Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to school!

How exciting! I was just hired to take over the dog training classes here in Ventura through the Ventura College Community Education program! I start this Thursday! The class is similar to my course I teach at my own studio - all positive reinforcement - focusing on the behaviors we want from our dogs (not what we don't want...) I can't wait to get started!

Friday, June 20, 2008

All choked up over this question:

I was having a discussion on the use of choke chains with dogs - and the question came up about using them on stronger dogs, especially Pit Bull Terriers. Let me say this first: 1) I love Pit Bulls. 2) I am NOT breed biased. Doggy DNA is doggy DNA - they all have the propensity to act like dogs whether they be a teacup chihuahua or an american pit bull terrier. The difference is obvious when it comes to the injury itself, and in that: size does matter... This is what I told my friend who asked the innocent question of using them on APBT's (she lives in a big big city with APBT's everywhere...and she doesn't own a dog's okay, she's still really cool)... Anyway, this was my answer for her:

but what if you have a pitbull in brooklyn (there are millions!)? just askin.. > Are you kidding? Please allow me to pass on some info: "all" animals learn the same way- So, if you have a 6' 8" athletic boxer, or a 3' tall little girl, a lion, a tiger, a bear, a fish, a hamster, cat, or Pit Bull Terrier - all will learn the same way - The way that humans use choke chains for training places them (the collars) under the "Learning by Consequence" path - Based on the consequences of the animals own behavior you can either give them something they want, or take it away - or you can give them something they don't want, or remove it, or prevent it from happening. (BF Skinner come to mind here?) Anyway, the more *humane* techniques are: give something they want, or take it away - like sports (three strikes, penalty box, and that whole deal)... Dog sits = he gets a treat and gets to say *hi* to person - Dog jumps up = dog doesn't get treat and doesn't get to say hello to person. 

Choke chains, prong collars, squirt bottles, jerking the collar (collar corrections), electronic shock collars, citronella collars - all of these *positive punishment* techniques are threats, considered abusive, and only motivate the dog out of pain and fear! Plus, they only focus in on what you DON'T WANT, not what you do want... If you were involved with someone that walked around with a belt in their hand, ready to hit you with it if you did something THEY didn't like, and only paid attention when you were doing something *wrong* (only in their eyes mind you - could be a normal behavior of yours...) how long would you stay with this person? 

As I mentioned above choke chains (and the like) are used for the purpose of "Consequence Learning". However, both types of learning are taking place at the same time (the "emotional" learning by association path), and thus creates a main reason for dog aggression to start - but that's a different email (post)...I'll let you digest this one first. 

This is just some of the info I talk about in my classes and workshops here in Ventura... you to can learn more about this path of learning, and well as the other - stronger path... You and your dog will love it! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Positively rewarding for me!

Wow! Talk about rewarding... As you probably already know, I LOVE MY JOB! I'm so passionate about being a dog trainer and behavior counselor! Last Sunday was the start of my new round of Manners Classes... I offer both Puppy and Adult dogs and their families. Sunday was the orientation, so I combined both groups...and what a great group it was!!! There was a total of fourteen families that attended! Everyone asked great questions, participated in answering my questions... and laughed at my jokes (that's always appreciated)... I find this to be so rewarding...just like the methods I teach you to teach your dogs to get the behaviors you want! I can't wait to see all the doggies this Sunday!

If you are interested in classes, or other services I offer, please contact me. I'd love to hear from you...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Positively SHOCKING!!!

I don't get it... I really don't. As you all know, I am a dog trainer and behavior counselor that uses what's called Positive Reinforcement training methods. Just to clarify, this doesn't mean that I don't use "punishment". Of course I do... but not in the same as what I call old fashioned training methods. 

"Old fashioned" methods tend to use what an animal would find fearful or intimidating - jerking a choke chain to get them to stop pulling or barking, or in one of the worst cases, an electronic shock collar to get them to stop barking (or running off etc...). All I can say right now is "OH MY GOD!!!" How does "shocking" an animal get them to "learn" anything, except maybe not to trust humans! Is this not abuse? 

Would we do this to humans for every day life teachings??? (Yes, there is something called electroconvulsive therapy for humans who suffer from severe depression and other psych related and neurological disorders, but it is applied in well monitored clinical settings using very strict guidelines...not willy nilly)

I received a call the other day from a young woman who has a "reactive" dog. She told me she tried prong collars, choke chains, squirt bottles, and physical punishment... (hmm, I was hoping she would be able to figure out on her own why her dog developed this reactivity)... Anyway, she then said her sister uses an electronic collar for her own dog - and that one of the younger kids got hold of the remote that delivers the shock. The child was having fun just pushing buttons, but didn't realize what the device was for. Can you picture what this poor animal went through? Does this seem like a good idea for training - or for anything else? Maybe a pacemaker or defibrillator, but that would be about it. 

I'm simply shocked myself that our society 1) uses these items 2) allows anyone to buy one... You wouldn't keep a loaded gun out in the open with children around (I hope), so why would you use something as dangerous as a shock collar...? 

Something for this inquisitive canine dog mom to ponder...