Carol Price – Collie Psychology: A Review

In part, uneducated, disproven, unkind, and in places downright nonsense.  Let me elaborate:

Collie Psychology

I was quite excited when I first learned about ‘Collie Psychology’.  I have one of Carol Price’s earlier books ‘Understanding the Border Collie’, and while it’s of an age that means it has a lot of old-school talk that we now know is no longer relevant, it still contains some good information for those who are able to see past the pseudo-science.

I was hoping that her new book would be bang-up-to-date, with lots of great information on progressive reinforcement training; perhaps some discussion on why outdated training methods and tools worked, but also the issues they cause; reasons why she has “moved with the times” in her training ethos and tools of choice; and suggestions for resources to help others who are interested in learning and expanding their knowledge, alongside lots of great collie information.

Sadly, I’ve only made it a quarter of the way through the book and I’m giving it up as a bad job.  While the section on finding a good breeder is a true gold-star piece of writing that should be held up for everyone with even a passing interest in dogs to absorb, the rest of the book is filled – mostly – with the same out-dated clap-trap.

She makes aggression in puppies sound like an everyday event (growling is during play, for instance, but actual aggression is not); there’s also a fair amount of anthropomorphic fluff about puppies and dogs “disrespecting” their humans, when an understanding of learning theory would show that is not at all the case.

The section on training has a diatribe on why, how, and when to use a “correction command”, when – again – a little bit of education would show the writer there’s no need for such hostility, especially towards a young puppy.  There’s very little discussion on setting the puppy (or dog) up in the home so that he or she is unable to make mistakes, but lots of talk about what to “correct”, and how.

When she gets to actually teaching the puppy/dog and adding cues (which she insists on calling “commands”, for some unknown reason) to behaviours, she suggests people use a gesture and word cue a the same time; this is known as “overshadowing”, and when behaviours are trained with overshadowed cues it means the dog either does not listen at all to the verbal cue, or takes much longer than necessary to learn it.  She also completely fails to mention using a marker during training, meaning that – once again – the training will not progress as quickly as it could.

Not once in this section does she suggest than an owner might want to find a reputable training class to take their puppy or dog to, although she has no issues with pointing out that owners, especially those who are novice either to the breed or to dogs in general, are bound to make mistakes(!) – something a competent training instructor would not only be working to eliminate in every dog/handler team, but they could also provide personal guidance on what to do (or not do!) to help both human and canine understand, and complete, the exercise.

However, the things that really finished this book off for me were the following: –
1) her suggestion on “sticking out your leg” (AKA tripping the dog up) when he or she pulls on the lead;
2) the misinformation she gives to readers on the topic of learned helplessness;
3) her assertion that playing tug with your dog causes aggression.

After reading these nuggets of “information” – one of which does not line up with my ethos on interacting with others (human or otherwise), another which is factually incorrect (though it makes for a good sob story); and the remaining one being a just downright silly – it has relegated this book to the bottom of my reading pile, behind such authors as Toni Shelbourne, Denise Fenzi & Deborah Jones, Pamela Dennison, and my personal favourites, Karen Pryor and Jean Donaldson – all people who are much more easily accessible with up-to-date research and information that appeals to dog owners of every kind, be they “just” pet owners, invested dog enthusiasts, or canine professionals.

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Disclaimer: I have not been asked, nor paid to write this review; the opinions contained herein are entirely my own, and are based upon both my experience and my education, both of which are ever-expanding.

Are You Bribing Your Dog?

There seems to be a fallacy in the world of dog training, and indeed even outside of the world of dog training, and dogs in general.

I’ve had knowing looks on the street, overheard strangers commenting at the beach or lake, had comments directed towards me in person and online, even my mother has (once again!) chided me for my seemingly “poor choices”.

If you train your dog with treats, you’re bribing her.

Bribing – Craige Moore

There I said it.

Anyone who’s anyone knows that all dogs love and respect all humans, and will do as we say because it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they make us happy by doing as they’re told; so it follows that anyone who’s anyone also knows that dogs don’t need treats, or any form of reward, for working for humans. And if you choose to use treats, you’re bribing your dog to do whatever it is you want him to do, because he wont do it out of “love and respect”, or for the joy it brings him in knowing you’re happy with him, he’ll only do it for the food in your hand.

