Our Mission

We aim to provide the public with a comprehensive directory of pet-related businesses that have pledged to adhere to force free, humane training and handling methods with the animals they work with. We will provide education to the public and pet industry professionals on the benefits and application of force free methods.

Education is at the core of what we do. Whether you just got your first pet or you’re a seasoned professional, there’s always something new to learn! That’s why our Why Force Free? seminar is held across Alberta throughout the year, and is open to the public, prospective members, and new employees of current members. You can also find us at pet-related events around the province giving demonstrations and information. Check out our Education page for information on educational opportunities, resources, why we recommend force free methods, and more!

Explore

Our business directory gives you a one-stop location to find a force free business in your area. All members must obtain an education in force free techniques and undergo a strict vetting process. Each one of our members signs a pledge promising to adhere to force free methods with all pets in their care.

Find a Business

The Alberta Force Free Alliance is run by a team of people committed to improving the lives of pets and their people through force free handling and training methods.

Meet the Board

From Our Founder

My name is Carol Neil. I am a trainer, behaviour consultant, founder, and past President of the Alberta Force Free Alliance. I have been endeavoring to increase my education in the science of animal learning and behaviour since 2011, by doing workshops and classes with amazing people such as Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Karen Overall, Dr. Susan Friedman, Grisha Stewart, Michael Shikashio, and many more. 

It was not always this way. I initially became involved in the world of dog training in 2009 after being passionately inspired by watching Cesar Millan on his National Geographic sponsored TV show, The Dog Whisperer. I diligently watched every episode of his television show repeatedly, read all of his books, did his online courses, attended his live appearances, and was saving money to go down to California to receive a certification through him. At that time, I fully believed in his approach, I thought it was incredible. I used his methods with my own dogs and was seeing fast and quick compliance. I quit my job of almost 30 years in the corporate world, printed up business cards, and started taking on clients, teaching what I had learned from Cesar… “Be the Alpha…the Pack Leader”.  It was easy enough to do. There is no regulation in the professional world of dog training and no requirements whatsoever to have any credentialed education in the science of canine learning and behaviour. Shortly thereafter, I began working as a trainer at my local Humane Society and soon moved into a role as a behaviour specialist. Still passionate and believing I knew everything there was to know about canine behaviour, I felt unstoppable. While there, I adopted my dog, Cash. Cash was a big powerful bully breed. He was stunningly beautiful, was the sweetest boy with my husband and myself, but had some relatively minor behavioural issues…over-arousal in play at daycare and being pushy with other dogs as well as showing some signs of nervousness and reactivity towards unfamiliar to him people. Looking to my beloved Cesar for advice, I followed his recommendations of pinning and alpha rolling him for his undesired behaviours, as well as poking, back kicking, leash popping, and finally, following the advice in one of his books, using a shock collar on him in the dog daycare I worked at when he didn’t listen and was being pushy with other dogs. It wasn’t too long before he suddenly turned on an old harmless chocolate lab and attacked him. It took two of us almost five minutes to get Cash to let go of the poor dog. The damage was substantial enough that he almost ripped the dog’s ear off. Needless to say, I was devastated. What was I doing wrong? Maybe I wasn’t being enough of a Pack Leader! Now, Cash started attacking one of my other dogs at home and the attacks were increasing in regularity and intensity. It was at this time that I was introduced to a gentleman who had his Master’s in Ethology and had worked with dogs for 35 years. This was the starting point of my true education in canine behaviour.

Learning the science of how dogs think and learn, turned my world upside down. I started to understand how my use of old school punishment and dominance-based methods had tipped Cash’s responses into aggression. Now, not only was I starting to work on helping Cash learn different responses, I was working to undo the emotional and psychological damage I had done with the use of the shock collar and confrontational correction-based methods. I worked very hard with Cash for the next year and a half. We saw improvement little by little. He had gone from attacking my sweet dog, Luke, up to seven times a day, down to once every couple of months. That said, in those couple of final incidents, we had grandkids visiting that made things scary and dangerous. He was not safe to rehome. I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Sobbing, I stood with him and comforted him as the Humane Society euthanized him. I still wonder to this day, what he would have been like had I not used the old school methods with him that, unbeknownst to me at the time, science had been recommending against the use of for many years now. I shared Cash’s story whenever I presented the Alliances’ half-day Why Force Free seminar around the province. To this day, I have never been able to tell the finale of his story without breaking down.

It is because of Cash, whose image is in our logo, that I formed and started the Alberta Force Free Alliance in 2016. A society that provides dog owners in Alberta with a directory of force-free and humane dog-related businesses, as well as having a mission to provide inexpensive and easily accessible education in scientifically researched and backed approaches to working with dogs. I started the Alberta Force Free Alliance to bring about positive change in the world of dog training and to help other owners and their dogs avoid going down the same tragic road as I did with my boy, Cash.