Friday, July 29, 2011

Who's fear is it really?

I had a dream about dog training last night that really clarified for me the journey I have taken these last three years from punishment/correction based training to natural dog training. This dream illuminated the basics of why people need to use harsh, or overly controlling methods in training a dog. The entire dream was about the journey the Brynda and I have taken these last three weeks due to the homework from Therapy Dog Class..
There are two major schools of dog training and behavior modification in existence today. There is the school of "the dog must be controlled" and the school of "show the dog how to live in a human world".
I bet you thought I'd say there is the school of positive punishment / negative reinforcement and the school of positive reinforcement / negative punishment. The truth is that those two schools are basically identical. Both those philosophies lean towards control of the dog. Whether you are using an e-collar or a clicker, the goal is control. One way is control at any cost, the other is control through micro management. Both come from the fear that the dog, when not controlled, will try to dominate us or others. The fear is the fear that since dogs come from wild animals that their basic nature is one of aggression and eat everything before it eats you.
Fear is something that you can manage, control and in some cases remove entirely. Some fears serve a useful purpose, for instance the fear of fire stops us from lighting tinder in a dry forest. One of the most prevalent fears people have is that of losing control. This is the fear that if you don't manage to control the outcome of future events, something terrible will happen.
The fear of losing control is a demand for certainty in a world that is always tentative and uncertain. It is precisely this unrealistic demand that creates the fear. You think that you must accurately predict and manage the future.. People with a fear of losing control demand perfection and perfect control of everything and everyone. What they are saying is, “If I could control these people, I could guarantee the results.” The truth is that control is an illusion, especially if you’re talking about the life or lives of others, control is an illusion; influence is what matters.
Whether it’s with your kids, your employees, your peers, or even your pets, the more you seek to exert control the less you’ll actually have. Someone who must have control will do whatever he or she can to keep others from changing anything. The more you seek to contain others, the less successful you’ll be. The more you seek to control others, the more your attitudes will tend towards "the end justifies the means". Those "means" can be on either end of the spectrum - violence, intimidation and punishment or micro management of every aspect of someone's life or some activity.
Those who understand that control is not really theirs to have, but seek rather to shape the course of events through influence, find themselves far more successful at accomplishing their objectives, and far less negatively affected when they don’t.
This understand of the motives and emotions behind dog training methodology, is what I realized in the middle of this dream. My journey with Brynda these last three weeks, has been one of mutual understanding and respect built through communication. All from a simple exercise during a walk. I didn't have to control her, correct her, guide her, lure her or coax her. All I had to do was communicate with her, talk to her, listen to her and learn who she is. The result this morning while she was being the demo dog for Righteous Recalls was awesome. She was totally focused on me, waiting for my next request, totally willing to work for the entire hour. She only once tried to mooch treats from the others when normally she would be ignoring me and trying to get as many of all the treats available as she could.
Think about your motives and emotions when you are dealing with your dog, and even with your life. Is your method of handling others, of dealing with future events, based on fear or communication.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

E-collar use

Twice now I've tried to comment on fellow Tucson dog trainers Facebook posts about e-collars.  Twice now I've gotten shot down, compared to cookie trainers and even asked to bring Victoria Stillwell with me to handle a 200 lb dog who can take down a block wall to get to what is on the other side and use my cookies to handle this aggression.

It really makes me wonder what these trainers are thinking of when someone says "there are other ways".  I didn't say "a better way", I didn't use "use a clicker" or "use a cookie".  All I said was" there are other ways" to handle behavior problems.  But really, my response was "there are other ways" to train a dog then with an e-collar.  But for some reason, training becomes a 200 lb dog with aggression. 

At one time in my journey I would have used an e-collar on a 200 lb dog with red zone aggression.  I thought that there was no other effective and safe way for this middle age trainer to help a dog like this.  I thought it was the only way to save his life and the life of many others.  I thought that was the only time I will use an e-collar however - to save lives.  I now think very differently and have actually helped dogs without the use of prongs, shocks, chokes or anything else that fits the positive punishment area.  With games and play and showing the dog that life doesn't have to be fearful, I've handled these dogs.