Clearly, all the people making such comments are amazing, wonderful even. They may have spent their whole life working, but they have never once taken a penny – or anything else – in recompense; or if they have they’ve given it all away again.

They have no need of reward or recognition from their employer (or customers, if they’re self-employed), they do the work because they like the fuzzy warm feeling it gives them to help others, and that’s all the payment they need.

Oh, wait…

That’s not true.

While some people can, and do, volunteer their time; the majority of people in gainful employment need to take home a pay cheque every month (heck, even people who are not in gainful employment still have to find a way to get the money they need!).

I don’t know about you, but if my employer decided to stop paying for my time I’d certainly be looking for another job – let’s face it, for humans, money is a very powerful secondary reinforcer.

Money gives us roofs over our heads, various methods of travel, the ability to buy food, books, clothes, music, tickets to the cinema, theatre, or concerts, and even the ability to have and appropriately care for our animals.

Animals see no value in money (aside from the ones who may see value in eating it). They tend not to have pockets to keep it in, or places to keep a lot of it safe, and they don’t have bills to pay, so money as a form of payment is as meaningless to them as hotdog slices as a form of payment is to you and I.

But just because they don’t see value in money doesn’t mean they don’t see value in being “paid”.

Especially when training new behaviours, your dog (or human, horse, goat, lamb, cow, chicken…or any animal) needs paid. They need to feel value in their work (learning), and this value comes from rewards – not only food and toys, but also other things they enjoy doing – digging, barking, running around, sniffing…whatever floats their boat.

These rewards do a number of things: * firstly they help the animal to learn that the rewarded behaviour is worth repeating;
* it adds “money to the bank” for the behaviour, meaning that at some future time when you need to ask for the behaviour and only have dry, biscuit treats (or, worse, nothing at all) your dog is more likely to do as you ask, and not mind too much that you didn’t have some liver or a favourite tug toy handy (however, after this type of situation it would be worth “refreshing” the behaviour in your dog’s mind – and increasing your “bank balance” – by training the behaviour with one or more of your dog’s desired rewards, especially if you made a large withdrawal – such as recalling your dog away from unexpected livestock or wild animals;
* additionally, training using the rewards your dog wants (rather than the ones you think he should want) also has the added bonus of teaching your dog that you’re worth listening to;
* and it’s great for building a strong relationship with your dog.

Looking at that list, I wonder why we aren’t all training with rewards. For me, it all comes back to working: I want my dog to want to be with me, and to not only want to interact with me; but to enjoy interacting with me – whether we’re playing tug, or whether I’m training a drop on recall.

It pains me to see a dog who wants to be nowhere near his human, after all, dogs are social creatures and should have the strongest bond with their ‘family’; but to think that some people actively dislike despise “treat training”, well…I don’t want to think about what they do to their dog in the name of training

Sheep

‘Name That Sheep’ – Alan Cleaver

Well, this has certainly been an interesting week!  I found out through a friend that a local rescue organisation had hired an electric shock collar trainer for a dog that was chasing sheep.  I posted on my Facebook page that: “Currently I’m feeling shocked and saddened that a local rescue organisation has hired an electric shock collar trainer to “cure” a dog of his sheep chasing.

I feel very sad for the dog, but also lucky that I will never have to resort to such dangerous and barbaric practises – in fact I currently have just the same problem with Starr, she would love to chase sheep if given the opportunity, so she’s not getting it!  Or at least not until I can take her up to my friend’s farm and start teaching her to play with sheep appropriately.”

‘Loweswater Sheep’ – mPascalj

And I mean every word of it. Starr has about 10% of the recall she needs to be off-lead, and about 1% of the recall I’d like her to have before I “let her loose”; and I’d never ever let her off lead anywhere near sheep that she was not working.  Why would I?  If a farmer thinks that a dog is worrying his sheep, he can shoot it dead on the spot, and to many farmers a dog being off lead near his sheep is more than plenty reason to shoot it…

This then brought to mind that a little while ago I was chided in the comments section of another blog.  The post was about dog training and the apparent lies therein.  The reproach came as I’d said I never had and never will use anything except a flat collar & static (i.e. fixed) harness on any of my dogs, and I have no need of telling them “no” (as in “don’t do that”).

