Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting All Choked Up Over the Use of Coercion in Dog Training

Maybe it's the latest applied behavior analysis class I've just taken, maybe it's the decongestant and antihistamine stupor I'm in, but it occurred to me, just now, that maybe I need to try a new approach when speaking to those who still prefer to use choke, prong and Citronella collars to train their dogs.

Being of the positive reinforcement, humane, least intrusive approach to training dogs type of dog trainer, this means when I hear or see people go to the dark side, I try to get them to come on over to my camp, usually by explaining and demonstrating all of the wonderful and simple techniques such as shaping, lure and reward, with or without the use of a clicker. This is what I teach in my dog training classes, private dog training clients, and of course all throughout my dog training game!

But sometimes humans don't want to listen; I guess they might find it to be punishing. So instead of all of that, how about if I ask them this: How does it make you feel, deep down inside, when you choke, yank, coerce, yell at, berate, or cause harm to your dog just to get them to do what you want? Do you find it to be fulfilling and reinforcing to yourself? Or, as when one person called me today, do you feel bad inside about doing things like that to your dog?

If you feel bad about it, then I encourage you to dump the aversive techniques and try something different! Simple steps such as:
  • Reward behaviors you like and want! Praise, belly rubs, games of fetch and tug, or giving your dog a part of their meal - all will send a message of "I love when you do that!" And you'll get more of that behavior.
  • Manage your dogs environment so they're less likely to perform those undesired behaviors.
  • Provide outlets for your dog to let all of those doggy behaviors out!
Trust me, these three simple steps will help anyone achieve baby steps to their final goals. If you know someone who prefers the dark side, you might want to take that first step and forward them this information - who knows, you might find helping others to be reinforcing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are Dog Breed Biases Really History Repeating Itself?

As a society, isn't it time people use their critical thinking skills and take the time to get educated? The dog picture is of a Pit Bull Terrier - before all of the body altering. Remember: nature, nurture, and above all, a product of our environment. Violence begets violence! Banning breeds isn't going to make people smarter - just more fearful. It's time to educate in order to help prevent fear and ignorance from driving our decision making.

For more information on Pit Bull's including rescue information and how you can help, please visit Pit Bull Rescue website.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Are We Breeding Shelter Dogs?

I've been up in Oakland at the APDT annual conference for the past few days. Yesterdays Fear and Anxiety in Dogs symposium had some good information, but one topic I'm quite passionate about is the issues with dogs ending up in shelters. Whose fault is it? In my professional certified dog trainer opinion, it's certainly not the dogs.

I don't believe it's anyones intention for dogs to end up in shelters, even breeders. Just like when parents have children, I'm sure it's never their intention to breed criminals - but it happens. Unlike humans though, dogs often aren't provided an environment where they can make choices we want them to make. They're left to fend for themselves, then get blamed and in trouble for acting like a dog - humans get frustrated, then they take the dog to the shelter attaching labels like "My dog it aggressive and dominant, I can't deal with him (or her) any more."

What can be done? Prevention and Socialization!!! Sure, puppy training classes and basic dog training classes are great, but it needs to go beyond the basic 6-session dog obedience class. Just like humans go through a multitude of developmental stages, so do our dogs. It doesn't stop at just one class.
  • Teach dogs behaviors they need to exist in our human world. And continue reinforcing those skills learned.
  • What items to chew on and when.
  • How to be alone and entertain themselves through enrichment programs designed for dogs.
  • Meet and greet hundreds of humans while they're young pups, and again continue allowing them to meet new people, in different places and in different situations.
  • CONTINUE socialization during adolescence so they can continue learning and adapting to their environment.
  • Understand what normal behaviors are for dogs.
For many of these dogs it's the environment they are born into, and are raised in, that is often the cause for the issues that land them in the shelters - so again this falls back onto the shoulders of the humans that have the most influence over them and their quality of life. I only wish that some day there are universal training protocols, "Gold Standards" if you will, for dog training. Until then it's wise to be critical thinkers, use common sense, and plan for how to raise a healthy and happy dog in order to keep them out of the shelter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Holiday Gift Boutique a Benefiting Ventura Humane Society Sunday November 15th

The Inquisitive Canine is happy to report that we will be hosting our second annual Holiday Gift Boutique benefiting our local Ventura County Humane Society. It was such a success last year, we've decided to have it again!

A few details of the event:
Each vendor will be donating a percentage of their sales to the Ventura County Humane Society. Participants include:
The Inquisitive Canine store items will also be on sale for this event - great time to purchase holiday gifts for your canine companions! We look forward to seeing you there!