Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Addition - Trampolines!!!


Training can help with the relationship you have with your dog, depending on the method used, but it’s not a guarantee that you will create a great relationship with your dog with just training.
Relationship is more than the 20 to 40 minutes a day we spend trying to teach our dogs to do un-natural behaviors or instinctive behaviors in unnatural ways. You cannot build a relationship using only your training time. Training is an important part of it but it's far from being the whole thing.

A relationship is about discovering who your dog “is” and who you are in relation to your dog. There are a million different ways to interact with your dog that have nothing to do with "training". It's the little things that truly build a relationship.  It's day to day living and interacting within the framework of your life, that builds a relationship.  It's no different then what you've built with your husband, wife, best friend or sister. 

Joy is found in every day life.  If the only joy you allow your dog is part of the training package, you will end up with a dog who doesn't know how to live in your world without stress.  Bring joy into both your lives and build a relationship that transcends training.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Help My Dog Is Out Of Control (or is it my trainer who's out of control?)

This morning I reposted a couple of my training ads on Craigs List.  Not 10 minutes had gone by when one of the local shock collar/ aversive trainers flagged the post and put up a smart ass post about how positive reinforcement training and behaviorists are full of crap.

Since this blog is really here for me to let off steam and the ones who actually follow this blog know this - here is my response:

It's really funny that someone who attended a 6 week class either a year ago or so says something like this. I guess 40 years of experience, 5 years at a University and continual study mean nothing so long as you have a diploma for learning 30 things in 6 weeks.
Definitely check out your trainers, don't rely on self proclaimed results. NO ONE gets 100% and sometimes that "rehabilitation" is really just a dog that has been so beaten down with "corrections" "stims from an electronic training collar" "or forced no matter what to comply".
It goes both ways here. I get tons of people from trainers like this who are totally dissatisfied with the results because they can't reproduce them at home or because they didn't actually work. Sure, there are some of my clients who go to trainers like this - the ones looking for a magic wand, the ones who don't care what they do to their dog to "fix" the problem - the ones who refuse to do any work themselves and expect someone else to do it.

Does my way take longer? No. But it does last because it's not just beating the dog down but actually teaching a dog something. Is obedience not part of my lexicon? NO, I teach much much more then just 6 commands of sit, down, stay, come, heel and stand - but I teach them also. I teach self control, confidence, focus, and a plethora of behaviors (what trainers like this one call tricks) that assist a dog in knowing how to live in a human world.
A little history here. Dogs have been working partners to man for 1000's of years. Obedience training didn't come about until WWII when the military needed dogs trained fast fast fast and obedience training was the result - all with the use of force, compulsion, privation, and pain. The history of the argument between trainers who use force, intimidation and pain and those who use rewards is nearly as long as the history of dogs working with humans.

So do your homework, don't just look at the surface, check out the trainers that interest you thoroughly and make sure you can live with the methods they choose to use. Any training will work - but is it worth the result?

I am proud to actually say who I am and what I believe in - is he? Or does he hide the actual methods that he uses behind words like "rehabilitation", "balanced", "it's just a tap on the shoulder".

PS: You'll notice that he flagged my post and yet I haven't flagged his and won't. Is his sour grapes really that he believes he is right or is he just afraid of competition?

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Dog Does Not Come Pre-Programmed

Why won’t my dog do "that"?

When I'm not working with dogs, playing with dogs or sleeping, I am programming web applications for the fitness and health industry. Those who know that I do this, ask me often "why won't my computer do that?" I've been a programming since the early 80's, before PC's became popular and long before the Internet and I've never had a computer that was pre programmed to do what I wanted it to do. It's easier now of course, computers come from the store with software already installed for a variety of purposes. But unless you've used those programs or programs very similar before, there is a learning process that you have to go through.

Why is it that people think that both dogs and computers come pre programmed to cater to their every whim?

Why are a lot of people shocked when the adult dog they adopt and even the puppy they bring home barely weaned, doesn't know how to sit, stay, get off the couch and even not pee in the house? Dogs, unfortunately, do not come pre-programmed to do those things one sees other dogs doing. What they DO come pre-programmed to do is bark, play, bite, poop, pee, whine, lick, dig, scratch, roll in things, jump, wrestle, and trot much faster then we can walk. Dogs do have programming, just as all living things on this planet do - it's in the genes as potential and only manifests if the environment demands it.

We have got to remember that we are asking our dogs to live in a world that we created not the natural world they evovled to operate in. Even dispite 1000's of years of domestication, the genes remember and survival is paramount. We are asking our dogs to have patience and "wait" or "stay" even though there is no rabbit hole. We are asking them to do things just because we want them to not because there is survival involved. In short, we expect dogs to be more human then we are.