I was told I had “so much to learn”, including “the four ways to deal with a behaviour” and “what to do with a confirmed sheep worrier”.  I did have to wonder where the common sense was – if one has a confirmed sheep worrier why would you take it anywhere near sheep?  That’s just asking for trouble, and certainly not something I would ever advise to any future potential client I may have, unless they were under the tutelage of the person who owned the sheep, and they were either a) teaching the dog to herd the sheep; or b) teaching the dog enough that he could leave the sheep entirely alone on one cue.  Note also that both of these would take more than one short lesson!

It was then that I was curtly told that I “know nothing”, and should “go out and learn” as well as “shut up” because my “lack of knowledge won’t impress anyone”.  Hmmm, yes – clearly I lack knowledge because I’m not going to take a dog who may worry livestock near the livestock, nor will I let said dog (or any dog, for that matter) off lead unless they’re working the livestock, and I certainly would never electrocute my dog for showing an interest in livestock!  Oh, how much I must have left to learn to get these sensible ideas out of my head!

‘Sheep’ mPascalj’

I then had someone else telling me that I “don’t live in the real world”, and “would rather keep a dog on lead than give any form of ‘no’ command”.  According to this second commenter, I’m not alone in living in cloud cuckoo land, as I’m an “example of many UK trainers”.  This coming from someone who allowed her dog to kill a sheep (meaning it was off lead and/or under no control around them), and then used an electric shock collar, rather than walk her dog somewhere beside sheep-covered moors.  Of course, she’s otherwise a totally positive trainer, and had “exhausted every other positive option”.

I’m sorry, but I really fail to see what is so bizarre about being responsible enough to keep your dog on lead around sheep that don’t belong to you and/that your dog isn’t actively working; not to mention keeping your dog who you know is, or is likely to be, overtly interested in sheep away from them.  It really isn’t that difficult – I did it for over twelve months while living up the road from a farm; not to mention having done it with my previous two dogs!

It’s common sense – if you don’t want to see your dog shot by a farmer, you need to make sure he or she can see you have control over your dog around livestock and that means using a lead – something that is visible and obvious; not just hoping that you have enough verbal control over your dog that you can call your dog away in the split second before the farmer reaches for their gun…

‘Sheep’ – mPascalj

 

Other People’s Dogs

Following on from my earlier post, I saw a question posted on Facebook, regarding canine/human interaction.

The question was: “A lady stopped me earlier when I was out with my dogs and started talking to me. Without asking, she leaned forward to stroke my dogs. One of them backed away, and the other barked at her. The woman told me that I “have problems” with my dogs.

I haven’t taught my dogs to not let people stroke them, they just don’t like it, although they’re happy to just stand/sit whilst I talk to people. Is this so wrong?!?”

I find this quite interesting as “is it wrong?” is a very subjective question.

Personally, I don’t think it’s wrong that any sentient being has preferences for how much personal space they want or need; however I do think it’s wrong there are some insistent people who see no problem in thinking (and acting on!) “all dogs must be stroked”, “all children must have their cheeks pinched”, “all women/men are free for the feeling”, and so on.

I believe it is up to those of us who disagree to say “please always ask first (and listen to the response you get!)”, “please don’t”, and “I’m reporting you to the police” (respectively). While many people don’t seem to listen to what you say when they want to pet your dog(s), some do – and it’s important that we tell the people who do listen, as that’s what helps to circulate the message, and the more people that know – and share this knowledge – the fewer people there will should be who impinge upon anyone’s personal space.

What about you – where do you stand on the “petting someone else’s dog” scale? Do you think more people should ask (and listen!), or are you more of an impulsive petter, and think there’s nothing wrong with it?

A Good Dog…

“Good Dog” by HowtoLoveYourDog.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/loveyourdog/8263094220/

How many times have you been told “a tired dog is a good dog”?

