Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Punishing Phone Call

I received an inquiry call this afternoon regarding training services for this persons brothers dog. The person that called is from out of state. She asked what type of training I offered, and what methods I use. I confirmed what my Web site says: positive reinforcement, reward based training. These are the highlights of the conversation:
  • Caller: "Oh, you use treats."
  • Me:"I use whatever the animal finds rewarding, whether it be food, toys, attention, games etc... You can use anything the animal finds motivating as a reward."
  • Caller: "So do you use those electric collars? The ones that shock the dog?"
  • Me: "No." (I was perplexed, she said she read my Web site)
  • Caller: "Well, my brother has a pit bull who is getting more aggressive. And we've already tried the training with treats and that didn't work. So now we're going to go the other route. Do you know anyone who does that type of training in your area?" 
  • Me: "Uuhhh...  --- No, I don't."
Okay, There were SO many words, statements, proclamations flying into my brain wanting to come out my mouth at one time, I didn't know where to I just bit my tongue and remained professional. After all, it would be hypocritical of me to use positive punishment, especially against someone I was trying to convince not to use herself.

I find it appalling that in this day and age humans still resort to this type of treatment of animals, expecting that they would actually learn something and learn it well. Allow me to make two remarks about this type of "training":
  • Violence begets violence
  • There is nature vs nurture, but animals are a product of their environment. 
By the sound of her voice, she was in no mood to have any type of argument. She had made her decision, and that was that. She certainly didn't want to get into some philosophical discussion on the humane treatment of animals, and the better way of training. Sure, it might take a little longer on our part, but in the long run it pays off really well. 

I can almost guarantee one hundred percent that reward-based training didn't make this poorly misunderstood dog "aggressive". I wanted to ask what the brother (or whomever has been with the dog) was doing in between training sessions? Or, if they were using other methods along with the treats... 

That's a big misconception too...trainers that use "treats" but then alpha roll the dog or collar correct or squirt them with water.... Hello??? That's like a spouse coming home, smacking their mate around, then buying them flowers! Talk about confusing... 

My only hope is that she didn't find such a trainer...and that the next person she spoke with didn't bit their tongue. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Inquisitive Canine Now Soaring Proudly With NOOZHAWK!

Wow! Talk about exciting and completely positively rewarding! My rambling, opinionated, common sense,  and dare I say slightly smart-aleck mouth (and fingers) has proven to be an advantage once again! Yep, that's right! I'm expanding outside the world of blogging and adding the very informative, local, online news Web site Noozhawk to my ventures - in a new column called "Ask the Trainer"...

Since a young girl my mother had encouraged me to speak up, take risks, take a chance (as long as I was safe - nothing crazy or illegal mind you), and "go for it". She would say "What's the worst that could happen, someone might say no?" Well, I admit it sort of backfired in junior high when I asked a boy to a dance, but finally, after all these years, it worked for me! Someone said "yes"!

It all started when the very smart, business savvy, and open-minded Chris Donahue first made contact with me... Although he had called to inquire about something unrelated, I decided to take a chance and ask if he and the publisher/owner of Noozhawk Bill Macfayden, would be interested in a "dog behavior advice column"? I'd always wanted to take the Q&A moments from my everyday dog trainer/coach life, and put it out there for the whole world to see. 

Along with my moms voice in my head, there were Lorrie Thomas's and Emilia Doerr's voices in my head too... they've encouraged me to "own my expertise" and "sell it!" - talk about great Web Marketing Therapy

So thanks to all of them, and my desire to share my advice and opinions with the world, I am now the proud writer of the Noozhawk pet column "Ask the Trainer"! The column will run on Fridays and repeat Saturdays. If you have any specific training and behavior questions about your dog, or a dog you know, or a dog you're thinking of getting, please feel free to write to me - your question just might end up on Noozhawk

Wishing you all the self confidence you need to own your expertise, in whatever you do! 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Impulse Control Issues: this dog trainer has them too

Okay, so my lovely sidekick Poncho has totally busted me! He was just posting one of his great answers he adapted from our Noozhawk advice column, and mentioned the "Sees" incident, so I guess I need to come clean. 

Yes, I admit it, similar to dogs and counter-surfing, I have impulse control issues too... Although, I've been able to restrain myself most of the time, once in awhile, my morals both my husband and dog have pointed out. 

We were out and about on my husbands birthday - enjoying our time in Santa Barbara (Poncho wrote about this too), and I thought I'd stop for a Sees lollipop on our way home - this is my dessert...they last longer and taste good. I know, it was my hubby's birthday, but he wanted to be nice...and didn't mind stopping. 

Now, just to make it clear, my husband doesn't like chocolate - or any candy for that matter. I know, at first I thought this was weird, but then I realized "more for me!" Anything he gets, he gives to me... Yea!!! 

If you've ever been to Sees you know they give out samples - wow! Talk about positive reinforcement!!! HELLO??? How great is that!? And how smart are they!!! The perfect positive association, right? No wonder they do so well! 

Anyway, I only buy the lollipops, nothing else, although my favorite treat there is the chocolate covered ginger...and hey I'll eat most every sample they give me - I don't though, not usually. But that day, yes, that day was different. Celebrating birthdays, outings to Santa Barbara, ran a lot over the weekend...I deserved it gosh darn-it. So I lied! Yes, me, the always responsible, always truthful, lied! 

They were giving away the chocolate covered vanilla cream, which I took ever so easily, AND asked for a sample of the favorite - saying it was for my husband who was outside with Poncho! OMG I totally used him as my excuse knowing full well that he wasn't going to taste one miniscule drop! 

