Saturday, December 31, 2011

Magical Formula

“We, the modern knowledgeable of all knowledgeable humans, as we care to name ourselves, are no more than an immeasurable brief eye blink in the course of evolution, immensely less than the commonest of all bacteria. Yet, we have never been able to contemplate anything without, in our incommensurable arrogance and painstaking stupidity, changing it—not for the sake of insight, knowledge, or wisdom, nor because of it, but in the name of meagre superstitious and unfounded beliefs.
These modern knowledgeable of all knowledgeable humans have made a life of living—and dying—in antagonism, resenting all and the lot. Yet, evolution shows unequivocally that the secret of a prolonged survival through centuries and millennia lies not in living against, but in living with. Inexorably accepting, understanding and respecting other living beings, independently of species and race—and herein lies the magical formula.”

Roger Abrantes

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Interesting post from Nicole Wilde this morning called The Benefit Of The Doubt which explores whether a dog is blowing of his handler or there is some other reason for inattention or wandering away.

Then I see a post from someone about cruelty to humans and animals (pictured to the left).  This person and many others like her, people who consistently post about animal cruelty and how people who hurt animals are horrible.  And yet. They ALL support a trainer who uses shock collars, pinch collars, kicking dogs, hanging them by their collars and other things that if you didn't know this person was a trainer, you would be sick to your stomach. 


In Virginia, a puppy was choked to death by a dog trainer using a prong collar and his fingers in the puppy’s throat. The reason? The trainer was disciplining the puppy for biting at the other puppies in class.

In Illinois a few years ago, a dog was blinded in class due to lack of oxygen to the brain. How? She was lifted off the ground and swung around by a leash and choke chain for supposedly growling at the trainer.

In some obedience classes in Colorado, dogs are hung, hit, and have objects thrown at them, all in the name of training. Unfortunately, these and other acts of cruelty are not uncommon occurrences in obedience classes across the country.

Historically, the methods used to train dogs, and horses, have relied on physical force. In fact, a profile of a well-known trainer of field dogs, credits the trainer with developing “applications of electricity”(i.e. shock collars) which “made it possible for people who lacked the physical strength required to dominate these dogs” to still be able to train them.

The use of poor and risky dog training practices is a behavior I would like to see disappear.  But I also realize that it's not going to disappear by attacking it. Dog owners I meet are generally reluctant to use the harsh methods, but feel as if they have no alternative. Or, they live in fear of what will happen if those methods are not used.  Most people I meet find that the use of the harsh techniques are objectionable, but when faced with a dog they cannot control "RIGHT NOW" they look for the magic wand - which in the dog training world is touted as corrections and shock.

The only way that I can see to eliminate these methods of training and behavior modification is to educate the public on the actual choices they have to help their dog.  The actual fallout from harsh methods and from purely positive methods.  Without that knowledge, and a change in attitude about magic wands - harsh methods and the trainers who use them, will continue to haunt the training world.

I have to tell you that we stopped yelling at our dog and started praising and not punishing and the results are amazing! He is teaching us to be better humans! He is much nicer to have around - or maybe we all got nicer! – Maggie

Force training has been around for a long time, but thankfully, fewer and fewer trainers use these methods any more. In the old days, we used our brawn to train dogs (Yes - myself included! Back then that was all we knew). Now, based on scientific knowledge of how dogs learn, observation and use of how dogs communicate, newer trainers use their heads and their hearts. There are methods to train dogs that enhance dogs and create in the dog a need and a joy in learning. The old-style abusive methods diminish dogs, forever.
These trainers need to change or be put out of business. Unfortunately, though, too many pet owners do little or no research when choosing a trainer and these dinosaurs have flourishing businesses. Don’t get me wrong: their methods are effective. For example, to get a dog to stop pulling on a leash, just jerk the crap out of the dog with a pinch collar on its neck and it will stop pulling.
Likewise, shock me with a taser, beat me up, yell and scream at me and I will give you all my money, but I will forever more be afraid of you. The pain and trauma you inflict on me will damage me forever and not even a millenium can re-create the trust we might have had and we can never be friends.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays from all of us at Seize The Leash

What Is Abuse?

