Training Outside – Why?

I chose a long time ago to stop teaching in indoor settings (for puppy and pet obedience classes). Teaching outdoors in the community is hard but the benefit is HUGE. When we teach our dogs how to focus and listen in situations that mimic real life then your trainer is preparing you on how to handle things that will actually happen to your dog.

These situations include: dogs who sniff the ground non-stop as soon as you hit a nice, grassy field, dogs who become stressed or reactive when an off leash dog runs up to them, dogs who are over excited when they see other dogs running or playing, dogs who get excited when people especially families pass them by, dogs who want to chase joggers, cars, rabbits, etc. These are things that are likely to happen every time you take your dog for a walk.

So while in a training centre I can teach you how to get your dog to do basic obedience, I cannot teach you how to handle different situations. So my classes are held outdoors, in a new environment with new challenges every week. I will be there to help you in real time as these situations occur. The other benefit is you get to learn new places to train and how to incorporate training into your walks and adventures with your dog.

Training outside can be harder. You’re competing with more distractions. But you and your dog are learning how to navigate the world and achieve your goal of having a pet that you can take on adventures with you because they have the real world skills on how to behave in these situations.

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The Value of Dog Sports

The majority of the clients I see, want to have a well behaved pet dog that they can take anywhere. They’re sometimes surprised when I encourage them to explore the world of dog sports as a means to achieve their goal.

Dog sports aren’t all about competing and winning ribbons with your dog. In fact if you’re getting the best of it you’ll find you have built a stronger relationship with your dog, you get out and expand your social circle with fun dog loving people and most importantly you’re more likely to achieve your goal of having a well behaved pet dog that you can take most places!

So let’s break down how it all works…

Relationship Building

When you choose to train in a dog sport (any dog sport) you are making a commitment to learning something right along with your dog. If you train in your chosen sport in a positive and fun filled way then your relationship with your dog will greatly be enhanced.

This builds up focus on you around distractions and a sense of trust. It is crucial is keep training fun! Remember that’s why we have our dogs in the first place.


If you’ve chosen a dog sport that your dog loves then it can provide amazing benefits for your dog. For example, I regularly see clients with their dogs in my tracking classes where the dog gets to use their most powerful sense – smell! – along with their brain. In tracking, the handler has to learn to trust their dog and we see confidence increase in the dog.

Practice of Crucial Obedience Skills

No matter what sport we choose there’s an opportunity for our dogs to learn skills that help them behave in different situations. Almost all the sports I’ve participated in have helped my dogs learn to focus on me, work around distractions, wait their turn, travel well and more! The best part is the sports are often super fun and it doesn’t feel arduous or dull to practice.

Socialization (the best kind) for both Dogs and Humans

When you participate in many dog sports your dog gets the opportunity to learn to behave around other dogs but not necessarily engage with them. This is a great skill for pet dogs to learn because it makes them easier to bring new places. They learn that other dogs are great but their role is to focus on you.

An added bonus is that you can often meet wonderful human friends too. I know when I moved cities this was the perfect way for me to make friends in my area who share similar values to me.

So if you choose to participate in dog sports you’ll gain some wonderful experiences and relationship building. If you stumped on what sport would be best try thinking of things from your dog’s perspective first – what do they like to do? And then also consider your time commitment. Some sports require practice several times per week, others can be once in awhile. I even play some sports where I can practice only once per month and be successful. So take in account what you can commit to and enjoy as well. Dog sports can also vary in how they are offered – group classes, private lessons or even online.

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The Most Common Complaints – Addressed!

It’s not uncommon for pet owners to reach out to me about feeling frustrated and they usually have a laundry list of complaints about their pet that includes:

  • Chewing
  • Digging
  • Counter Surfing
  • Barking
  • Jumping Up
  • Mouthing/Nipping
  • Pulling on Leash
  • Not coming when called
  • Roaming when left outside alone

Very often they have the following in common:

  • Young dog (anywhere from 4 months to 2 years old)
  • A family that is very busy (owners work long days, kids have activities, etc.)
  • Their previous dog was “perfect” aka would be happy sleeping/relaxing all day and evening with only minor exercise or play needs from the family (or at least the family remembers it being this way).

