Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Here we are again, another week, another dog hauled out to Spain to be 'rehabbed'.
This week was Harry, from Whitehall rescue. Harry is advertised as being a Basset Hound x... presumably on the strength of his short legs and long back and somewhat houndy colouring, however in my opinion, Harry is all terrier.
He bears none of the classic traits of the Basset, the heavy jowly face the big floppy ears, the desire to scent and use his nose, or the easy going couldn't give a damn gregarious nature of the scent hound...
What he DOES display is some antagonistic greeting behaviour, chucking paws and his head over other dogs backs, fairly quick reactions, and a 'pushy, lets go' nature... all terrier!
I am not sure how this weeks 'before' and 'after' shots were done because all the shots of Harry seemingly being a rude pushy or aggressive greeter seem to have been done in Spain, not the UK - and yet in the 'Cesar evaluates and rehabs' section, Harry showed very VERY few signs of this at all.
I have to express my UTTER horror at Cesars method of introducing Harry to new dogs though - when his own dogs (only a very small selection of them though) illicit no reaction, Cesar and the representative of the rescue take Harry into a local town to meet some dogs that are not 'perfect well behaved' dogs like Cesars...
Cesar states to camera twice that he has NEVER met these dogs and has NO idea how they will respond to Harry at all...
I'm disgusted at this, when evaluating a dogs behaviour, a GOOD and sensible behaviourist leaves as little as possible to chance. You just do NOT put other peoples dogs at risk, you do not put the dog you are working with at risk, and using unknown dogs is a bloody big risk indeed!
Harry actually passes this test pretty well having just a minor snark at a big entire GSD.
So now we meet the families - first are a dog groomer lady and her ex military chap, they have two rescue greyhound bitches who look well looked after (even if one of them has crystals glued to its bottom!). Then there are the young trio, Krys, Alice and Abby all in their mid twenties, who share a house. Abby wants to be a dog behaviourist so has come to learn from the best (vomit) and Alice works with horses, Krys is an engineer (of what?) but he barely speaks ..
The last couple are a psychologist and a trauma psychoanalyst - hes pretty quiet and shes quite gobby.
Interesting to note here, I pegged the psychologist and wife as leaving straight away, because the wife was telling the bloke what to do a lot and I don't think Cesar liked that at all! They did get slung out first - Cesar waffled on about how dog behaviour is not about intellect, its about energy... ok!
This episode was pretty nothingy really, lots of waffle about the 'pack walk' with the family with the two greyhounds, making the point that Harry should walk behind the two greyhounds... and yet in later shots you see him sort the trio out so that Harry is actually on the inside nearest the handler and hes walking AHEAD of the two greyhounds most of the time.. I thought that was BAD in Cesarland.. or maybe the rules change depending on what sort of bollocks he is talking at the time?
There was an introducing with the greyhounds involving the couple walking into Harrys run with the dogs on leads, Harry in the run loose. Harry ducks out of th edoor to sniff the girls back ends then follows them all back in and Cesar explains that this is wrong, they should have blocked the doorway with their dogs to stop Harry coming out - personally I am glad they didn't, what a way to kick off a fight, facing up two strange, large dogs against a little fiesty terrier!
The three young people then had a go at going in and putting Harrys lead on - Abby was chosen to do this since shes the one who wants to be a dog behaviourist.
Here Cesar does/says something that confirms to ME that when he is using really intimidating, bullying body language, he knows EXACTLY what he is doing, even if he talks a load of shit about calm submissive and being the leader.
Abby goes to slip the lead over Harry's head, and she leans over him as she does so, and Harry ducks away. The second time she offers Harry her hand to sniff and squats a little instead, so he doesn't duck away and she gets the lead on.
At this point Cesar stops her and he explains that if you lean over a dog, thats a really intimidating/threatening position to take and can frighten or upset them.... Yes. Spot on - this is NOT a man who is in any way unaware that his body language is used to intimidate and frighten dogs into behaving for him.
Abby, Alice and Krys do some walking about introducing Harry to two other dogs, both on leads (Abby handles Harry, Krys and Alice take the other two dogs). Initially Abby wants to stay still and allow the other dogs to walk up, shes very unsure and Cesar calls her out on this and tells her not to question herself, its better to make a mistake...
I disagree - learning from some mistakes is ok, but mistakes that potentially involve animals getting hurt are NOT ok.
Cesar advises that because in real life Harry will be walking, not sat still, she must walk straight at the strange dogs and past them. Harry does this fine - I think because its hot and he is old and knackered but thats just a guess, we haven't and we never do see, Cesar actually DO anything to address Harrys previous supposedly dreadful behaviour.
The next test with A, A and K is to take them to to a stable yard where Alice handles a GORGEOUS PRE stallion who is an absolute dope on a rope, practically asleep. Cesar admits he knows nothing about horses so hands over to the girls to decide what they want to do.
They decide to walk Harry around the stationary horse getting gradually nearer then letting Harry sniff the horses nose - Harry jumps up, I honestly don't know if it was to nip or just get nearer to sniff, the horse snorts and pulls away a little and Abby pulls Harry away constantly giving him 'tsst tsst tsst'.. I don't see any particular reaction from Harry to this though.
This is followed by the girls walking Harry and the horse around together, then Cesar shows them that just one person can walk both animals around together - which he proceeds to do.