What is Abuse?
Abuse comes in many forms; it is not just physical. Sometimes people think they haven't been abused because they were never hit or seriously injured. What we know is that abuse happens in many more ways than just physical assaults, and that all forms of abuse are scary, painful, and shaming. Abuse it is intimidation or manipulation of another person or animal, or an intrusion into another's psyche; the purpose is to control the other. It is generally a long term pattern of behavior although specific short term interactions can be labeled abusive. Abuse is a form of long-term torture usually inflicted by one's nearest and dearest. It is a grievous violation of trust and it leads to disorientation, fear, depression, and suicidal thoughts and actions. It generates aggression in the abused and this overwhelming emotional roller coaster transforms into envy, violence, rage, and hatred.
I have been the victim of abuse. I lived with a man for nearly 6 years who was emotionally and mentally abusive. He let nothing get past him whereby he didn't use it to show me how stupid, incompetent, worthless or crippled I was. Would it have evolved into physical abuse? Probably, given time, according to statistics. But I left before it even came close to that. Despite having left, it still took a couple of years before I felt I was worthwhile enough to rejoin the world.
Some of the indicators of human abuse are as follows. I give you this list for you to think about in relation to your dogs and how they are being trained. There are trainers out there, even here in Tucson, that I consider abusive - they are nothing but bullies who are so in fear of losing control or looking like whimps, they abuse others and animals in the name of training. And don't think that just because it's your dog getting shocked or jerked around by the leash, that she is the only one being abused. You are also. Do you really want your dog to be treated that way? Do you really think it's ok or are you cringing inside and compromising your own integrity, ethics and morals by allowing it? That compromise is the start to being a victim. I know, I've been there.
I've seen abuse happen from those who claim they are positive trainers as well. Head halters can be particularly painful and dangerous, but seem to be the collar of choice for many positive trainers. I've seen just as much total control of a dog from positive reinforcement trainers as from positive punishment trainers. I've seen dogs trained with a clicker that aren't allowed to do anything unless the owner is there with a clicker. They are clicked for sleeping, eating, playing and getting petted. This much control is just as abusive as using a prong collar for loose leash walking.
It really is the intention behind the actions that delineates whether it is abuse or not.
Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse includes all kinds of hurtful behaviors, words, and actions designed to scare, manipulate, intimidate, threaten, isolate and destabilize the one with less power in the relationship. Emotional abuse is very hurtful; many women who have been abused say that the emotional abuse is even more damaging and harder to heal from than physical abuse. Emotional abuse includes:

  1. Not letting you have food, medication, sleep
  2. Controlling all your activities.
  3. Forcing you to do degrading things.
  4. Frightening you.
  5. Constantly attacking your self-esteem.
  6. Throwing things at or near you.
  7. Punching walls next to your head.
Physical Abuse
Physical abuse includes all kinds of physical action done by the partner with more power with the intent of hurting or scaring the partner with less power. Even behaviors like pinching, tickling or hair pulling can be abuse if they are done with the intent to control the other partner. Be very clear on this, it may not appear to be abuse to an outsider. The intention is what matters. If the intent, of what most of us would consider just teasing, is to control the other, then it's abuse.

  1. Choking or strangling.
  2. Burning.
  3. Holding you down.
  4. Pushing.
  5. Kicking.
  6. Trapping you with his/her body.
  7. Stabbing.
  8. Murder.
I repeat

  1. Abuse comes in many forms.
  2. Professionals are not exempt from being abusive just because they have credentials or a shingle.
  3. Abuse has as it's purpose to control another being.
  4. Abuse is a form of torture. 
  5. Abuse is a grievous violation of trust. 
  6. Abuse leads to disorientation, fear, depression, and suicidal thoughts and actions. 
  7. Abuse generates aggression in the abused.
  8. Abuse generates an overwhelming emotional roller coaster transforming into envy, violence, rage, and hatred.
This is all based on human statistics and studies, but the statistics and studies are there for animals as well, they just aren't predicated on abuse caused by trainers and other so called professionals in the dog world.  Think hard about what you are doing to your dog when you take her to your current trainer and what you are doing to your own self-esteem and integrity by allowing any form of abuse at all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Perception Part IV

Perception and emotion play a HUGE part in how we view the universe and the people and other entities in it. When your emotions are negatively involved, your perceptions and how you deal with the truth and the lies changes - often times for the worst. Then you start looking at the actions, the products, the results of the actions of the people around you and you realize you were wearing rose colored glasses.

A quote a friend posted on Facebook this morning got me to thinking about this post. It's gone through a couple of edits already. Maybe this will be the last one. The quote:

"Those who force, prove they can conquer. Those who ask for and receive, demonstrate they can communicate." - Emma Massingale