The family has often attempted to train the dog and ended up feeling frustrated by the destruction of property, the inability of their dog to relax and the increasing resistance from the dog to listen to obedience commands. They are usually at a loss on why this is so hard especially when compared to previous dogs.

Well here’s what is usually going on (not always but most of the time).

They have a young working dog that needs mental enrichment.

Most dogs require mental stimulation and owners can really struggle here. If you have a breed that was purposely bred to do a job and you aren’t meeting that mental need then you’re going to have lots of problems.

Walking your dog for an hour or two every day does not provide mental enrichment (besides if you are checking out new smells). What you’re doing here is increasing your dog’s stamina so that their exercise need becomes greater and greater. Exercise is truly important but it’s not everything.

So how do you provide mental stimulation? Well the good news is there’s lots of ways and depending on your dog you might need to do lots of different ones!

  • Puzzle toys for feeding meals
  • Chewing activities like dog safe bones
  • Training complex behaviour where the dog has to think (this can include teaching fun tricks, obedience cues, playing dog sports like agility, disc dog, etc).
  • Scent detection (also called Nose Work) or Tracking (we offer that class by the way!)
  • Giving your dog a daily job that they do with you (hunting, carrying objects for you, carting, etc.)
  • Taking your dog to new and interesting places where they meet new people, dogs, smells, etc. Every dog will have individual needs on what types of new experiences will work best for them.
  • Dog to dog play (between two appropriate dogs – please note this isn’t the same as dropping your dog off into a large open concept daycare)
  • Dog to human play (tug, flirt pole, fetch, etc).
Puzzle toys all filled up with my dog’s food and sealed with peanut butter. These toys in the photo are Toppl’s and Kong Genius.

I like to work on mental stimulation that includes both arousal increasing as well as arousal decreasing experiences. This means that if I do an off leash hike somewhere new that the dog will likely experience arousal increasing vs. if I do a training session at home where my dog has to learn a new behaviour this will likely be an arousal decreasing behaviour. Doing both is important. Avoid doing all arousal increasing experiences or your dog will be over stimulated and will have trouble relaxing.

If you need help coming up with ways to give your dog the mental enrichment they need please reach out to an accomplished and experienced dog trainer. An experienced trainer will be able to assess your dog’s breed, background, and lifestyle needs and be able to create a roadmap for you to meet your dog’s needs. It’s a key component of eliminating all those pesky behaviour issues you’re experiencing.

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Living with Cats & Dogs


Introducing cats to a dog centric home isn’t easy and well to be honest always possible. If your dog has a really high prey drive (or even a moderate prey drive) you should probably just pass on having them together. It could be dangerous for both animals.

However if you have dogs with reasonable low prey drive and a health dose of obedience around new animals than adding cats is quite possible and can be rewarding for everyone!

I’ve decided to include some tips on introduction and keeping the peace so other families can benefit from living with cats and dogs together and turning that age old phrase “fighting like cats and dogs” on it’s head.

Important Step #1

The most important thing is finding a cat that will have a high chance of success with a dog. Some cats are so terrified of dogs that they will suffer from poor quality of life if forced to live with them. It’s important to choose a cat or kitten that has some exposure in a positive way to dogs.

I opted to adopt two kittens who had been exposed to a number of large dogs since birth in their foster home. This ensured that the kittens wouldn’t be afraid of my dogs and would set both types of animals up for success when integrating. And as a bonus we were excited to offer two kittens in a rescue situation a good home for life. It’s a win win. I would also have considered an adult cat who had been exposed to dogs as well we just happen to have a friend who is a fellow dog trainer who raised this litter so the timing worked out.

Important Step #2

Anything to do with cats needs to happen SLOWLY. And I mean really really SLOWLY. People rush change with themselves, dogs and other pets but with cats it can extremely damaging. I set up a cat only space in our home. It included two litter boxes (1 per kitten), a cat tree with 3 sleeping spots and 2 scratch areas at different heights, a raised feeding and water station, a variety of toys, a hiding cube and an interactive feeding toy.