At no point do they see how Harry reacts to a horse loose (phew!), nor do they point out at any stage that a horse on its own or lead is a VERY different prospect in a dogs mind, to a horse with a person sat on it. So this whole section actually gives VERY little indication as to whether Harry would actually be safe around horses in general, just that he doesn't bark his head off on a lead near a stationary or walking horse.
The final test for the groomer lady and her husband is to groom Harry - she picks him up and plonks him in the bath which, fair play to her, she recognises very quickly he has probably not experienced before and probably is causing him some anxiety, because the room is new to him, she is new to him, being bathed is new to him etc etc.
I have to say here, she handled him pretty well, she had her husband hold him steady and she slowly got him used to the water. I thought her hubbys face at several points was rather closer to a strange terrier than I would advise but there was no choking or tssssssting going on.
In the end, as I predicted to my long suffering OH who was mainly shouting 'f...off' to the screen, groomer lady and husband won the dog. I don't think Cesar was keen on the trio because the boy barely said a word really, and I very much suspect Harry would actually NOT be ok with ridden horses or off leash around horses (or chickens which the girls appear to have in the early 'at home' shots).
The 2 weeks later footage seemed to show that actually they were not coping with the 'pack walks' quite as easily as they had thought, but over all Harry seemed pretty happy in his new home.
This episode as I say was pretty nothingy - we didn't seen any actual rehab or training, most of Cesars advice was waffley bollocks about energy.
I have to wonder then if Harry actually WAS as bad as the rescue made out, I think they said he had been rehomed a few times and come back because of his dog aggression, OR.. did Cesar do things with Harry that we did not see.
At one point, Harry was in the field with the psychologists wife, on lead, and Cesar released Junior who hurtled up to her. Now she had already said she had in the past been fearful of dogs and all she did was stand still - Harry did not react AT ALL, and Junior ignored Harry completely in favour of rushing up to the woman to say hi...
I cannot imagine that a dog with serious dog aggression would do nothing in such a situation (big dog running head on at him, nervous person holding the lead) so I do wonder what was done beforehand, and what was edited/cut out.. No idea. As I say, it COULD be that the rescue really over-egged the cake here and Harry's problems were 'user error' and not really him at all!
Friday, 26 April 2013
For those avoiding watching this but wanting to know what happens...
This week we meet Dora, a 7 month ish Yorkshire terrier mix, this time from Birmingham Cats and Dogs Home. Shame, I thought better of them, oh well.
Dora's problem in their words is that she is highly aggressive and dominant to all dogs she meets, and we see a delightful scene of her being allowed to rush, bundle and pin what looks to be a spaniel puppy type.
She is VERY full on and they say she was found as a stray - my personal opinion is that she has missed out on some vital socialisation, either by being taken from a litter too young or because she was a singleton pup, or the stronger pup of a small group.
In my opinion, she doesn't appear 'aggressive', she actively wants to interact with other dogs but she has NO idea how to do this, she rushes at them, pins them down and mouths at them - it all seems to me like play that has never been modified.
With larger dogs she is a bit fearful and likely to bite harder.
The very first thing Cesar does when she arrives, is to ask the person to put her down on the floor with Junior.
Very predictably, she rushes Junior and leaps at his face and ears, growling and he ignores her in favour of staring at Cesar. He doesn't look comfortable but this discomfort seems more directed at Cesar (very 'what do you want me to do boss, I am being good boss') and pretending Dora doesn't exist, than a dog patiently ignoring a horrible puppy and trying to teach it anything.
Cesar keeps Junior interested in a tennis ball with a chuckit.. which again makes me think Junior wouldn't be ignoring Dora if Cesar were not there.
Poor Junior, Dora flings herself at him a few more times as he chases his ball.
Then we meet the prospective adopters - one family includes a girl who has just finished her zoology degree, one family is a vet and his wife and their poor old dog they have dragged out to Spain, and the other family have brought their first dog, who seems to be a young terrier x.
Ms Zoology Degree proudly proclaims she'd like to be a dog behaviourist.. as, despite NEVER having owned a dog before, she knows that you don't need any skills to be a behaviourist.....
PARDON ME? Lemme hear that one more time...
YOU DON'T NEED ANY SKILLS TO BE A DOG BEHAVIOURIST...Yeah. Thought thats what she said, so it turns out, you don't need any fecking brains to get a degree either.
Moving on, they didn't win. Good job.
In one test they put Dora on a slip lead - she fights like a crazy shark the second it tightens under her chin.
We see a LOT of Dora flopping down on her side, which someone described to me today as a 'tap out' behaviour like a wrestler on the mat asking for time out, when trapped in a situation where fighting isn't working, she just hits the deck, all whale eyes and refusal to partake in whats going on.
Cesar tells us shes being submissive and picks her up and forces her onto the treadmill, then turns it on and makes her run. She does eventually grasp the idea and run.
His reasoning for doing this is because she has too much energy, which is apparently also why she flings herself so rudely at any dog she sees.
His other answer to that behaviour is to take her into a run with some of his 'pack', though the little flash up notices state that this is the 'soft' pack, and harder members of the pack have been removed (because presumably, they would eat the little squirt).
Predictably, flooded by so many dogs she doesn't try it on with them. Hey presto, she is cured.
Then she meets Charlie, one of the families dogs (the family who weren't the vet people). Charlie is a youngish Cairn x Pomeranian (thats what they think, god knows!).