Definitions of evil vary as do the reasons for it; however, general actions commonly considered evil include:
  • conscious and deliberate wrongdoing
  • discrimination designed to harm others
  • humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity
  • destructiveness
  • acts of unnecessary and/or indiscriminate violence that are not legitimate acts of self-defense but aggressive and designed to cause ill-being to others.
What would you think of a person, and a group trying to change perceptions who vouch for this person, who practices the following? These actions fit the above definition of evil. They also fit the definitions of abuse I listed in a prior post.
  1. Jerking and yanking on the leash and actually hanging a dog from the leash off the ground, so hard, the dog vomited all over itself and then shut down completely. 
  2. Shocking a dog so many times it groveled on the ground in front of hundreds of people. See the original Perception post.
  3. A shock collar on a dog who I knew to be only mildly reactive, and only in certain circumstances and only on a leash. 
  4. A dog that only knew how to sit on command after a 6 week obedience class and the owners told to put a pinch collar and shock collar on the dog for reactivity. 
  5. A dog (and it's owners) that had learned absolutely nothing after two 6 week obedience classes.
  6. A dog that was still attacking and trying to kill another dog in the household after spending a month getting shocked and supposedly rehabilitated in a board and train situation and 10 months later is still attacking the other dog.
  7. Dog killed in this persons care, cause unknown and no attempt to find out.
  8. Foster dog mauled by this person's dog. The dog was mauled so bad she was put to sleep.  She was put to sleep so others wouldn't find out what had happened, not because she was fatally injured.
  9. A dog so badly mauled by this person's own dog (same dog as #8), right in front of the owner of the injured dog, that it spent months in rehabilitation.
  10. A dog attacked in public because this person's own dog (same dog as 8 and 9) was off leash and not under control.
There is more, but I think this should suffice to show conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, acts of unnecessary and/or indiscriminate violence that are not legitimate acts of self-defense but aggressive and designed to cause ill-being to others, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity, and destructiveness.

So when it comes right down to it, what is perception without knowledge? What is perception if you ignore the effects you are causing? How is the perception that others have of a specific breed changed when the methods that are used for controlling the nature of that breed are so harsh? Why would anyone want a breed which can only (or so it seems with these methods) be controlled via pain and fear? Why would insurance companies, apartment managers and managment companies, police and other first responders change their perception of dogs and specific breeds when the people who are trying to change those perceptions use training methods that would make most people sick.

How can you change others perception when YOUR perception is that a specific breed is dangerous and needs special, harsh, abusive control?

Saturday Blog Hop

Since I am starting to get some followers, I decided to reinstate the blog hop :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do Dogs Really Live In the Moment?

Interesting discussion I had with a client this morning which made me consider that maybe dogs really do not live in the present as much as we've been told.

To live in the present, to me, means that you are concentrating at least 90% on the environment that you are in, that all thoughts are focused on what you are doing, what the environment is offering and what is going on around you, right now. The other 10% would be in comparing the current situation with similar situations in the past to decide the best moves for survival or enhancement. The negative events in similar situations should only be viewed for information, not as a prediction. That is what living in the moment, in present time, means to me. That definition is what I believe those who espose this concept mean.

Living in the moment would seem to be being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one. Your whole being is involved, and your using your skills to the utmost. Focus and concentration are the foundation of being in the moment. When we’re engaged in an activity, we engage all of our physical and emotional resources to act and learn. Living in the moment isn’t just a way to maximize our potential, it is also very a strong intrinsically rewarding state of mind.

Imagine climbing up a cliff face. Your thoughts and actions are completely in response to where you are and what needs to be done each moment as you experience it. You are (hopefully) not thinking about whether or not you left the lights on at home or if the pants you're wearing would make Stacy and Clinton proud. You are required to act in a way which is as responsive to the situation as you can manage with no extraneous thoughts getting in the way of making decisions appropriate to the moment. The same kind of responsiveness is required when driving through LA freeways, zipping down a steep hill on a bicycle, or diving in shark infested waters off La Paz.

That's the ideal scene of living in the moment. Not many of us can actually do that and I don't think our dogs do either.

Dogs do remember the past or they wouldn't become fearful. Whether it's muscle or cell memory, pictures, smells, tastes and all the kinesthetic remembrances of each event in their lives affect what they do in the hear and now. Sometimes it only takes one trauma, on bite from another dog, on whack with a baseball bat, to completely change a dog's view of his world. But remember they do, as do we - maybe not all of it in the consciuous part of the mind, but it's all recorded somewhere. Those memories affect our present and our predictions of the future.

A reactive dog, whether it is reacting with flight or fight, is not analysing the present. The dog coming around the corner is NOT the dog that attacked three years ago. The person getting up out of the chair is not the same man who swung the baseball bat. The analysis of present circumstances is not there, only the reaction - the prediction of the future and the avoidance of the past. After awhile, any part of the past trauma can trigger a reaction - a smell, a site, a movement, a color can presige a bite. All this must be guarded against because pain means death is imminent. A dog in this state is NOT living in the moment at all. This dog is predicting the future based on the past, worried that something is going to happen. The reactions from a dog who is far gone down this road can seem to come totally out of nowhere. The dog has learned to treat everything as a threat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Introduction To Reward Based Training

Here is the APDT's Introduction to Reward Based Training


20 Uses for Dog Tricks

1.Tricks engage your dog's mind and provide mental exercise.

2.Tricks are fun and make the learning process for children (and adults!) more enjoyable.

3.Tricks can make breeds with a "bad reputation" look friendlier.

4.Tricks can help make shelter dogs more adoptable.