I can see why people say this, after all a tired dog is going to lay around resting – or sleeping – most of the day. A tired dog is less likely to get into the trash can, dig the garden up, bark at the mail man, or bother someone for attention.

This all seems like a good dog, as far as many owners are concerned; but not I.

‘Pauli Knows Good Dogs Don’t Get A Lump of Coal’ by sundero
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sundero/5274726083/

Let’s be realistic: a tired dog is a tired dog, nothing more and nothing less.
On the other hand, it makes much more sense to me that a good dog is one who’s been trained to understand the cues that his family needs him to follow; she loves her family and enjoys spending time with them but doesn’t constantly pester for petting and attention; he gets to indulge in activities that he enjoys doing – whether that’s things like agility, or herding, or through performing “bad” behaviours in more “legal” ways (such as a sandpit in which safe toys are buried for Fido to dig up).

A well-trained, happy pet is a good dog, a tired dog is tired, not to mention more prone to being grumpy and snappy. Grumpy, snappy dogs are not good dogs!

What about you, what’s your definition of a good dog?

Aggression

People think they know what an aggressive dog looks like.  He’s big, totally or mostly black, he pulls and lunges on the lead, he barks, snarls, and growls.

But, wait – what’s a big dog?  Most people say Labradors, or Border Collies are big dogs, but in reality they’re medium-sized dogs.  To me, an example of a big dog would be a Mastiff, Rhodesian Ridgeback, or a Great Dane.

As for the “aggressive” behaviours I listed – I’ve heard or read all of them used as an example of how a bystander or neighbour “knew” that a dog was aggressive – yes, even pulling on the lead.  Let’s look at the behaviours individually, from a more sensible perspective: –

* pulls on the lead.  A dog who pulls on the lead is basically a dog that hasn’t been trained to walk nicely on a loose leash, or perhaps is being walked in an environment that is much too distracting and stimulating for that dog’s level of training.  Alternatively, the dog may have been trained using leash pops or jerks, or perhaps a “training” collar i.e. a choke, prong, or shock collar – all of these are things will make most dogs not want to be near to the person they associate with the pain i.e. their owner.

* lunges, barks, snarls, and/or growls.  I was going to separate these out, but then thought that would be a waste of space.  When in the ‘outside world’ (i.e. not in the home) any dog that is performing any one or combination of these behaviours is doing all he or she knows to get something they find scary to leave them alone.

Often, people find it offensive when a dog is barking at them, others find it funny; what many people don’t realise is that continuing to look at a dog who is barking at them is completely counter-productive.  Even worse are the people who stay at the distance which the dog clearly finds problematic; worse still are those who attempt to approach, talk to, and/or touch or pet the dog who very clearly finds the close proximity of that person an issue.

Many people have been bitten by dogs, occasionally people are attacked, or sometimes even killed by dogs.  Yes, aggression and bits are so often emotion-filled topics, but people who make statements about a dog or dogs without any thought or understanding put into them are very dangerous…

When a dog bite is reported, people will often say that the dog “bit without warning”, or that it “wasn’t a mean dog”, or that the owners “didn’t think he was vicious”.  However, all dogs are perfectly capable of biting another being, and moreover it’s usually the case that the dog did give plenty of notice about how he felt in the situation that resulted in a bite, but these communications were – knowingly or unknowingly – not heeded.

Worse still, perhaps these communications were “punished out” of the dog.  A dog who’s told off, shouted at, hit, kicked, or smacked for growling will learn not to growl; but the absence of the growl doesn’t mean she feels any differently about that situation – she’s simply learnt that growling causes a human to do something to her that is antagonistic, possibly hurts her, and definitely scares her further.

Big or small, young or old, pedigree or mongrel, all dogs have not only the potential to bite, but also the ability.  Of course, the likelihood of a dog biting will vary throughout time – just like people, some dogs will tolerate endless irritations with grace and aplomb, and others will be less tolerant; of course, sometimes how tolerant a dog can be may be reduced due to anxiety, illness, pain, fear, tiredness, and so on.