The two dogs are let off lead and they race around like mad things play fighting and humping each other frantically trying to pin the other one down. Cesar proclaims that they are in love, how wonderful.
Neither dog looks remotely calm or happy about the other dogs presence and they continue to test one another out - there isn't any real aggression, YET, but the constant play fighting suggests to me, that neither one is mature or well balanced enough to tell the other to back off and be respected, and neither dog really knows how to communicate with dogs that well.
The vet people with their dog, who was rescued from Tobago (i think), Arthur - they think he is a terrier. I think hes a very low-wheelbase spitz mix. He looks like a Corgi x Shiba Inu!
He is clearly old, and he is not remotely impressed with Dora. He doesn't want her near his people and snarks at her. He waits for her to be trapped at one point, when she is lying on his owners chest (the guy is laying on the floor and she snuggles into his arm to get away from Arthur) and then has a pop at her.
Most of the time he ignores her, when she gets too close he tells her to get stuffed (fairly politely).
Cesar proclaims that this is just what Dora needs (granted, its better than the match between her and the other terrier!).
Theres a lot of pointless waffle - the vet bloke went up a lot in my estimation when he tried to push a point about rewards and how he uses them. Cesar moved him on from that quite quickly!
Cesar makes both remaining families groom their dogs - ie, force Dora to be held and groomed. Again Dora does a lot of flopping over, belly up, which Cesar thinks is an awesome display of her submission and I think bloody well isn't she just doesn't know what else to do to make it all stop and isn't given towards aggressive reactions to people (yet).
Tellingly, vet bloke is MUCH nicer about this - his own dog likes being brushed and he only tries to get Dora to accept it for a few seconds, and he doesn't jerk or punish her when she tries to nip behind him to escape.
Cesar yanks her out though and forces her to be brushed, whereupon she flops over again (and he says shes submissive and she likes being groomed - her whale eye and desperate attempts to avoid looking at him say different!).
The other family try this too - THEIR dog doesn't like being groomed (and yet is freshly scissored.. methinks a trip to the groomers before their jaunt in spain).. Dora doesn't like being groomed by them either - cue a flop over and whale eyes 'get me outta here'.
The other test both families do is to feed both dogs food from a bowl - vet family put the dogs fairly close together but not too bad. Both dogs eat food and then, whilst talking, the old boy has another pop or two at Dora telling her to piss off away from his folks. Cesar again just states that this is necessary and fine.
The other family put the bowls ridiculously close together, with the result (phew!) that Dora won't actually eat that close to Charlie. Even Cesar spots this is a recipe for trouble and steps in and moves the bowls apart and then Dora will eat (I was watching through half shut eyes here!)..
Then he does some blather about having them look at him not each other with some pieces of cheese and fortunately they do both sit and look at him... but then again when he isn't paying attention to the dogs, Dora batters Charlie and pins him upside down and lies on him (I thought they'd cured that!)
In the end, vet family and Arthur win Dora - Arthur looks over the moon, not. I think this was the right choice though, as these people do not actually look totally enthralled with Cesar and his methods.
Sadly, by the time Dora actually arrives at this family's palatial home (BOY did she land on her feet, if dogs care about multimillion pound houses, shes just won the lottery!)... poor Arthur has gone to meet his maker, dying suddenly from some respiratory ailment (what, shortly after visiting Spain... mm!) I feel sorry for them and I do think Dora has got very luck with this family. She is shown getting on nicely with the daughters JRT.
One thing I noticed but can't remember where it fit in - at one point, zoology girl goes into the run with Dora. Dora is jumping at the gate and girl slams the gate shut in her face (which hits Dora in the face quite hard). Then shes jumping up at the girl and girl ignores it for a bit until it looks like Cesar is prompting her to do something.
She bends down and delivers a very slick 'tssssst' and jab in the neck with the fingers and Dora displays a super well conditioned response, FLYING away from the girl at a million miles an hour and looking very bloody worried.
Just idle conjecture, but I am positive he conditions that with a shock collar.
So to sum up - more bollocks, no real insight into why Dora really IS the way she is, just claptrap. Lots of force and risky things done and I think Birmingham Dogs and Cats Home are a bunch of bloody idiots!
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Confucius said that, and I think he has a point!
SO this week some stuff went on, and things were asked and wondered and some folk got their backs up, got a little defensive. Some folk got a little offensive too!
But lets move along from that a little, because I am not into continuing pointless fights and point scoring, it's a waste of everyone's time and energy.
This week I put my foot in it and I upset someone.
I thought I was asking a question or two, albeit in a rambling and rather 'thinking directly onto the page and not doing the best job of it' way.
The person in question however, thought I was having a snide and underhand attack at them, giving myself an opening to soapbox and cleverly prove how amazing I am and how stupid they are.
In this case, I really wasn't, but my rambling style (late at night!) and my omission of the very useful question marks obviously were misinterpreted.
Of course I was not to know that this person has been 'attacked' by people supposedly from within my own 'camp' of animal training in the past, I had no clue 'who' he is - just some guy from the other side of the world doing something I liked the look/sound of, and wanted to hear more from.
So he has his reasons for being defensive, and I got the wrong end of the stick when it took him a few days to respond and then he responded by picking up on one aspect, clicker training, and writing a huge long piece about how he doesn't like it...
Long story short, it turns out he found this blog, thinks I am a smart arse (ok, he'd be right there!) and thought I was trying to have a pop at him (wrong!).