Dogs have been learning these things for centuries without the use of shock collars, and even without the use of "training" collars, 2X4's, kicks, pinches, punches, etc.  I dare anyone to train a hunting dog to follow a scent trail by using any of those tools and have a willing partner at the end of the training who really enjoys following that scent.  And I really dare anyone to use these methods to train a medical alert dog and still have a dog who can alert when given a command that would counteract the need to alert.  For instance, putting a dog in a dog stay.  The dog knows if he moves he will receive pain.  Owner starts smelling like a seizure is coming.  Dog is in conflict "do I stay or do I alert?".  Which one wins?

But back to the responses I got.  Here's one to analyze:
"Suffer? Suffering is being run over by the UPS truck because you bolt every time your owner opens the door...or being euthanized because the treat and clicker "trainer" can't solve your aggression issues or being bitten in the face by a rattlesnake because your owner doesn't want you to experience a small tingle that hurts less than the static electricity they experience when they shuffle across the carpet and touch the light switch. As for inexperienced owners who may abuse the E-collar, these are the same people who would normally just kick their dog, and shouldn't own a dog in the first place.
Right. Hundreds of years ago they used a club. If a dog bit a human, they killed it.

By the way, I have a client with 3 Mastiff/Great Danes that have severe aggression issues. They took down a block wall to get to a person on the other side. Each weighs over 200 lbs. One weighs 250. I would be happy to see your theories at work. Perhaps you could bring Victoria Stilwell with you as a small appetizer"

So what is this person's emotional leve?  Anger?  Sounds like anger to me. Defensive?  Definitely.  Did he address the issue at hand? No, he tried to redirect it to a behavior issue, not a training issue.

The next comment by another e-collar trainer was :

"The thing that gets me the most about this is that it's mostly only pet +R trainers out there pushing this agenda. You never see anyone with true reliable working dogs saying these things. They are almost always pushing the agenda about old... outdated methods and have not taken the time to understand modern e-collar training. ALL tools have a place in society. I just wish they would take the time to learn more about the tools and there applications before they preached their opinions like it was a religion. Then at that point if you don't like it cool, but at least you understand it clearly and not what someone else told you!! HAPPY TRAINING ALL"

There are hundreds of trainers out there with reliable working dogs who have never felt a shock or a pinch or even a choke.  I wonder also if they feel that since they must use every tool there is how they feel about nuclear bombs and sarin gas.

I don't understand.  Maybe someone can explain to me how people who are supposed to have an education about their subject can be so one sided.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Canine Life And Social Skills

Thinking Creatively

There are 1000 ways of teaching your dog obedience.  You can use a clicker, an e-collar, leash corrections, pushing the dog around, food lures, etc.  There are also 1000 ways of dealing with the behaviors your dog does that don't quite fit into your world.

We've started a new program here at Seize The Leash called C.L.A.S.S. which stands for Canine Life and Social Skills.  This is a program that has been developed by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.  In reviewing the program before becoming an evaluator, I wanted to see what methods of training were recommended and what the goals of this program are.  There was so much about this program that fit with my views of behavior and training, that I couldn't pass up the chance to use it.

This program revolves around play training.  There are over 100 games involved in teaching the skills required to pass the three levels of testing (BA, MA and PhD).  Each game is so much more then just a game, it's Real Life Set-up.  Games such as Pizza Delivery, Bagel Recall, Theme Parties, Do You Really Know Sit, etc.  Each games has one or two specific skills it teachs and strenghtens.  Each games uses a part of the human world as a distraction or a teaching tool.  This is the stuff of magic.

I already use games in my classes, especially Reactive Dog, Shy Dog, Righteous Recalls and Out Of Control class.  No one walks away at the end of the hour without having learned something new and improving someting they learned in a previous lesson.  And everyone has fun, including the dogs.  The dogs get desensitized without boring repetitions of encouraging calming signals or trying to stay under threshold.  The dogs get counter conditioned without the humans even realizing it's happening.

Think outside the box, don't limit yourself to someone else's idea of what the solution to your dog behavior problem should be. There are 1000's of ways to solve problems, to calm a dog, to desensitize a dog, to redirect a dog, to teach a dog. Setting limitations can set you and you dog up to fail. Be creative, think outside the box.

Your fear of what your dog "might" do can keep your dog from learning. If you have an aggressive dog and your become afraid of going anywhere, doing anything with your dog, playing even the simplest games with your dog or allowing your dog to have any social interaction at all, that aggression will never abate. Your fear will keep in in place.

And remember, no matter what method of training / teaching / conditioning you use with your dog, your results will only be as good as YOUR committment, focus and persistence.