The goal: being consistent in what I know and how I use it.


Wow! It’s the start of WDJ’s 18th year of publication. Sorry to sound like a cliche, but where did the time go? When I was hired to edit the inaugural edition of the magazine in early 1998, I had an extensive history of editing horse magazines; I told my new boss flat out, “I don’t know that much about dogs!” Of course, I had a dog – I’ve always had dogs – but most of what my publisher had planned for WDJ to cover was new to me, such as raw diets, minimal vaccine schedules, complementary and alternative veterinary medicine, and especially, force-free training.

Whole Dog Journal editor Nancy Kerns

My boss, who was responsible for the purchase of the magazine that I had been working for – The Whole Horse Journal – wasn’t worried. “Horses, dogs . . . How different could it be? You’ll figure it out!”

He was kidding, of course. But he had faith that I could take what I had learned working for a magazine that covered species-appropriate diets and alternative and complementary veterinary care, and apply it to the dog world.

I knew I could, too – but I have to admit, I’ve wondered more than once since then, why hadn’t I already made the leap? How could I have known so much about holistic horse care and never considered using the same principles to improve the health of my dogs?
For that matter, how about you guys? How many of you avoid GMO foods and buy organic for yourself and your family, but think nothing of feeding (artificially preserved, artificially colored, corn-heavy) Kibbles ‘n Bits to your dog?

Or are you one of those curious sorts who does it the other way around? Who buys the most expensive, top-quality dog foods or home-prepares a diet comprised largely of grass-fed meats and fresh, local vegetables for your dog, but eats fast food and junk food all the time yourself? Pot, meet Mrs. Kettle.

Interestingly, the one area where I had already integrated what I learned about force-free and fear-free horse training into my life was in raising my son. I had already had a decade of exposure to modern horse training methods that preserved a horse’s interest in and willingness to work with humans while learning and practicing difficult new tasks, and I wanted to use the same principles of education when teaching my son how to learn, work hard, and behave well. I had learned that no animals can absorb and remember new things well when they are afraid, intimidated, disinterested, bored, or constantly told they are wrong. I was thrilled to discover that force-free training was an even bigger force in the dog world than in the equine arena, with far more research and educational opportunities and far wider acceptance and use.

When my son (who is now 22) was born, I took great pleasure in consciously interacting with him in such a way as to preserve his enthusiasm for learning. He was four when we launched WDJ and I immersed myself even more deeply into positive training. I have to say, it’s worked as well with him as it has for all my dogs since! They are all a pleasure to be around.

Here is my new year’s resolution, however: I want to try to better integrate what I know about keeping my dogs healthy into my own healthcare regime. My dogs are at a healthier weight than I am! They eat a more appropriate diet for their species than I do! And they certainly see their doctors more often than I do! (We exercise about the same amount, though, because all of my exercise is taken with them at my side – ha!)

Any of this resonating with you? Drop me a line and let me know.