In the end I learned a valuable lesson that I come off as a right smart arse sometimes and that WILL get my ass into trouble if I am not clear and concise and polite, with my questions to people.
But the broader issue is this:
Are any of us, above question?
We should be open to question and discussion, I fervently believe that, and open to ideas no matter where they come from. We need to keep talking and thinking, because if you do as Confucius says, and you know the extent of your own ignorance, you know there is ALWAYS more to learn.
My interactions with someone ELSE this week (yes, yes I AM on a roll this week aren't I, with any luck I might disappear up my own fundament before Friday) also add to tonights conclusions.
That person, in defense of their own knowledge and experience, ended up coming off like an arrogant snot (actually not my words!). Which was unfortunate and as I put it to him, I do think he dropped a bollock, as it were!
But then it occurs to me that someone who has worked very hard to get where they are, and has reached a degree of success few of us will achieve (although, granted, not everyone wants a TV show), must sometimes feel they have to defend their work and experience.
Sometimes it can be VERY hard to filter out all the different voices you hear, and I can only imagine in that persons shoes, there must be a LOT of voices: some saying lovely things that everyone wants to hear, some talking total and utter bollocks, some attacking and being offensive and in the middle of all that, a few people with constructive advice/criticism who are talking sense.
So whilst we SHOULD all be open to question and discussion, obviously we should also be very clear and polite, when WE question and discuss.
A hard thing to do for someone given to endless waffle, but I am going to try hard to be clearer about what I am asking folk, and I am going to strive VERY hard to ensure I answer peoples questions or criticisms as if each and every single one of them is sane, intelligent and genuine.
I might waste some of my time, but I think on balance, that this is better than alienating anyone to positive, force free training.
So, my heartfelt apologies to anyone I might have upset this week (and indeed, ever!) I will endeavor to be more positive in my interactions with people, as well as dogs! And if anyone thinks I need a kick up the arse, feel free!
Friday, 19 April 2013
Episode 2 - Rosie. Copied from my post on Beyond Cesar Millan Facebook Group
For the UK folk, particularly those avoiding watching Leader of the Pack.. latest episode run down by me!
Rosie, a very stressy staffie, again from Animal Helpline, supposedly
has mange but I am not convinced entirely about that as its mainly under
her neck and front and shoulders where shes rubbing on collars and
bouncing against kennel wiring... mm.
Shes apparently been
returned three times to Animal Helpline and is supposedly dog
aggressive. Shes also evidently been neutered recently and has the
nipples of a bitch who has been bred so one does wonder if she got
pregnant with one set of adopters and was spayed following that... hmm.
Anyway, off to sunny (hot, blistering, baked) Spain with her, with the
person (name i forgot) from AH saying that 'underneath shes a good dog
really'... wtf, Shes a good dog on the outside too if ..... gah!
So, lots of stressy dog in the hot sunshine, being dragged about on a
thin slip lead which Cesar makes a point of (several times) explaining
should be right up under her chin, so that you can get her head up, of
course... because once her head is up, then everything else is fine...
He does a lot of waffling that makes little sense. He says some nice,
emotive stuff about staffies and how its people that are the problem....
and people with no knowledge are very dangerous (oh, the irony!)
Rosie gets taken for several short pointless walks up and down and
displays a lot of the symptoms of a dog who has been severely punished
(she totally blanks dogs barking at her through wire runs).
There is a moment when a family with two small boys sit down with her
and they have a bag of treats, and Cesar tells the Dad off for giving
Rosie a treat when she was excited (she was sitting nicely, wagging her
tail, ears forward, interested. Apparently, one should NOT reward THAT
He took the food and as soon as she
sniffed it he 'tssssst' her and she did a strange thing, and I've only
ever seen it in one context before... she turned her head slightly and
she blinked her eyes very very fast. It was a very flinchy movement. I
have only seen this in dogs expecting a physical punishment, a
kick/jerk/smack in the face/shock type thing... thoughts anyone?
I thought that was a tad risky given shes just a foot or so away from
the faces of very young kids but I suspect Cesar knew what her reaction
to being punished would be (not that he makes that clear of course so
roll on the redirecting dogs who bite toddlers faces)..
This weeks 'bit from hell' - one potential owner had a leonberger and a gsd, the gsd bitch was VERY pushy indeed.
Rosie was allowed out of her run to meet these dogs, with a fabric
'Mikki' style muzzle on, she could barely poke her tongue out, never
mind pant (and remember that blistering spanish sun??) - the GSD
basically flattened her at every opportunity and Cesar stated he thought
there would be a fight if Rosie were not muzzled. THere might have been
but all I saw was a small staffy getting bullied to hell and back and
barely able to breathe, in my experienced, muzzle or no muzzle an
actually dog aggressive dog would have attempted to fight, all Rosie did
was try to avoid!
The other horrid parts were Rosie being
stomach kicked, and Rosie beign DRAGGED on her side and back on the slip
lead, as she would lay down and refuse to move (and remember that sore
skin under her neck, the 'mange' that sits exactly where a collar
Rosie went home to a Mum and Son from Oldham
(who don't appear to have started a training school on the back of
this,phew!), the worst quote from the son being, after he had dragged
and tssted and jerked Rosie about 'I feel really powerful'... VOMIT.