5.Tricks can be used to solve barking: A dog who barks at visitors could be taught to go get a toy and hold it in his mouth instead.

6.Tricks can be used to solving jumping on people: A dog who jumps to greet people could be taught to sit and wave instead.

7.Tricks are a great way to strengthen the dog-owner bond. People are relaxed when teaching tricks and it's great fun for dog and owner.

8.Tricks add variety to training.

9.Tricks allow you to "show off" what you've accomplished with your dog.

10.Tricks can be practiced indoors or out, regardless of the weather.

11.Tricks can be used to help endear your dog to someone not traditionally a dog lover.

12.Tricks increase your dog’s repertoire of behaviors. The more your dog learns, the better your dog learns and the more mentally engaged he will be.

13.Tricks are more fun to teach for people "put off" by obedience training: “Bang you’re dead” is the same behavior to your dog as “down”—but you have fun with it.

14.Tricks provide a way to practice your dog’s “manners.”

15.Tricks are entertaining and they can make people think you and your dog are both geniuses!

16.Tricks can be useful. For example, teach your dog to get your slippers or bring in the newspaper on rainy days.

17.Tricks engage the entire family, particularly children.

18.Tricks make you laugh!

19.Tricks can be entertaining for people on therapy visits at places like hospitals.

20.Tricks can distract a reactive dog from something that scares him.

The ABC's of Dog Training

January is National Train Your Dog Month.  The Association of Pet Dog Trainers is providing materials for use during this month.

Here is a Power Point Slide show of The ABC's of Dog Training

The Benefits of Training

The benefits of having a trained dog are nearly limitless! From the moment you get your new puppy or dog, here’s a run-down of just some of the advantages and benefits:

Benefits of Dog Training:

•Puppy classes provide the opportunity for getting your new family member started off right. Puppy classes provide the experiences and opportunities for your puppy to develop interaction skills with other puppies, with people, and in new environments.

•Puppy socialization has been found to be critical to the psychological health of adult dogs. Puppy classes provide the opportunity for this important facet of your puppy’s upbringing.

•Training classes provide dog owners the skills and knowledge for dealing with common, normal dog behaviors—starting with puppy behaviors such as housetraining and chewing.

•No matter what age you start training your dog, foundation training provides the basis for any activity, behavior or job you want your dog to do.

•Training provides dogs with the basic good manners we all want—from polite greeting when guests arrive, to walking nicely on the leash, to coming when called.

•A trained dog is a fully participating member of the family—what a gift for all of you!

A trained dog joins in the fun when company comes, accompanies the family to the kids’ sports games, goes with you to visit friends and relatives, goes for hikes, swims, and everything else the family does together.

•Training enables you to choose from among a broad range of activities and dog sports to participate in and enjoy with your dog such as dog agility, Rally-obedience, dancing with your dog, tracking, search & rescue, skijoring, sledding, water rescue trials, obedience, carting, reading programs, therapy work, and a nearly endless range of fun and philanthropic things to do!

•Training has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in his or her “forever” home.

•Training builds your mutual bond, enhances the partnership and enriches the relationship you share with your dog. Is there anything better?

•Having a trained dog is a joy for both you and your dog!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Truth In Advertising

Does anyone really expect truth in advertising?  How deep do you have to dig to find the truth?

Yesterday I saw an ad for a trainer on Craig's List that made me laugh and cry at the same time. 

In the first paragraph, this trainer equated positive reinforcement training with spending 1000's of dollars and getting no results calling them "treat trainers, clicker trainers, and self-styled "animal behaviorists"".  He tried to dis every other type of dog business in Tucson "You won't find Internet Trainer Course Graduates, Doggie Psychics, Animal Communicators, Trick Trainers with clickers and a bag of treats or New Age Alien Abductees who came back from the Mother Ship with the uncanny ability to read your dog's mind at our facility"

And then says he is certified and has attended the best schools (note the plural) in the US.

The whole flavor of this ad was "nah nah nah, I'm the best and you are mud". 

Does this person really understand what he just did?  He alienated (pun intended) at least half the population of Tucson.  I could care less what he is trying to call me and most of my friends, but what is funny and sad at the same time is that he doesn't realize that there is a great percentage of people - people who could be clients - who don't want their dog "corrected".  And he never mentions what that "correction" consists of.

The rest of the ad is his brag about what he's done with no mention of what he can do for you and your dog other then a list of services he offers that most companion animal owners could care less about.  The school he lists is a 6 week long intensive and he lists only one school after saying earlier in the ad that he attended schools plural.  Working as a caretaker for 400 wolves? What does that teach you about companion animals who are peeing and pooping in your house?  Does being a vet tech give you experience in calming a dog (without drugs) that is freaking out about the vacuum cleaner?

And when is he going to mention that he uses a shock collar to train your dog and to "fix" behavior problems? 