Often, play biting and mouthing is mistaken for a puppy or dog biting.  Although it is often mistaken for biting, puppies – like human babies – like to explore the world using their mouth.  Yes, puppies have sharp, needle-like teeth, but mouthing and exploring the world is not biting.  Those teeth are sharp to make up for the weakness of their jaws; because the teeth are sharp they hurt when the puppy bites another in play.  The “bitten” puppy will yelp in protest and stop playing with the puppy that “bit” them.  This teaches the puppy that using that amount of force is unacceptable and ends the fun.  Thus the puppy learns to moderate their jaw pressure, meaning that when he grows up and has forty-two carpetknife-like teeth in her mouth, he knows the difference between holding and biting down, and he also knows not to bite down on a playmate.

As for what a bite is, Dr Ian Dunbar has a “bite level scale“, which gives an idea of how “bad” an inflicted bite was.  This is really good, and should be used in every bite incident, rather than simply euthanising (and demonising) the dog, and as often is the case the breed(s) of the now deceased dog.  Additionally, what I believe is needed alongside objective bite assessment, is objective assessment of not only the living situation of the dog(s) involved in a bite, but also the situation surrounding a bite.
All dogs will, at some time in their lives, bark – basenjis perhaps being the exception; and unless taught otherwise all dogs will pull on the lead. Using those as markers of an aggressive dog immediately condemns the majority of dogs as being “aggressive”.  If people who are not dog owners are going to label dogs – as aggressive, or as anything else – based on normal, natural canine behaviours, where does that leave the dogs and their owners?

Often, I’ve had a difficult enough time with other dog owners, for instance I if I’m walking Inka on leash, and there’s an off-leash dog in the vicinity I will call to the owners and them to put the dog on leash so as to stop it rushing Inka and worrying him.  I’ve not yet met an owner who didn’t do as I asked, but it’s fair to say that the majority first asked “Why, is yours a bad ‘un?”; even when I replied to say that Inka doesn’t like being rushed at, least of all when he was on leash, I could tell many thought it was a way of skirting the question.

It’s sad that many people see aggressive dogs, or dogs who bite as inherently “bad”, it’s also sad that many think that dogs who are displaying aggressive behaviours are being mean, or spiteful or have something “wrong” with them, but rather than looking to medicate any pain the dog may be in, or desensitise and counter-condition the dog to the scary thing, they have it eutanised.

Once again, normal dogs are failed for their human’s lack of understanding.

The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Cesar Milan

I must admit, when I first heard that Cesar was going to be on The Alan Titchmarsh Show, I was quite worried.  The show is aired from 3pm, a time when many people are at work, so the shows’ main audience is likely to be people who are retired and parents who work part-time – two groups of people that really shouldn’t be using the techniques Cesar advocates with their dogs.

I caught the show on ITV+1, and must say I was pleasantly surprised.  Alan and his team had clearly listened to those of us who had contacted him with our concerns, watched some of the videos that were posted on the shows’ Facebook page and emailed to them, and rightly questioned Cesar on his dubious methods.

After the interview, the number of “likes” on the Facebok page doubled, and the wall was flooded by people thanking Alan for such a wonderful interview – three days later this is still going strong, and a page has been set up calling Alan a “legend“.

Finally, the UK public have had some exposure, no matter how small, to the fact that Cesar may not be all he makes out to be.  Not only that, stories have been run not only by the UK media, but also in South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands, and America to name but a few.

Of course, alongside all the praise, thanks, and positive feelings, there are those who claim Alan jumped on Cesar unnecessarily, that he listened to the lies told to him by the “minority”, that Cesar doesn’t harm dogs, and that he saves the dogs positive trainers refuse to work with, among others.

Sadly, it seems a minority of people have been taken in – often very deeply – by Cesar’s celebrity, his PR machine, his lies, and by his (and often their own) lack of knowledge, not to mention the “glamour” of the thought they practically have a wild animal in their home who they must constantly physically outwit, lest the animal take over.  What his fans and followers have shown both to myself and others, is their lack of regard for other sentient beings.