To go back to the parallel with computers. Many of my clients over the years have asked me to create software that will make their lives easier or that they can sell to others making lots of lives easier. Most of these programs have involved millions of lines of code, complex algorhythms, all with user friendliness on the front end. None of the projects I've done have been shorter then a year and that one was a simple program that kept track of inventory, ordering and sales of that inventory. When I say simple, that's in comparison to most of the other software I've created. But even that client could not understand why it took so long when he could have done it all with pencil and paper in much less time. What he didn't figure on was that sure, it took only a few days to figure out what to order based on prior sales and what was in inventory at that time, but he had to take those few days every time he needed that information.

Just like with dogs, we are asking our computers to be more then human, to do all those things for us that we don't have the time or energy or inclination to do. People seem to expect a dog to come to them with programs already written - go get my slippers, get me a bear, sit, stay, down, roll over. Second to that, people don't want to take the time to train their dogs, they want trainers to do it. There are many trainers with ads that read "leave your dog with us for 2 weeks and get back a perfect robot". They are never told that that training will never stick if not worked on in life, they are never told that they will have to bring the dog back for a refresher every year.

Seize The Leash Fall/Winter/Spring Schedule

7:30Backyard Sports & Games ClassReactive Dog ClassLife Without A LeashReactive Dog ClassCanine Life and Social Skills
9:00Puppy ClassRally ObediencePuppy ClassShy Dog & Confidence Building Workshop
4:00Socialization & Leash Handling Skills ClassSocialization & Leash Handling Skills ClassSocialization & Leash Handling Skills ClassSocialization & Leash Handling Skills ClassSocialization & Leash Handling Skills Class
5:30AgilityShy Dog & Confidence Building WorkshopCanine Life and Social SkillsLife Without A LeashBackyard Sports & Games Class
7:00Rally Obedience

Friday, September 14, 2012

Relieving stress - handling the cause, not the symptoms.

Take yourself back in time, back to the jungle, and there's a tiger in your path. Your senses sharpen, your muscles prepare for battle, your breathing increases to feed oxygen to your muscles, your heart beats faster. All of this happens to increase your response to danger. All of this happens as a response to the stress of seeing a tiger. Once you throw your spear, all that tension releases along with the lifeblood of the tiger.

Today, you are stuck behind a desk while your boss maligns your work, or you are stuck behind the wheel of your car while an SUV cuts you off causing you to swerve dangerously into another lane. Modern culture doesn't allow you to throw a spear to release the tension, so eight hours later, when you get home from a stressful day, you kick the dog, or if you are smart, you play a round of golf, go to the gym or take the dog for a run. Exercise can help in the release of stress.

Now take yourself on a walk with your dog. She is attached to a leash by law usually about 6 feet long. Another dog and human approach from the opposite direction. It's your friend Bob so you stop to talk. Three things are now going to happen to the two dogs 1) they get bored standing around 2) they either want to sniff each other, play or run off after the cat they smell and 3) stress builds up from the frustration of knowing they can't move more then 6 feet away from the humans. If these two dogs try and relieve that stress in any way, the humans have (in the "traditional" method) been encouraged to correct the dogs and make sure the dogs stays completely still. The stress level rises in both dogs and eventually explodes if the talking and standing still goes on for too long. The time period could be minutes or days or weeks before the explosion happens. It all depends on how much the stress builds and what activities the dogs have to relieve that stress during each day. It also depends on other triggers for stress that the dogs encounter during each day and whether that stress can be released as well.

Like humans and because dogs live in a human world, dogs cannot act as their ancesters once did. In our world a dog cannot flee because it's either attached to a leash, confined to a yard or other small space, or backed into a corner in the living room by a well meaning stranger looking for puppy breath. In our world a dog is discouraged from hunting the neighbors cat, digging holes in the garden looking for moles and howling and barking at the smells on the wind looking for companionship.

Chewing, whining, barking, pacing, spinning, digging and aggression are all responses to stress. All of these behaviors will release the tension of stress and are used by dogs to do so. None of these behaviors are acceptable to most humans - especially aggression.

There are many methods in the dog training world that deal with these "symptoms" of stress. You have the assertive crowd who use shock collars, prong collars, rolled up newspapers, choke chains, spray bottles of vinegar or citronella, bark collars, electric fences and a host of other tools that cause pain, fear, intimidation or shutdown in the dog. You have the "positive" crowd that teaches an alternate behavior to the chewing, whining, barking, jumping, etc.. You have the serious crowd who use slow, careful counter conditioning and desensitization methods to change the behavior, to change the response to stress causing stimuli. All of these are reactive - the humans are reacting to the behaviors they don't like, dealing with the "symptoms" of a deeper issue which goes, with most trainers, unnoticed.  Most of these methods actually increase the stress load in a dog, hidden underneath the alternate behaviors, the avoidance behaviors created by the assertive crowd and the actual introduction of the triggers that are cuasing the stress by the serious trainers.

Reduce or elminate if possible the triggers that cause stress, institute a regimen of calming exercises, confidence exericises and a detox that actually reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body and you will reduce and eventually eliminate the overt signs of stress.  The "symptoms" need only be addressed if they are life threatening, and only to the point of reducing the threat.