Not much truth in advertising here.  And he's not the only "correction" based trainer that advertises this way.  These trainers try and make others think positive training is worthless so that this is no argument from you when they start shocking your dog.  They say they are "balanced" trainers refering to the four quadrants of operant conditioning and yet most of their methods are about positive punishment and the positive reinforcement is a pat on the head or a quick "good boy". I've never seen any of these "balanced" trainers use the other two quadrants of negative punishment and reinforcement.  I've seen these "balanced" trainers correct a 3 month old puppy for not sitting in a perfect position on the second try by jerking so hard on the leash the puppy ends up face planted.  

I'll stick to cookies, TTouch, play and energy work, thank you every much.


A dog who is reacting to something is not thinking. It doesn't matter whether the reaction is part of survival mode or over the top excitement. A dog with that much adrenaline running through it's system is incapable of responding to most cues he's been trained to respond to. However, a dog in this state can be redirected with something scarier, more counter survival then what they are reacting to or, in the case of the over excited dog, something much more interesting.

There are those out there who say just put a shock collar on the dog and that will fix all reactivity. Does it work? maybe, sometimes, depends on if it's more counter survival then what is being reacted to. The #1 factor with a shock collar is timing and that takes training. The #2 factor is context. Even at the highest setting, is the shock more counter survival or is the situation? I've had many people come to me when the shock collar no longer works, or never did work. You have to know what survival is and what it means to your dog and dogs as a whole. The #3 factor is association. Will the dog come to learn that wearing that particular collar means pain in specific circumstances? In my experience, 90% of the time - yes. Doesn't "cure" the reactivity.

Survival has been defined many ways, but for the purposes of reactivity, survival is the avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure. If your dog is reactive to other dogs, the reactions are a method of avoiding pain by chasing away the other dog (killing the other dog also makes it disappear and thus avoids the pain). If the reactivity is a form of resource guarding, then it's a seeking of pleasure because the resource being guarded is a source of pleasure the dog is perceiving as a necessity.

In the natural world, pain means death and pleasure means life.

If you add more pain (death) to a situation, you are liable to get a dog who reacts with more ferocity. You could also create a dog who gives up. Early this year I worked with a dog who had given up. He had so much pain from a shock collar associated with going for a walk, with having a leash on outside the home, that he walked as slow as he could, hung his head nearly to the ground and made it very obvious that he was avoiding even glancing at other dogs. You could see the nervous licking, the trembling, the avoidance whenever another dog got too close. At the first lesson with this group of dogs, I watched this dog flinch at least 40 times in the space of 30 minutes. Whether or not the shock was being administered was a moot point, the dog expected it and the reaction was Pavlovian. The worst part of this was the fear in the attitude of the owner. She was terrified of taking the shock collar off the dog in public, knowing from experience that her dog knew where the pain was eminating from. The reactivity, the aggression toward other dogs was still there, just suppressed with the shock collar.

What does work?

I keep one or two large exercise balls in my yard. I am trying to teach certain muttniks to play Treibball. But I have used the balls to break up fights and to stop reactivity. Using the balls this way cures nothing, however, it redirects the dog's attention long enough to either grab the dogs in the case of a fight or move a reactive dog far enough away from it's triggers that it can becalmed. Cure is in hard work, lots of slow desensitization and counter conditioning. Depending on the level of reactivity, it could take months. There is no magic wand or electric device that can change a dog's emotional response to situations that trigger a survival mode reaction. There are no commands or cues that can stop a dog from having those emotions - obedience can only keep the dog from physically reacting - but not until the commands have been proofed for months and sometimes years to every possible trigger. Handling the emotions directly with conditioning and desensitization is faster. Change the emotions, find the real triggers and make them part of the pleasure of survival not the pain. Don't just mask the emotions behind a dog who out of fear, intimidation or pain shuts down to external pressure.

Monday, December 12, 2011


When you engage the emotions, minds and bodies will follow. Conversely when you act a certain way, emotions will follow. Emotions and physiology are fully linked. Some things in life cause people to feel, to emote. Some things in life cause people to think. But which causes action? the emotion or the thinking? I know for myself, I can think all day and never move, until that thinkingness activates an emotion and then I move. Emotion is a vital part of the way we process the world around us. Emotion motivates us, "moves" us. It is that motivation that prompts us to take action. Indeed, the motivation comes from the verb "to move."

In most theories about learning, whether it is human learning or animal learning, it is a recognized truth that learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat. Why this is so, I theorize and use as a basis for rehabilitating dogs , is because of the emotion involved. It appears that each emotion carries with it specific "actions". When you are bored, you tend to wander aimlessly looking for something engaging and just about everything catches your attention - for a second. When you are fearful, the first motion is usually to freeze and then to flee, sometimes to attack depending on circumstances. But I've noticed that the movement to attack usually only happens when the fear is long standing and almost constant. When you are angry, the motion is usually to stop that which is angering you. There is a short hop between fear and anger which is why bullies tend to pound on that which they fear or don't understand. If you engage negative emotions about a process or object, learning stops, the fight or flight actions are engaged and the learning process shuts down. Survival is the only response.

