One of the best things about being a WDJ product review writer is having the opportunity to play with all the fun stuff that we review. As a professional trainer, it helps me in my business, too, to be able to try out new products before I invest in them myself (or encourage my clients to buy them). So it was with great interest and curiosity that I agreed to test products designed to keep dogs “off” or “away from” forbidden furniture, counters, or other areas of the house. I must have been temporarily senile; for a moment I forgot how very opposed I am to most aversive training tools. When the products arrived and I removed them from the box I immediately realized my ethical dilemma.
Training, says Massachusetts dog trainer Donna Duford, should be fun, not work. Her seminars are such upbeat, tail-wagging events that the dogs seem to be having a party. Look closer and you’ll see a serious class, with participants taking notes as Duford reviews the laws of learning and defines classical conditioning, operant conditioning, positive and negative reinforcement, positive and negative punishment, continuous and variable reinforcement schedules, and other fundamentals of behavioral training.
All dogs love a gentle pat on the shoulder or the rump. To them it can be a signal of a job well done or simply an indication of our affection. Touch strengthens the bond between dog and owner and is a basic building block of the canine-human relationship. We have already considered effleurage, the open-hand technique that resembles smooth petting strokes yet does so much for the dog’s circulation, relaxation, and balance. Compression, another open-hand technique, also affords enjoyable physical contact between you and your dog while providing important health benefits to your canine friend.
Sixteen years ago, Karen Pryor’s paradigm-shifting paperback book, “Don’t Shoot The Dog,” made an unobtrusive entrance into the dog training world, drilling the first noticeable hole in the massive dike of traditional, force-based training. Over the years, dog owners and trainers with positive training philosophies thirsted for more information. The response was a maddeningly slow trickle of books and videos, most notably from Ian Dunbar, Karen Pryor, and Gary Wilkes.
All dogs instinctively know how to stretch and do so with great enjoyment. Dogs stretch without fail upon awakening and whenever the mood strikes during the rest of the day. Who hasn’t watched a dog inch his front paws out in front of him as far as possible leaning into the stretch until it literally ripples along the length of his trunk? When the stretch finally reaches the hips, the hind legs are extended far behind the body in what appears to be total ecstasy. The dog completes the routine by dropping to his elbows and stretching the back in a doggy bow that temporarily elevates the rump. Then, the hindquarters flop to the floor in a grand finale to the stretch.
My husband and I acquired two (temporary) canine foundlings last week. Julie is a five-month-old purebred Akita puppy that we rescued from our local shelter, where her cage card identified her as a Shepherd/Husky mix. Her prospects for adoption were dismal, given that the shelter euthanizes 85-90 percent of incoming animals. Our second castaway, Princess, is a three-year-old Beagle mix. My husband and I were driving down a busy highway when we spotted her, hunched in the middle of the road, defecating while cars swerved around her on both sides. Princess was wearing a collar and tag, but her owners had moved, and she ended up staying at our house for several days while we tracked down their new phone number and location.
I have a 1 1/2 year old Labrador Retriever. She is very smart – and very stubborn! My husband and I have been to puppy school, obedience school and we have also worked with a personal trainer. She does the “normal” puppy things – jumping up when I come home from work and when people come to visit, etc. But one of the reasons we went to the trainer was because she seemed to be exhibiting some aggressive tendencies.
Caper was a Spuds McKenzie-style Bull Terrier mix – white with a rakish black eye. She spent the first 18 months of her life running free in the small California coastal community of Bolinas, where resident dog owners eschewed leashes and threw bottles at trucks driven by animal services officers. As happens all too often with dogs who are given too much freedom, the energetic terrier got into trouble – she nipped a small child who tried to play with her on the beach. I adopted Caper upon her release from bite quarantine at the Marin Humane Society more than 20 years ago, and immediately enrolled her in an obedience class.
Help! My dog has the most disgusting habit: eating feces! She’ll eat her own, that of other dogs, cat poop, you name it. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t take her off leash at the park; she spend her whole time trying to find some to eat, and scarfing it down greedily when she sees me running to stop her. What is UP with this?
I first met Lucy at my local monthly “My Dog Can Do That” competition in January of 1998, at the SPCA in Monterey, California. She was easy to spot – a merle Great Dane with lovely natural ears, who literally towered above the competition. Lucy was attentive, responsive, performed even the most advanced MDCDT behaviors with ease, and consistently placed in the ribbons. It surprised me, then, when a few months later I heard Lucy had started threatening humans, and her aggression was escalating. This was not appropriate behavior for any dog, but particularly disturbing in one of Lucy’s size, with her potential for causing serious harm.
Because we feel deeply that dog training should be pleasurable and effective, and because we have personally witnessed innumerable successful demonstrations of completely pain- and fear-free training, we have taken the position that training tools and methods that inflict pain are inferior (a strong word, we know) to those that do not.
and Wow! Sandy says