The after clip of Rosie some 5 weeks later showed the mange almost
entirely gone (and still not really looking like mange to me) and Rosies
new mum wielding her new found power by makinig Rosie sit for ages
before being allowed to eat and extolling the virtues of being the pack
leader because if she ISNT then the dog will definitely try to take
Mm - did someone last week say that this ISN'T getting
another series on Nat Geo? If that is the case I can definitely see why -
theres far too much waffle and not enough shock tactics going on.
I am also curious, if I haven't made a mistake somewhere, why Animal
Helpline make NO reference to their involvement on their site or FB
page, nor are they credited on the program (they just state it in person
or in the voice over) - you would think they would have benefited
financially from this (one would hope so as the footage of the rescue
facility at the start of the program shows some VERY substandard
kennelling facilities, which would almost certainly NOT pass boarding
kennel regs for the UK) - does anyone know anything there?
Episode One.. Jet (I copied this from my post on the Beyond Cesar Millan Group on Facebook)..
- anyone seen the first episode of Cesars new show 'Leader of the Pack'
- if you don't know about it, the premise is, 3 families compete to win
(!) a dog from a rescue shelter.
- anyone seen the first episode of Cesars new show 'Leader of the Pack'
- if you don't know about it, the premise is, 3 families compete to win
(!) a dog from a rescue shelter.
This weeks dog was a lab cross who
was really bouncy and hadn't really learned any rules/boundaries so bit
of a bull in a china shop, no self control at all.
dog was supposedly on death row - quite why it was beyond anyone at the
rescue to train him I don't know - he was not aggressive to people OR
dogs (or if he was it was never ever mentioned), he just didn't know the
He was flown out of the
UK (I assume flown) to Spain to Cesars new dog centre, along with
someone from the rescue. No mention of how long he had been there but he
knew what Cesars foot 'touch' meant for sure.
A family of
four, a young couple and a single woman all from the UK flew out - now
what REALLY got me annoyed was the woman who eventually won, stating
when asked why she wanted another dog.. 'ooh well I get to meet Cesar..'
yes because THAT is a smashing reason to get another dog and not only
that, but fly out what looked like some really ancient dogs as well to
melt in the Spanish sun...
Of course whats further annoyed me
is sthat she lives not 10 miles from me and is now advertising herself
all over the place as a dog walker AND trainer (but only trains leash
walking... wha?) on the strength of 2 days in spain with Cesar...
Asides from that it was the usual waffle about dominance, calm
submission, jerking and tssting - the winner even worried Cesar at one
point when she went straight up to the new dogs run and let him out with
her ancient collie (who promptly got knocked over and then later had to
have a snap at the new dog whilst hiding from him), and then she took
another risk, chucking the ball for him (hes a toy obsessive and
slightly possessive dog) with HER clearly ball obsessed dog right by
So, if thats the way the rest of the show
goes, the UK better prepare themselves for an influx of new 'dog
psychologists' who have spent all of two days with Cesar. Yay.
Sunday, 14 April 2013
The Mysterious Secrets of Dog Whispery Magic Woo-Woo Psychology... (in 3 DVD's, two books, a Magic Lead™ and one easy payment of $599.95)
... SEND NO MONEY NOW... (but, your credit card details would be nice)..You have probably seen the sites I am referring to here,
It's those super glossy sites that blather on for page after page, there are buzz-words, like 'rehabilitation' and 'natural' and there are promises that your problems will all be over if you just....
Well, just what? You don't know because the one thing THESE trainers and these sellers of magical whispery woo-woo WON'T do, is tell you what they actually do.
They will talk about energy, and they will waffle on about balance, some of them will discuss pack leadership and some of them won't.
But they will not tell you why a problem has occurred, and they will not tell you what they will do to resolve that problem, and they will not tell you why what they did has worked.
It isn't just dog training either, the horse world has its own fair share of these snake-oil peddlers.
I'll mention no names here, but there is a certain outfit that, should you question what they are doing, they will tell you that you have not reached a sufficient level within their own methodology, to ask those questions. Therefore they cannot answer them - because you are too stupid to understand.
Say what?You heard - you have to buy the dvd, buy the baseball cap, attend the expensive courses and seminars before you can ask questions. If you aren't drinking their Kool Aid, you cannot possibly understand a THING, even if you are a fee paying member of the audience at one of their demonstrations.
I don't see the problem though, if I don't like it I don't have to do it...That is a part of the problem - do you know what you are doing well enough to evaluate whether you like it?
If you do something, and you don't know why it works, how can you evaluate whether it is ok?
Hmmm...The big deal is, lots of this secret magical training, whether it is for horses or dogs, can APPEAR to work.
That barking bouncing maniac of a dog is quiet, the horse that used to barge through you now hangs back.. so the training worked?
Well, maybe - but maybe it just looks like it worked, maybe that behaviour is really suppressed through fear of you?
Some of the people I am talking about here, whilst they won't tell you this (and in some cases I actually doubt they KNOW this), because they will dress up what they do as being natural, humane, psychology... are really using positive punishment and negative reward to force an animal to comply to their will.
That barking maniac of a dog probably had too much energy, not enough walks and was never taught any boundaries or rules. The reason he is now quiet and calm is because he is depressed, confused and shut down, due to a harsh 'Nothing In Life Is Free' program, where he is repeatedly ignored, shunned, and made to work super hard for any interaction with his owner.