The kittens had their first few days in their own space and no meetings with dogs only scent exchanges (we brought in items that smelled like dogs to the kittens and vice versa). Once we decided to do dog introductions we started out with our dog that was extremely calm and relaxed around cats. We brought him to a separate room that the kittens had been playing in and they were introduced. The kittens were interested in him right away so that introduction was easy.

After that we went one dog at a time as the other 3 dogs were nervous and fearful (this presented in barking, running away and an abundance of calming signals from the dogs). The kittens were comfortable with all the dogs even with the barking.

We continued short one on one meet and greets for several days. After a week we started supervised time where the kittens explored a new room in the house with the dogs present. We rewarded the dogs for calm behaviour and kept these training sessions short.

After a few weeks these sessions could be longer and longer until we could just have everyone all together all the time (word of caution we still kennel the dogs when we are not around to supervise and will continue to do this for years if not indefinitely).


Important Step #3

The cat only space that they started out in is still a cat only space in our home. We’ve left a baby gate up so the cats can and go but they have a nice quiet space to use their bathrooms and enjoy their meals without dogs. It’s important for cats to have an area where they can relax – especially since I have 2 young dogs who have a lot of energy.

Remember every dog and cat is different and you have concerns about safety (chasing, prey drive, biting, etc) it’s really important to contact a trainer.

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How to Successfully Adopt a Dog

We recently adopted Remo, an 11 year old Chihuahua from BC Chihuahua Rescue. This adoption has been nothing but joy for your family – the way you envision it going when you add a new dog into your life. Unfortunately, for many of my clients they do not have a great rescue experience. I wanted to share how to have a great rescue experience so clients can end up with the dog of their dreams and not an absolute heart breaking experience.


Not all rescues are good. This is really, really important to know. Anyone can start up a rescue and claim that they are saving dogs from x, y, z situation. A good rescue will do the following:

  • Provide ongoing health care for the dog including an initial examination by a veterinarian, medications for any conditions, vaccinations, therapy for any injuries including soft tissue, surgery for any health conditions that require it (including a dental if needed). The person who determines what is needed should be the Veterinarian. If the dog is coming from a foreign country they should also go through a quarantine period and be screened for illnesses that are specific to the region they have come from which can be challenging for our local Veterinarians.
  • Provide a behaviour assessment that ascertains whether a dog is suitable to live with teenagers, children, other pets, etc. This behaviour assessment should also determine if the dog has concerns with resource guarding, handling/touch, grooming, leash walking, play, etc. Both foster families and adopters should be given a very realistic picture of what the dog is like and these assessments should be done over a period of time (weeks if not months if the dog has fear issues). Behaviour assessments should be conducted by a Certified Professional Trainer who is experienced in conducting them.
  • Provide a comfortable foster home or kennel environment where the dog can decompress and become stress free enough to exhibit their true behaviour.
  • Screen adopters carefully including home checks whenever possible. This is the sign of a rescue who truly cares about finding the right fit for their dogs.
  • Conduct at a meet and greet with all family members and other dogs in the home. It’s truly important that the dog you are adding to your home has a good relationship with the humans and the other pets. If you have red flags at this stage then this isn’t the right situation for you or the rescue dog.


If you are working with a good rescue they should also provide follow up support and be willing to take a dog back if the situation isn’t ideal. Your responsibility as an adopter is to set your new dog up for success by doing the following:

  • Taking your new dog to your Veterinarian for an examination
  • Signing your new dog up for training (either group class or private lessons). This can be helpful for not only training your dog to act the way you would like but also extremely important for bonding.
  • Set up your home to be a safe space and be ready to work slowly on things such as crate training, house training, etc.
  • Understand that your dog has gone through a lot of changes and is under stress even if it’s not visible to you. Be patient and kind. Don’t overwhelm a new rescue with visitors.
  • Choose a time of year to adopt when you have time to dedicate to helping your new dog acclimatize to your home. (Avoid busy holidays or times when you’re going to be travelling).
  • Do your research and choose the kind of dog that truly suits your lifestyle (activity level, purpose of dog’s genetic background, behaviour assessment results)
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Motivational Dog Training

Ok let’s face it – a lot of what we ask of our dogs to do isn’t that fun! Think about it, what dog actually wants to stay still or bring us back the dead thing they are eating? None. That’s right absolutely no dog ever wants to stop having fun and listen to us.