So what happens when you shock a dog, use a prong collar, harsh leash corrections or other punishments?

1. The environment will focus the dog's attention on what needs to be learned.

What is the environment when a dog is "corrected"? For a dog that means all the scents, sounds, sights and kinesthetics at the time of the correction - especially those the dog's attention is on at the time of the correction. When you jerk a dog's leash to tell it not to move ahead of you - what is the dog actually associating that jerk with?

2. Incentives and reinforcement motivate learning.

Without a motive, without a goal, something to work for, no learning can be achieved other then that of avoidance or neglect. Without the promise of a reward, payment or satisfaction, what is the point in learning a particular thing? The only english and history I remember from high school are those things learned in a supportive, rewarding environment. I don't even remember the teachers names from those classes that were boring and unsatisfying or only taken because they were required. When training dogs I've noticed the same. Those behaviors that were learned and retained to the next session where those the dog enjoyed and/or were rewarded for. Enjoyment is a self reward. Where is the motivation when a dog is corrected? What is being taught? What is the dog learning? She may or may not learn that the shock means "come to me" depending on where her attention is when the shock comes, how good the trainer was in teaching her what the signal "come" means and whether or not the pain or startlement from the shock sends her into fight/flight or she can still think.

3. Internal motivation is longer lasting and more self-directed than is external motivation. External motivation must be repeatedly reinforced by praise or concrete rewards.

Teaching a dog how to think, how to solve problems and how to discover the rules and limitations in life, making all their choices and decisions ones based on reality, create a self-motivating dog. All dog trainers know that to get reliability with a dog, the behavior must be practiced and practiced, over and over, in many varied situations with diverse distractions. Yet, if they knew how to show the dog how to learn and to love the process and the products of learning, the practice of "proofing" would largely disappear because they wouldn't be necessary. I disagree that dogs have a problem with generalization. I think it's more a problem with motivation. The dog is motivated to sit in the living room but has no knowledge of what his motivation should be for doing it in the bathroom until the human shows him that there will be motivation and reward. A dog who learns that the act of sitting is self rewarding, self motivating, will sit anywhere and under any circumstances. What does getting shocked or having prongs shoved into the neck teach a dog? For one, it's external motivation and could never become a pleasurable or exciting internal motivation. The dog is not going to repeat

4. Learning is most effective when an individual is ready to learn, that is, when one wants to know something.

Is a dog ready to learn something when a shock arrives or when the leash is harshly jerked? Where is the dog's attention when a human applies a "correction"? It's not on the human, and it's not on learning. In the case of a dog trying to pull it's owner down the street because the human's two legs don't move fast enough, the dog's attention is on the smell it's chasing. The only learning the dog has in mind at that moment is to find the owner of the smell. When that "correction" comes, the dog isn't ready for learning to not pull, doesn't associate the correction with pulling and the correction will be repeated a hundred times before the dog gives up on chasing any smells. Smells hurt.

5. Motivation is enhanced by the way in which the instructional material is organized.

A correction is just that, an action designed to correct a dog's behavior, there is nothing organized about a single action. Although I think using the word correction is totally misleading when used by trainers who use shock collars, pinch collars, prong collars and other harsh treatment. "Correction" means to redirect to the appropriate action, not to warn or punish for a wrong action. Without showing the dog what to do instead, there is no "correction" at all, it's just punishment and harsh treatment. There is nothing motivating about punishment or abuse and I have never seen an actual curriculum for "correcting" a dog into good behavior.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ask The Trainer - Resource Guarding the Car

Question:When our dog is in the car with my wife he will not let anyone near the car, even me. He starts barking loudly and getting real mean and aggressive. What worries my wife is what if she gets stopped by a police officer? She is worried that they will try to shoot him. Why the behavior in the car? He is good everywhere else.

Answer:I would be surprised if he doesn’t resource guard other things as well – especially if your wife is involved. He also may have negative associations with people coming up to a car he has been in in the past. This isn’t uncommon and doesn’t necessarily mean that the trauma came from what was outside the car, it could have come from the people inside the car trying to stop him with punishment.

Management until trained: put him in a crate in the car, or get him a doggy seat belt for the back seat. He is never to be allowed in the front seat. Get a cheap used tennis racket and when he starts making noise or lunging, just put the tennis racket between him and whatever he is fussing about. Do not punish him as that is only adding fuel to the fire. His association becomes “when I see people outside the car, I get punished – so I better make sure they go away before the punishment comes”.

Teach him to stay in the back seat, that he’s no longer allowed in the front seat.