The barging horse who now hangs back is terrified to come within 5ft of his handler, because whenever he DOES, he finds the lead rope is jerked or thrashed around so the clip hits him in the chin, the 'natural' rope headcollar applies pressure to sensitive parts of his face, and his handler growls or shouts aggressively at him.
There may or may not be 'fall out' associated with these things - the horse may fear his handler hugely and be totally preoccupied with avoiding the punishment, he may be taken by surprise by something and spook and barge through someone ELSE because he wasn't aware of his surroundings, because he was so fearful of his handler. (Seen that happen!)
The dog might look so quiet and calm that his owners allow him near a small child, because they now think he is 'fixed' - but actually he is deeply anxious and fearful and when the small child falls over on him, he bites her in a panic (I have had a client with this happen!)
But they say these methods are natural and I just have to follow the simple steps...
These package deals, the dvds and books, if they don't teach you to figure out WHY a behaviour is occurring, what the animal is getting from the behaviour, and WHY the method they advise works, will NOT teach you to become an animal trainer or behaviourist.
Natural is a very trendy word - it means nothing. You are natural, I am natural, a piece of plastic is made from crude oil, coal, salt, natural gas and cellulose... thats natural too.
It is natural for dogs to piss up things and for horses to kick and buck and run away, it is natural for humans to hit things and shoot each other and rape and murder, because everything we do and everything we are IS natural.
Natural does NOT mean GOOD. It does not mean justified, acceptable, necessary, kind, or nice.
What frightens me most about packaged 'train your animal in 8 million easy steps' programs is that the very thing we ALL must do, to learn and progress... QUESTION things... is verboten. It is discouraged it is frowned upon, there is no room built into these glossy brand named methodologies for questioning, discussion or debate.
This leads to people training animals without thinking about the animal in front of them. They are thinking about what the DVD says, what the book says. It says do step 1, then step 2, then step 3. It does not say 'consider this animals life and background, ask what this animals motivation is for the behaviour he is performing that you do not like, ask how you can make what YOU would like this animal to do, the funnest, most rewarding choice available to him...
Are you not just jealous because they are on TV and make loads of money...Well, I'll be a liar if I say I couldn't care less about earning a bit more money, it'd be nice not to struggle at the end (or middle, or start!) of the month.
But no, genuinely, if someone has a skill at teaching other people, or at explaining how something works - cool, if people will pay for that knowledge and help, thats great. People pay me for it sometimes, and I have earned it.
What I object to, is this selling of secrets and pushing of magical packages that if you just buy enough DVDs.. you too can do xyz.. or solve abc problem ...
And of course, the concept that if you DIDN'T buy in already, then you CANNOT ask questions.
My clients, potential or actual, or even not potential, just random folk who come across this site, my website, my facebook page, are TOTALLY welcome to ask me any questions they like about my methods and why I use them and how they work.
There IS no secret in good animal behaviour and training - YOU can learn it too, go spend 10 years reading everything you can, observing, questioning other people, watching videos and tv clips and getting out there and hands on with as many animals as possible.
Keep up to date with science, and keep thinking outside the box, don't be afraid to talk to people who have been in the field 40 years or more, they were where you are, once.
So - if you find a website selling you something that is not clearly explained, if you come across lots of buzz-words but no real information, if you need to spend £100's or more, to reach enlightenment, if you have to wear the hat and drink the Kool Aid before your questions are answered...
You know, the emperor actually has no clothes, keep on looking for someone who will help you understand the reality, rather than sell you some whispery-woo-woo!
If you do want to find a dog trainer or other animal trainer who uses force free scientific methods, check out the Pet Professional Guild www.petprofessionalguild.com
If you happen to be in the West Midlands then my website is here www.canineconsultant.co.uk
Thursday, 4 April 2013
I was shocked the other day...
To find that a trainer I respect and admire in many ways, is doing something wrong.
I asked him about it and I was really disappointed that not only did he seem a little irritated (and that may just be my interpretation of the written word) but his explanation was really, off - it didn't actually cover the question I asked and he contradicted himself.
The title of this blog actually comes from a blog written by Dr. Ian Dunbar, a man I really admire (and he is a super lovely guy too!).. and I fully agree with this concept.
This is what he says, about training getting too technical:
"Dog training is in danger of losing its soul. Far too many trainers have adopted impersonal, quantum consequences (clicks, treats, jerks and shocks) in lieu of verbal feedback. Trainers have become technicians, which although beneficial for refining timing or learning how to set criteria, lacks feeling when teaching people to develop relationships with their dogs."
From: Dog Star Daily
I ought to point out, Ian isn't the trainer in question - its actually Zak George I am referring to, and I hope he won't mind me writing this blog and asking these questions, hes a very pro-internet minded guy and he is more than welcome to reply, by emailing me, (and I'll quote that in full on here) or by video blog, however, I'm easy.
This is the video in question: (actually it isn't its another where he says the same thing, the one I wanted was the one from his training class but I didn't seem to find it using the blog search tool!)...
It's all great until you notice near the end he says you should reward around 80% of the times you click......
No. No no no no no no.
Now, I fully appreciate that what Zak wants is people to engage with their dogs, consider the relationship with their dogs, enjoy time with their dogs.
Much as Ian Dunbar said, dog owners are not technicians, they are not programming a computer, this should be fun and easy going..
I totally agree.
However if you are going to use a tool, use it correctly.
The click means 'yes!', if you teach that the click means 'yeah, maybe, a bit right, I kinda liked it but no cookie' sometimes, then that click no longer means 'yes'....