The only way you’re going to have a well behaved dog that listens if there’s a motivation to do so. Motivation can be something good or something bad. But because we want a strong bond with our dog and to reduce the chance of our dog having a negative association we use a good motivator (something the dog enjoys) also known as positive reinforcement.

I often see owners who are frustrated that their dog doesn’t recall or doesn’t respond when they say sit. They often have one thing in common – they have failed to motivate the dog and achieve focus. And yes I understand the struggle because sometimes it’s hard to convince my own dogs that what I’d like them to do is fun too. I work really hard everyday to motivate my dogs. I cheer them on for chasing a disc, I give them treats for coming when called and I definitely make a big deal if they respond to any cue I give them. This goes for ALL my dogs from the youngest to the oldest. They all need to be motivated.

Here are some tips to help you with motivating your dog:

  1. Stop using food bowls and put those meals to work. Kibble can be a great training tool when your dog is hungry so stop giving it away for free and practice some loose leash walking or stays with your kibble.
  2. Teach your dog to play WITH you. Tug is one of my all time favourites and contrary to the popular belief tugging with your dog does not create aggression. Playing tug increases the dog’s focus on you and engages them for a period of time that is to be determined by you. Keep your energy high and really play!
  3. Reward fetch with another toy to chase! If you want to increase speed and retrieve then use at least 2 toys when playing fetch. There’s no need to grab one from your dog just throw the next one. This will bring your dog back faster and also quicken that drop cue.
  4. Train for short periods of time. Training sessions should 3-5 minutes and you can do them throughout the day or evening. Some chunks broken up by play time are the ideal way to train.
  5. Keep your energy up! I’m usually exhausted when I’m done even a 3-5 min session of disc with my puppy – why? Because I’m the world’s most excited cheerleader for her every time she looks at the disc, chases the disc, touches the disc with her mouth or brings the disc to me. It’s hard work! And you know what her excitement for the task goes up too. If you’re feeling low avoid training that day. Your dog needs you to be joyful too. I find teaching tricks as well as obedience works helps keep you excited about the task.

Now get out there and be motivating!


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Rude Dog? Here’s how to change it up!


I work with A LOT of adolescent dogs (that period between 5 months old and 2 years old where your dog stops listening to you) and they often struggle with similar issues:

  • Jumping up on guests (including mouthing/nipping, head ramming and barking)
  • Stealing objects/food off counters
  • Digging in the garden
  • Fence fighting with neighbour dogs
  • Barking at people/dogs that pass by the home or yard
  • Not coming when called
  • Knocking you over on the stairs or when going out the door
  • Barking/lunging on leash

It’s 100% normal to experience these issues and they do take some training to resolve. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer a rude dog. Teaching manners is something we all need to do with our dogs and the adolescent dog can pose some challenges as they become more interested in the world around them rather than you.

One of the main things to keep in mind is setting your dog up for success. Very few young dogs can handle polite greeting of guests at the doorway. Instead put your dog on leash, grab some rewards and work on your sit stay or better yet teach that dog to go to their crate, wait quietly and then bring them out on leash once the guests are settled and the energy is quiet.

In any situation you want to ask yourself – can my dog actually do what I’m asking in this specific situation. Your answer might be yes my dog knows how to sit but have I taught my dog to sit when he/she is extremely excited? Well it’s time to practice. Ring your own doorbell, get your jazzed up and then ask them for a sit or a down. Reward the behaviour of switching from over hyped to calm. It’s a skill we need to teach.

Anytime your dog is doing something you don’t like ask yourself “what would I like my dog to do instead?”

  • Sit stay instead of jumping on people
  • Get your toy instead of stealing the food on the counter
  • Playing fetch instead of digging holes
  • Coming when called instead of fence fighting
  • Focused on you when off leash instead of running freely ignoring you (yes you can build that up)
  • Waiting patiently while you walk up or down stairs or go through a door
  • Focused on you instead of barking/lunging on leash

Teach your dog to focus, that you’re important and that they can have impulse control and you’ll have a dog that you can happily take everywhere with you. If you need help ensure to enrol in a good quality positive reinforcement training class in your community. At Where’s Your Sit we offer the Adventure Dog Program where the dogs learn right in the park amongst everyday distractions.