Teach him to remain sitting or laying down when in the car, never standing until invited out.

Blue needs to be hand fed (no food for him unless it comes directly from your hand or your wife’s hand – especially your wife as he is resource guarding her) for at least two months.

Work him on crate games for self control and impulse control (

Ask The Trainer - Biting Puppy

Question: Scooter has been with us since he was 14 weeks old. There were two boys (9 & 11) at his birth home. When we first brought him home he thought I was a chew toy and possibly a litter mate......he would grab my ankle or arm and try to wrestle me to the ground. He has been to puppy school, teen school and adult school....also had a private trainer. We have tried different types of collars(including a prong type),leashes and halters. Taking him to the vet is almost impossible, we can't get a muzzle on him and he will bite. He is very possessive of his food and anything that he knows he isn't supposed to have. He has bitten me and my husband...... Scooter weighs 76#......HELP!

Answer: There is no quick fix for this, there is however several things you can do right from the start to mitigate the need for Scooter to exert so much effort into controlling his environment. That’s really what is happening here. He is terrified of things that he can’t control and lashes out the only way he’s found to be effective.

#1. Get a crate, if you don’t already have one, and start playing crate games with him

#2. Follow the tough love program below.

#3. Temporarily cease using all known commands (sit, down, off, no, his name, and any other commands / words you use consistently to try and get him to behave). He has either negative associations with these words or he has learned that you don’t really mean what you’re saying.

#4. No yelling at him, poking him, jerking on his collar, or any other “corrective” type actions. Again, he has learned that they are fleeting and you don’t follow through. He has also learned behaviors that scare you into submission even when you’re trying to correct him. So all those corrections are now creating the behavior you are trying to stop.

Pre Program

1. Write down everything your dog does that is inappropriate.

2. Write down everything you would like your dog to do instead of what he does in #1

3. Write down everything your dog does that is a demand for something. This can be for play, food or attention.

4. Write down what your emotions are about your dogs demands.

5. Write down everything you love about your dog.
The program

1. NO free time. If he is not interacting with you, he is crated.

2. The only things he is allowed to chew on when he is not interacting with you is a bone or a thick knotted rope.

3. All meals are hand fed with the pushing method.

4. All exercise, all free time is done on leash or long line. Get a slip lead or a martingale (limited slip) collar. He is now immune to the pinch collar.

5. He is no longer allowed on the furniture.

6. He is no longer allowed in your lap.

7. Get him on a head halter or traffic lead and keep it on him at all times when he is outside his crate so that you have something to grab if necessary.

8. He receives nothing for free. All toys, interaction with you, food, attention or treats must be earned.

9. Interaction with any one is constructive play. Tugging, fetching (on the long line), trick training, scent detection - anything that is natural for a dog to do. Vizla’s especially respond to the flirt pole and fetching as they are mostly site hounds.

10. During all play with the other dogs, you must recall the dog every 5 minutes. If he doesn't recall, he goes back in the crate.

11. Any misbehavior, he goes back in the crate. Any resource guarding, he goes back in the crate with only a bone or a rope.
As he responds to this program and starts behaving during the times he is out of the crate, start returning some privileges to him – mostly time out of the crate to interact with you or just hang out.Never again free feed him and do pushing at least once a day for the rest of his life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quality of Life

While considering which of the E-list dogs I'm going to be fostering next, I was thinking this morning about the quality of life issue. What is quality for a dog? What makes it a good life? a rewarding, fullfilling, natural life?

For a human, it's pretty easy to figure out.  If there is happiness, and an abundance of those "things" a person feels are necessary to promote happiness, then the quality of life is good. IMO this is the wrong way to go about finding happiness and a quality of life, but this is the general consensus about what constitutes happiness and quality.

But dog's aren't into things, they are not into happiness as a concept per se - as a beingness yes, but not something they think about or ponder.  So what makes a dog happy and what constitutes a quality of life for a dog?

When I first bring home a foster dog - or even one I've adopted right off the bat - the first thing I do is introduce them to the space they will be living in.  This is done on leash so that they don't start seeking reinforcers from the start.  The first thing they learn is that I am the dispenser of all reinforcement and that if they want anything, they must come to me first.

Why is this important and how does it contribute to the quality of life of that (or any) dog?

Most behavior problems start with a dog's desire to have it's needs met.  Food, water, a place to sleep, play, and belonging to a social group.  These are the "things" that makes for a satisfied and "happy" dog in my experience.  Avoidance of pain and trauma is the other half of the equation. 

A dog by nature is a wonderful experimenter.  A dog will try a hundred behaviors to figure out how to get what it needs and wants.  Most times those experiments are NOT what a human would consider appropriate.  For instance - to stave off boredom in an empty backyard, a dog will most likely start digging and of course barking at everything that goes by.  Not activities that are approved of in the human world.