It’s so sad to see the number of people saying that it’s acceptable to beat, kick, pinch, poke, choke, prod, punch and shock dogs in the name of “training”.  In the UK, we’re supposed to be an enlightened nation of animal lovers, and yet in the past few days I’ve seen people admitting to beating their dogs; saying that they’d use an electric shock to contain their dog (when a leash or a fence not only *would* do a much better job, but is also *proven* to do a much better job than an electric fence); and worse.

It is not, and should not, be a dogs’ fault that his or her family cannot or do not know how to correctly use and apply the methods behind positive reinforcement training – and just like fixing a car or a combi boiler, those people who are unable to do it should seek help from a qualified professional.  Sadly, people like Cesar Milan make it seem like anyone can “fix” dogs, and there are no qualifications (or even real knowledge!) needed.

People watch this man’s entertainment programme, and think that doing so qualifies them to charge other people for their services of “dog psychology”.  These people also lie, and say there are no qualifications to be gained – or worse, gain qualifications based on rescinded science claiming they are “the best” or “only” qualifications, and others are worth nothing.

I for one am sure that a number of universities and colleges who offer qualifications based on current science with regards to behaviour would disagree, as would the many qualified dog trainers and dog behaviourists (which, by the way is the real term, not “dog psychologist”) that we have not only in the UK but the world over.

It also worries me that many of Cesars followers also have children, and that these children are being raised in environments where violence against others seem to be the norm.  After all, whether it’s a dog or a human you’re hurting – it’s still another being, one who’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions you’re affecting.

Additionally, as I’m sure you’re aware, studies have shown that violence to animals often leads to violence against people; and where violence is, seemingly at least, normal in some households with dogs and children I can’t help but wonder if we are inadvertently raising a culture of children who will grow up and go on to abuse or otherwise harm their spouses, friends, and/or children and think nothing of it, let alone the acts that could be committed against total strangers.

Cesar has had his time in the spotlight, and I believe it is high time he is outed for what he really is – an unqualified charlatan practising outdated and dangerous methods.

I understand that many will find this difficult, cognitive dissonance is not be a nice feeling; and sadly I’m quite sure there would be people clamouring to take his place in the spotlight (not to mention the money!), but this time we need someone with some real and relevant qualifications, who understands the science behind what they’re doing, and can make training and interacting with dogs safe for everyone.

It may not be as “flashy”, or as “macho” as a tanned foreigner with an intriguing history, taming “unruly” dogs with physical force – but none of that is important.  The well-being of dogs the world over, on the other hand, that is immensely important.

Did you watch Alans’ show (or the clip on YouTube)? What do you think, is it right that Cesar was called out and his methods publicly questioned, or should Alan have “played nice” and gone along a less direct path when interviewing Cesar?

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child…

They say “it takes a village to raise a child”, and whoever ‘they’ are, they weren’t far off the mark.  I can say with certainty that in our case, it’s true; although by child I mean Inka, and by village I mean trained professionals.

Inka’s currently  half way through his sixth week on painkillers for a soft tissue problem.

When he first came home, I took him to the vets for a general check-over, and I mentioned to the vet we saw that his hips were visibly uneven (easily by a good inch or more), and he was rather stiff through his rear end.  The vet checked the range of movement of his hips and said it was nothing to worry about.  Given that Inka’s half collie, and collies grow hind-end first, I put it to the back of my mind thinking that perhaps he would grow into his wonky hips, and they’d be wonky no more.

Inka

Inka, before his pain management and restricted exercise regime started

Fast forward almost twelve months, and his hips and gait have improved somewhat; but I’m still having to lift him into the car – he won’t jump in.  In twelve months, Inka had jumped into the car a total of three times, the last one being almost seven weeks ago.  After jumping in the boot, eating a really nommy extra special treat, and jumping out again I put him back in the house while I nipped out.  Less than an hour later I returned home, and thought we’d brush up on his “puppy positions”.

His sit was perfect, his stand was good, brilliant sit again, then I asked for a down…nothing, I asked again…still nothing, I lured him into the down, then another sit, then I tried the down again.  No movement on his voice cue, I moved to lure him, he dipped his head, I tried again and he didn’t move.  I cued a stand, rewarded him, finished our session and began to think.  We were indoors with no distractions, and he’d trained that exercise in that exact location only days earlier without a problem…why wouldn’t he lay down??