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The Human Side


One of the most common issues I work with clients on is dog reactivity and aggression. I’ve discussed reactivity and aggression in this blog many times before but today I’m going to tackle the other side of the leash.

It’s a rarely discussed topic but the human side of the leash suffers immensely when living with a reactive or aggressive dog and it’s important to understand that this happens and to share strategies that help owners take care of themselves too.

Every single time there’s a reactive event or worse a physical altercation that involves your dog you feel awful. People’s reactions at the time can vary immensely but it boils down to feeling like you’ve let your dog down and put someone else in danger. It can be embarrassing, frustrating and more often than not scary.

When you’ve experienced even one of these situations it can change how you view your dog, the world around you and your feeling of safety. Humans react to situations differently and I’ve seen the gambit of frustration, anger, sadness, fear and denial. And in the end the human is suffering too. Often times owners will stop doing activities that they love – they avoid walks, hiking, camping and spending time around other humans and dogs as a result of their dog’s issue. This can cause depression and anxiety.

So here’s my advice:

Practice Self Care

Find time for yourself. If you feel anxious or depressed please seek professional help. Allow yourself breaks from dealing with the dog issues as you can’t do it all day everyday. Spend time doing things you love even if you have to confine your dog or leave your dog at home. Do not stop living your life because of your pet’s behaviour issues.

Understand that it’s normal to feel a wide array of emotions

We love our dogs even when they are aggressive or reactive. It’s a conflicting thing to experience. It’s ok to feel angry, upset, frustrated, nervous or anxious. And yes you can still love your dog even if they are dangerous. Suppressing your feelings about it won’t help in the long run. Be honest with your trainer about how you feel so they can help support you.

Create a plan on what you will and will not live with

This is important because once you go down the rabbit hole of trying to help your dog sometimes they get worse. And sometimes they get worse and it’s not your fault or your trainer’s fault. You need to have a clear idea on what you can live with safely and happily. If your dog is posing a daily threat to your children that’s not going to work out for ANYONE. If your dog’s quality of life is poor because of the lack of opportunity to participate in exercise and time with the family then that’s not going to work out for ANYONE. Sit down as a family and discuss what you can and can’t do for your dog. If you are living outside what you can handle then it’s time to discuss re-homing or euthanasia with your trainer and vet.

Find a support system

Connect with family and friends who can listen and support you through your journey. No one should be working through serious reactivity and aggression issues alone. You need more than your trainer to talk to. If you are having trouble finding a support system ask your trainer if they have other clients who may want to chat and vent on occasion. Until you’ve lived with reactivity or aggression it’s hard to understand so it’s important to have people to support you.

You may have trauma 

Sometimes even once an issue is resolved an owner will feel nervous and anxious for years to come. And if you weren’t able to keep your dog then you may suffer with immense amounts of guilt. There is support available to you. I typically will advise clients in this situation to seek out counselling and support services from a trained professional rather than trying to suppress how they feel. You are not alone and this has happened to many humans. We love our dogs and sometimes that can lead to some very real pain.

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Getting Started in Dog Shows/Trials

Last weekend I drove to Calgary, Alberta for a CARO Rally Obedience trial with my dogs. I was excited and looking forward to seeing all my friends. Dog shows for me aren’t about being the best and winning all the ribbons/prizes. They’re about hanging out with people who love training their dogs and having fun with my own dogs.

Our trial had A LOT of first timers there. I’ve come to realize quite a few things about dog shows that I thought I’d share which may encourage people to take the leap and try it out in their sport of choice.

Tip 1 : Don’t Plan to Win Anything

Putting pressure on yourself to win and take home the top prizes just stresses you and your dog out. Honestly no one really remembers who wins what. Just have fun, improve upon your skills in between shows and remember nerves freak your dog out.

Tip 2: Be Friendly 

A lot of people at dog shows can be so serious. But it’s my favourite place to meet new friends because guess what? We all LOVE dogs. Smile at everyone, compliment their dogs and you’ll have a new friend or two in no time. New friends can also help with tips and tricks.