So the "happiness" that the dog has engineered for itself quickly becomes torture as the dog tries to relieve it's boredom and the humans try to stop the process of relief.  This stopping process can sometimes involve pain and trauma and send the dog into a fight or flight response.  Ever wonder why your dog jumps the fence to explore the wider world?

Happiness is also a choice.  Humans make this choice all the time.  Do I buy the fancy new car or send my kid to college?  Humans also make the choice to consider that quality is "things" and happiness is having "things" or entertainment.  In my world view, happiness is achieving goals.  Every time I set a goal and actually achieve it, I'm happy.  If I do this alot, the happiness never stops.  It doesn't matter much how much stuff I have, so long as I can live a life of accomplishment.  The goals don't have to be big things, activities that take a lot of time - they can be small things like teaching a dog to sit on cue for the very first time.

A dog appears to want happiness in the same way.  Every action a dog takes is in the achieving of a goal.  He sniffs the ground to find food / mates / friends / danger.  A dog chews a stick for stimulation, stress relief, and even for nutrition.  Each tiny behavior has a goal and achieving each of those goals brings a sense of satisfaction and fullfillment.  Isn't that what happiness should really be?

How do you provide an environment that will give your dog a quality of life?  Show your dog how to create appropriate experiments, learn to make approved choices in this mostly flat boring (for a dog) human world, give him a job to do, create goals and purposes for his life that allow him to live stress free in our world.  And most of all, give him a time every day where he can just be a dog doing dog things !!


What is fear? Fear is avoidance, even when "fight" is the behavior used for fear responses, it is still avoidance. The dog is avoiding any communication, ignoring all body language and insisting that the person, dog, thing that is feared go away. So how do you handle fear? Bring back the willingness to communicate.

Almost all reactive behavior issues are based in fear - including those that look like all out aggression. Reactive dogs are like Mad-eye Moody, they are always watching - watching for what may bite them - constantly alert. All that stress is what makes them a reactive dog. Hair trigger. They don't have any room left over to involve themselves in a decent engagement with a human or even other dogs.

How many of you have watched the video clips that I and others have posted here on FB that have a "ghost" or something scary pop out at you suddenly? Have you ever watched them more then once to get use to the suddeness? Try it, feel the emotions, the adrenaline, the body responses as you anticipate the "scare". Now apply that to a dog what is constantly looking for danger.

Think also of the avoidance that you may feel in going to back to find those video clips and the emotions and stress you might feel when contemplating viewin them again - the remembered response from the first time you watched it and were s...tartled or even frightened. Now try to imagine how your dog feels everytime it sees another dog and remembers the leash jerking hard on it's neck, the bite it got at the dog park, the kick it might have received by someone in it's past when just trying to play with another dog.

Fear is sometimes easy to recognize, but sometimes not. Dog owners often have difficulty recognizing that a problem is fear motivated because of their own fear when a dog does something dog like. Growling, snarling, snapping, barking fiercely are usually frightening to humans. But these are just canine communications - "you are scaring me, please move away". The most used method of handling this type of communication is to punish or discipline the dog - which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Punishment and intimidation increases the fear and suppresses the communication which makes behavior worse. This terrified dog now needs to escalate his threatening behavior to get his message across. If one keeps punishing and disciplining this dog, the next time is even worse. These methods do not change the emotional response of the dog, they don’t change what dog wants to do - create space between himself and the what is scaring him.

Judging others, putting labels on them, seems to be so easy for humans to do and they extend this courtesy to their dogs. "he's dominant", "she's alpha", "he's so aggressive (when the behavior is just growling)" - statements so common that I wonder how people can believe that these labels can help the dog. If you break it down - the dog, upon seeing another dog, tensed; as the strange dog approached I saw my dog lick her lips, put her ears back, and get a crease between her eyes and when the strange dog was 10 feet away she lunged at it. Breaking it down this way, and realizing that the basis of these behaviors are most likely fear and you can come up with a plan to return your dog to normal.

Few dogs are born with or raised to have self-control. They are taught impulse control and self control first by their mothers, then by their siblings as they start their education in the form of play and mock fights and lastly by other adult dogs who are part of their social group.

Our job is to teach a dog self control and how to live in a human world without stress. We rescue the dogs that end up in the pound because of behavior problems, or at least perceived behavior problems. Now we make them adoptable, through medical treatment for illnesses and training for self control and confidence. This particular piece of training is for the dog who has learned that he can only get his way with a bite. He has run the gamut of snarl, growl, lunge, air bite, floor them while growling furiously and then finally – a bite. This dog, through fear and insecurity, has figured out that if you act first the other dogs or the humans go away and leave you alone. All of the self and impulse control that he learned in puppyhood is gone and it's our job to bring him back to stability - especially considering it was our responsibility in the first place to teach him about our world.