I am not a clicker purist - I really am not, I talk to my dogs when clicker training, I will encourage them, I will lure them sometimes, I make the task fun and interesting and we have a ball. I am most certainly not some robotic clicker-die-hard who is cold and uninteresting.
But I do use the clicker properly - click = treat. Always.
Zak IS correct that a variable schedule of reward is more effective than just giving rewards all the time, sure it is, I am not going to fly in the face of science and say it isn't.
But in applying that concept, WITH clicker training, it is the CLICK that you withhold and thus as well, the reward, not JUST the reward.
That way you are saying to your dog 'yeah, that wasn't quite good enough; and if you WANT to, you can teach your dog a word that means 'yeah, but try a bit harder buddy'.. I use 'keep going' in a bright, interesting tone of voice which my dog understands to mean 'you are on the right track but I want more'...
I asked Zak, he generally responds on his new videos, pretty quickly, and here is that question and response:
· in reply to Emmabeth1980 "
So... sorry Zak but I don't think that really answers the question - I put it to you here, as I have on your video comments...
You say that teaching yes and no is important - I agree (though I avoid saying 'no' wherever possible because if I am saying 'no' a lot then clearly, I haven't put in enough work and the dog doesn't understand me as much as I thought or hoped)...
I think its important that we are clear in our communication, so I agree with you there too..
So why do you disagree with me, that clicking, (which we have conditioned our dogs to understand means 'yes' because it is followed by a reward), and then NOT rewarding, is not confusing or indeed 'lying' to our dogs?
I am writing this blog because I believe Zak to be a trainer open to ideas, continuously learning and up for discussion/exchange of views - I do hope I am not about to be proven wrong though!
I am fully in favour of science based dog training with feeling - but I think its important that we don't chuck out the 'science'!
So... Zak, from one trainer to another, are you open to discussion?
Edited to add:
In the interests of clarity and not leaving a thing 'unfinished', I paste the responses to the shared link on Facebook, here, as I suspect that link will be hard to find in a few days time.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond and discuss!
- Zak George · Friends with Risë VanFleet and 2 othersI feel where you're coming from Emma. Furthermore this is not the first variation I've introduced to status quo clicker training (or dog training in general). You are not the first to point this out. I fully acknowledge this is at odds with traditional clicker training. I advocate clicker training, not because there is anything special about clicker training in and of itself, but because it teaches the human to learn about impeccable timing when they have that button to press in their hand. This is a great tool, especially for beginners. The paradigm shift here is that I view clicker training as more valuable for teaching people about timing than I do teaching our dogs obedience (though it facilitates both of course).
I encourage the random dispensing of treats after 2 to 3 weeks of solid 100% reinforcement. I suppose the thing that I've evaluated over the years is that by clicking and rewarding intermittently, the attention begins to shift from the clicker to the person, which as you know, is what I'm all about, relationship based teaching. If one ALWAYS rewards after the click, training will ALWAYS have some element of superficiality (my opinion of course). I would say that to a degree you are right, that indeed the clicker begins to mean less to the dog when randomly following up the click with a treat. But what I seem to have not communicated to you accurately is that by "weakening" the click, we are exchanging for strengthening and better fusing communication with the human and not the tool.
For example, when our dog says, "Hey you clicked! Where's my treat?" We are there to say, "Keep paying attention to ME and (not the clicker) and you'll find yourself getting rewarded frequently". This is how I begin to transfer the emphasis of the artificial sound of a clicker to a training approach rooted in love, and genuine, UNFILTERED communication.
I appreciate, as always, your participation in the discussion!
- Jo Law I agree with most of what you say there, Zak. The only thing I'd disagree with is those times where you don't reward (with food, at least) is where I don't click. I mostly use a clicker when I'm teaching a new behaviour. Timing wise there's no better method of communicating. Once a dog understands what to do, and when to do it, that's when I do away with the clicker. I'll always reward verbally, and sometimes I will add food to that, sometimes a toy, sometimes 10 seconds of telling him what a special dog he is in my squeakiest voice (rarely that one in public though) etc.
It sounds like we do pretty much the same thing, only you still click and I don't.
My dog was 8 when I got him, zero interest in training, very little trust of people, no experience of positive cooperation with people, and he viewed people as mostly the things that stopped him doing what he wanted.
The clicker is so powerful because I now have a dog who says 'yay! Training!' when I reach for my clicker, who loves just being around me and doing things with and for me. It's great, and a large part of it was having that neutral, emotionless communication tool to help him get past bad experiences.
I wouldn't ever want to click and not treat, because that click is SO powerful, and I don't want to affect that.
- Deborah Campbell Burrows I think this muddies the water. I think the anti clicker brigade and newcomers already have a hard time understanding how it's supposed to work (simply click takes a photo of what you like = reward every time you click) that they are going to feel confused by this. It's the same as some camps saying click twice but feed once or press the clicker down to mean one thing and up for another/the next. It's really complicating what is a beautifully simple way of teaching an animal. We can and should mix in fun giggles, roughty toughty, happy voices as well - for sure.
- Sally Bradbury At the recent WOOF!! conference Susan Friedman showed a video to illustrate why you never break your promise to your dog that click = reinforcement. It was of a gorilla in a zoo being clicker trained for husbandry behaviours. Some way in to the session the novice trainer made the mistake of clicking and not feeding and he started to become agitated and eventually lost his temper and threw himself at the bars and stropped off.