The next day, after talking over the situation with a trusted friend, I booked a vet appointment.  This time, the vet wasn’t happy with the way his hips moved, so booked him in for an X-ray the following morning.  Thankfully, the X-ray showed Inka’s hips to be “perfect”, and in fact what was thought to be his problem hip was actually better than his other one.  He was sent home with some painkillers, and put on restricted exercise, with advice to book a hydrotherapy session.

Since then, Inka’s been back to the vets three times, had his painkillers changed once, been for three hydrotherapy sessions, and had a chiropractic adjustment.

Seemingly, now, things are going well.  His gait has improved, his ability to listen and focus seem to have increased, his hips are level, he plays with more vigour, he seems more able to regulate his speed when walking without using the back of my knee as a buffer (almost knocking me over in the processes!), and most impressively – last night he repeatedly jumped into the boot of my car.

We’re back at the vets again later this week; I don’t know what the next step will be as he’s currently on half a painkiller every other day (down from one half every day), but I don’t doubt that it will be positive.  I’m keeping everything crossed that Inka’s days of pain and painkillers will soon be behind us, and we can get back to “real life”, and the important things it holds for us.

Morgansr Got An Inkaling

Throughout this, I’ve felt lucky to have the friends that I do – those who I can confide in, talk through my options with, and get recommendations and suggestions from.  I know Inka is thankful for all of our friends too, even if he’s not sure what they’re all doing for us!

Dogs Deserve Better

Since reading an article by Beverly Cuddy on Lennox  and some of the associated comments a few weeks ago, I must admit that one weighed heavily on my mind.

In part because I’m now struggling to find the article, and because I found the sentiment in the comment completely abhorrent, I’m loathe to copy it here, so I will paraphrase.  The comment was written by an adult male who said he would only ever have small dogs as pets.  His reasoning was that if the dog “attacked” anyone, it would be easily kicked to death.

There was obviously something driving this train of thought in his head, but what was it?  Are dogs really unreliable, not trustworthy at all?  Perhaps they want to take over the household, or worse – the world?  Perhaps, what this person really fails to appreciate is that the most important part of a dogs temperament and behaviour is formed by how those around him treat him.

Small dogs, by Muffet on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/123810723/

Perhaps some people would be better off with these instead of a real dog…

Aggression begets aggression

Perhaps this person takes it upon himself to ensure his dogs know he is “alpha” by hitting, poking, slapping, and kicking them.  Perhaps they are regularly forced on to their backs and held down until they stop struggling…or rather while they learn that no matter what they do to show their fear, they will be ignored.  And this person really wonders why his dog may one day “attack” someone?  Words fail me.

Dogs deserve our understanding

Dogs, like children, adults, and other mammals, thrive when raised and treated in a kind and compassionate manner, and are taught things in a way that aligns with the scientific principles of learning.  That might sound daunting, but it isn’t – in fact it couldn’t be simpler!

Any behaviour that is found to be rewarding is repeated.

Consider this: your dog picks a pair of knickers out of the laundry hamper, you don’t want him to chew them, and you’ve not taught him a “drop” or “give” cue, so you move towards him, and he moves away from you.  Repeat that a few more times, and add a bit of speed, before you can return the knickers to the hamper.  “Wow,” your dog thinks “that was a fun game of chase!”  Next time he wants to have some fun with you, your dog will want to see what other delights the laundry hamper holds!

But, consider instead, every time your dog lays quietly in his crate, on his bed, the sofa, or the floor when time you’re busy; you quietly praise him, and maybe give him a treat, or a stuffed food carrier toy – is his ‘chilling out’ behaviour going to increase or decrease?

It really is that simple!

Whether it’s your dog, or a friend or family member remember to reward the behaviour you like and want repeated (with something the doer finds rewarding!).  As long as it’s safe to do so, simply ignore any behaviour you don’t want; if it’s not safe to do so, or you don’t want something damaged, redirect the unwanted behaviour and then give praise for taking up your suggestion.