This wasn't pre-mediated... just impulsive on my part. I was going to wait until after dinner...but lo and behold there was a traffic jam, so to help with my mood in the car, I ate them...both of them! Once again, impulsive behavior... And ya know what? They were great! Totally hit the spot! It was worth every impulsive act, every lie, and every calorie!

Impulsive? Yes. Normal behaviors of humans? For many of us, yes. So there ya go Poncho, I confessed. As Poncho's dad has pointed out, my morals finally broke down... I guess we all have our least no one got hurt. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Obama's Narrow Down Their Decision: which puppy is right for them?

First of all, I think it sets a great example for the public that the Obamas are looking to adopt their dog from a shelter. Dogs are the products of their environment, and if a dog is raised in a loving home with loving hands, that dog can be a healthy, happy and loving member of their family, regardless of pedigree.

And it's also great that the President-elect has been doing his homework. However, it is important for Obama to keep in mind that breed descriptions and terms used by the AKC are all very subjective. Yes, many dogs are bred for specific traits and for carrying out certain tasks and activities. Their breed specifics will make that DNA a little stronger in some areas than other. But a dog's breed won't dictate personality - just like how you wouldn't say a person is friendly, reserved or aggressive based on their nationality or ethnic background.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm not breed biased. First and foremost their doggy DNA makes them dogs. And I know that you can train and teach a dog to love or hate almost anything. In fact, you can train any animal to do anything they are physically and mentally capable of doing.

So the most important thing for the Obamas to consider is how the dog will fit in with their lifestyle. While they must be able to provide the dog with legal outlets for the innate behaviors that it was bred for, they must also remember that dogs are living breathing creatures that have individual personalities! They're NOT inanimate objects like furniture, cars and computers that you can shop for through a catalog. I am a strong believer that dogs should be adopted based on personality, behavior, and demeanor. How a dog reacts at your first meeting is a better indicator of how it will fit into your lifestyle than the history of how the dog was bred. It's best to pay attention to what the dog is doing, not what you think it should or might do based upon breed alone. 

And if they are considering adopting a puppy, they need to think about proper socialization and dog training focused on preventing behavioral issues. It's just like when the Obamas had their children, they had to think about consistency in parenting and all the various responsibilities associated with taking care of another life in the long term. They had to baby proof their home, among other things. And with a puppy, they will have to puppy proof their home and know how to manage the responsibilities of raising a healthy and happy puppy. 

From what I’ve seen, the Obamas seem like a real traditional family that’s big on responsibility (Malia and Sasha will be making their own beds in the White House!) and they will remain focused on instilling values in their children to encourage them to be productive. Kudos to them for being such responsible parents! 

So they need to think about the dog's needs - Will the girls be brushing and grooming the dog regularly? Will Barack Obama run with the dog 5 miles or have the Secret Service pulling doggy exercising duties?

And finally, they have to think about taking care of the dog's needs in the long run. The dog will likely outlive Obama's presidential administration, even if he serves two terms. So the dog will be with them long after they leave the White House. And if the kids leave for college, Barack and Michelle will have an adult dog to take care of even though their daughters have moved away. So it's important for them to consider their immediate lifestyle as well as what their future holds.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We humans are the worst hosts ever!

OMG it occurred to me tonight while cooking dinner for my hubby and myself, that we humans are horrible hosts when it comes to our dogs! 

Let's face it, our human world and all of our customs revolve around food. Am I right? Everywhere we go, everything we watch, everywhere we turn there is something about food. Someone dies, we bring food. A baby is born, we bring food. Someone is ill, we bring food. We have meetings, there is food offered. Friends visit, we offer food. Family visits, we offer food. Food-food-food!!! Parties, potlucks, three course meals, drive-through... OMG it's everywhere! And aside from standing in longs lines during the holiday season, there isn't much "hunting" going on... it's all easily accessible. 

So why is it we get so angry and frustrated when our dogs want to get in on part of the action, huh??? Is it because they don't understand our concept of the ever-loving "potluck"? Yes, there are dogs that offer up "presents". You know, items they've stalked and hunted etc...but to actually bring something to us that we could share at a party, I think not. They would more likely be the ones eating everything, and enjoying themselves, and maybe even licking the plates clean... but that's about it for contributing. 

After I've put myself in my own dogs position, looking at the world through his eyes, seeing us eating large meals with lots of "prey" animals, and him getting his Tricky Treat Ball of kibble and a bowl of vegetables, I say "Poncho, I'm sorry. I won't give you a hunk of daddy's filet mignon, at least not tonight". If there is some leftover, I will use it to my advantage. Maybe when the mailman is around, because I want you to enjoy the mailman bringing the mail. Or the UPS truck, Harrison, or FedEx...but certainly not for free, giving it away willy-nilly. 

I will however be happy to bring any potluck item Poncho wants, as long as he's organizing the party or cooking the meal, until then...I guess it's enrichment for him and earning the higher value items during training with me

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Canine College at Ventura College Community Education begins next month!

Ventura College Community Education course is now open for registration. Class is being offered twice this semester. Please check out their Web site for details and to enroll your dog in one or both sessions.

For additional information you may visit our Web site, or contact us via email or phone.

Happy 2009 to all Inquisitive Canine's
and their Inquisitive Owners!

We look forward to seeing you and your dog in the new year!
Joan and her inquisitive canine Poncho
Trainer ~ Counselor ~ Coach