stress and health issues, and their very nature makes it hard to spot in our felines.  

Zazie is a thoughtful, caring, and brilliant cat advocate.  Her book Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy made me jump for joy, and I highly recommend it and Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy.

You can take advantage of Zazie’s amazing work and her blog on her website, Companion Animal Psychology. You can also check out her podcast, The Pawsitive Post in Conversation, which she cohosts with Kritsi Benson. 

Episode 2: Beth Bigler on Pet loss and finding your way forward  

On this episode of the Wild at Heart Podcast, we're switching gears.  I'm talking to the amazing Beth Bigler, a pet loss grief counsellor.  We're getting into it and talking about grief counselling, what to expect and how to find your way forward.  And while talking about death, we're doing it in a supportive and transformative way.  It's also intimate because Beth was my counsellor after I lost my dog, Zelda. 

If you've lost a pet, if you're worried you’re going to or if you're helping someone through their pet loss grief, tune in.  Beth has changed my relationship with pet loss, and I hope someone out there finds a new way forward out of their loss because of this episode.  

Grab some tissues and a cup of tea, light a candle and snuggle in.  

You can find Beth on her Instagram account @honoringouranimals and her website here

This episode is in memory of my dog Zelda, my protector, best friend and teacher, and Roemie and Scarlet, two dogs who meant the world to Zelda and me and their excellent guardians, Kari and Kath. 

Episode 1: Jean Donaldson on the fetch debate  

Welcome to the inaugural episode of the Wild at Heart podcast! In today's episode, we'll explore the ongoing debate surrounding the current and disturbing anti-fetch movement with the invaluable insights of world-renowned trainer Jean Donaldson. 

Recently, a surge of online posts claims that fetch is detrimental to our dogs, causing a severe welfare issue. However, these claims are based on biased opinions and pseudoscientific theories instead of hard facts. Gain direct advice and scientific and factual information from Jean, who will explain why fetch is beneficial for dogs and help us understand why some people believe it is detrimental, even though it is not. By the end of this podcast, we hope to have cleared up any confusion surrounding this alarming trend. 

Jean Donaldson, the founder and principal instructor at The Academy for Dog Trainers, where I was certified, has extensive experience working with complex cases. Jean founded the Montreal Flyball Association and is no stranger to intense, happy and drivey dogs!