Tip 3: Have Realistic Expectations

Some sports are easier than others. It’s really common at Agility and Obedience trials for you to NOT place in ANY run especially if you and your dog are novice. This doesn’t mean you aren’t a great up and coming team – it just means it’s your first show (or second or third) and you have some improvements to do. Running FEO (For Exhibition Only) is also a great option where you’re not judged and you can do some training in the ring.

Tip 4: Set Your Dog Up For Success

Do everything in your power to set your dog up for success. Create a relaxing spot for your dog to hang out when it’s not their turn. Ensure your dog has had adequate potty breaks and snuggle time with you. Keep the temperature just right if your dog is waiting outdoors (shade tents, heat reflectors or in cooler weather maybe a jacket and blanket). Provide water and reinforce your dog regularly for remaining calm and collected. Sometimes some classical musical can help you both!

And in closing I was so lucky this past weekend to have one final run with my old boy Russ the Irish Terrier in Rally Team. At 13.5 years old he had one run of 10 signs in him and we happily completed them all! We lost 20 points but you know what he and I were having fun working together. That run means more to me than any ribbon!


Story also had some fun in her very first Rally trial ever! We had some amazing moments of focus and I was really impressed with how she handle herself. I’m looking forward to more trials in the future. We also managed to earn her Canine Good Neighbour certificate on the Sunday after the Rally trial was over! She definitely worked hard!


And my boy Marco came out of retirement to help out as an FEO dog for a few team runs when people needed partners. I love being in the ring with my consistent and sweet boy.


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Dogs need Impulse Control Training

One of the most common issues dog owners face is dealing with a dog who has poor impulse control. What does this mean exactly? Well it means you have a dog that is always reacting and not thinking.

For a dog it makes sense to grab food as it hits the ground, jump on a visitor when they enter a home and bark out the window at something they see. It’s our job as good pet parents to teach our dogs that just because they see/want something right now that it can be better to wait.

Teaching your dog to have impulse control isn’t always easy. Some dogs are naturally polite but most dogs need to be taught. It is arguably the most important life skill and not just for dogs but people too! Impulse control is what prevents humans from stealing, fighting, etc. It’s a skill we work on with our children as babies and toddlers. People who struggle with impulse control often grow up entangled in our justice system. For dogs who struggle with impulse control it often means numerous homes, trips to the animal shelter or worst loss of life.



How do we teach impulse control? In a variety of ways and exercises. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  1. Leave It – this is a skill where we ask the dog to leave something they want and are rewarded for doing so. I’ve detailed Leave It before on my blog and you can find the article here.
  2. Stay – oh the value of stay! We are literally asking the dog to hold still and reinforce the behaviour. Stay is useful for so many things but most commonly for greeting visitors and keeping doorways safe from dogs that bolt.
  3. Sit for doorways and when passing people/dogs. We’re encouraging our dogs to maintain a sense of calm when presented with something exciting.
  4. Call Front (basically the dog sits in front of you and faces you). I’ll typically set the dog up so their back is turned to the stimulus.
  5. Teach a go to place/bed/crate. This teaches the dog to move away from something over stimulating into a quiet area. This is my favourite way to deal with dogs who are too enthusiastic about visitors.
  6. Ask your dog for a trained behaviour before playing with, throwing a ball, petting, etc. For dogs who need to learn impulse control I’ll often ask them for a sit or a down before I do anything that they want. This reinforces the dog to think and be calm in order to get what they want.

The most important part of working with dogs who have low impulse control is to start slow, reinforce A LOT (like way more treats than you ever thought you’d need) and keep distractions to a minimum while the dog is just starting out. Keep your dog on leash to minimize bad behaviour or even get the dog to do exercises while in a crate (really helpful if the undesired behaviour involves kids).

If your dog mouths/bites when over excited then incorporate a basket muzzle into your training so your dog is safe to be around yourself and other humans/dogs while training. Basket muzzles can work great as you can still slip treats through the gaps to reinforce your dog.

Most dogs greatly benefit from working with a trainer when they struggle with impulse control. A good manners class can do wonders.

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