- Emma Judson Now I stamped my foot (sorry it wasn't meant to come over quite like that but reading back it seems it has) and demanded an answer I have to apologise in advance for not replying in massive depth..
In short, I agree with Jo and Deborah and Sally - particularly Jo, I know she trains in a really similar way to me - I think I can safely say that for both of us, we have experienced the clicker being the first thing that a rescue dog REALLY clearly grasped as a positive communication with a super crystal clear meaning, and as a result we are perhaps more keen than most not to risk damaging that.
So as Jo says, we do do pretty much the same thing, moving the dog on from a constant reward to variable reward, we just do it by withholding the click as well as the treat rather than just the treat.
Anyway I am glad we can discuss stuff, I think it is super important that we all can, and keep on doing so, so thankyou for responding everyone!
Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Today is brought to you by the letter P, a soggy sofa and six variously stressed dogs.
So, I'll talk about stress - gotta be a bright side to something and it looks like 'work' so I get out of being the person to clean the P out of the sofa!
Here in the UK it is autumn and that means Firework season - technically it ought to just be the 5th of November - Guy Fawkes Night, where we rather inexplicably celebrate Guy Fawkes' failure to blow up Parliament.. by.... blowing up thousands of pounds worth of colourful explosives.
It is pretty obvious to most of us with dogs that some dogs will be upset by this, some mildly, some extremely.
There are lots of things about stress in dogs that are not nearly so obvious though!
Stress Affects Learning...
Some people say stress inhibits learning, and in some situations, that's true, but its very specific to certain contexts, the kind of stress and the lesson you wanted (or didn't want) to learn.
If you wanted to learn complex algebra, then trying to do so whilst abseiling off a cliff, suffering from extreme vertigo would be less than ideal. You are highly unlikely to learn any algebra.
That doesn't mean you wouldn't learn anything at ALL - it just wouldn't be algebra.
You would learn how it feels to be swinging off a cliff on a rope. You would learn how small the ground looks from up there and that looking at the ground makes you nauseous. You would learn how weird it feels to try and swallow and breath with a strong wind blowing in your face. You would learn what it feels like when your anal sphincter loosens...
All things you would learn would be extremely relevant to the situation you are in, and your existing fear. They would in fact be reinforcing that fear - even if you don't fall off the cliff - all these things would be added up in your brain and added to your pre-conceived idea that abseiling is frightening, heights are frightening...
Taking this back to dogs, if you try to teach your dog something new, when he is highly stressed by something that causes fear, you are extremely unlikely to succeed, and your dog is likely to further his learning that 'whatever it is' is cause for fear.
This is one of the times when people will say that positive reinforcement training doesn't work - because you cannot 'snap' a dog out of a reaction in an extremely stressful moment, by using food/toys/treats.
And they are right - but why is that.
I have to confess whilst I have friends who are psychologists, I am not one, so this is the laymans interpretation of why you cannot take in new information, that is not relevant or useful to your immediate, stressful situation.
Fear is a really basic thing. If you have learned that something is to be feared, then when your fear response is triggered lots of stuff happens, in the brain and the body.
Muscles tense, heart rate and respiration rate increases, the body prepares for fight or flight.
All this happens sub-consciously, it is not something you can tell someone not to do, nor easily distract them from.
The reason for that is pretty simplistic - if you can be easily distracted from something potentially life threatening, you would not stay alive for very long.
There are, basically, two options in a really extreme situation - you can either, remove the stimulus for the fear, or you can take control and make the subject so much MORE scared of you, that you become the priority rather than the original stimulus.
Obviously the former is not always possible, and the latter is not something we would want to do to a friend or an animal (or even a stranger!)
It is also worth bearing in mind that studies show that animals remember that a stimulus or trigger was associated with fear, long after the fearful thing actually stopped happening. This is why it takes a long time with repeated positive associations, to change an animals physiological and emotional reaction to a previously frightening trigger. Even worse if that association was with you!
So, that's the deal with extreme fear - in short, it is not a situation you want to create, nor push an animal into. The risks of making the problem worse are high, the chances of resolving the problem are low.
So What About the Small Stuff...
Ok, so the big stuff is fairly obvious. But the small things are not, the small things are what can add up to a massive event happening that you didn't see coming.
I like to use the analogy of a glass of water, the glass is your dog, the water is the stress.
The rules are, you can fill the glass up from the tap, but you can only empty it by evaporation - that's how stress works.
It is simplistic I know, but it creates a useful mental image for dog owners dealing with behavior modification programs.
Each event that a dog finds stressful is more water into the glass. Small event, a few drops, big event, the tap is turned on full.
When the glass is full, it can overflow - your dog reacts, bites someone, bolts, etc etc.
Now it is obviously not possible to remove every scrap of stress from your dogs daily life - you can't, no one can.
But it is possible to be more aware of it - for example, if you live with someone who frequently slams doors, that can add a few drops to the glass each time.
If your dog sits on the back of the couch, staring out of the window, even if he doesn't bark at stuff going by - that can add a few drops (if he does bark like a nutter its probably adding quite a lot!).
If every car journey is a barkfest, whether your dog is excited or frightened, thats more water into the glass.
If you go to flyball once a week and he spends an hour and a half in a small space with a lot of barking dogs - the glass is getting pretty full now...
Add in something like fireworks night or a visiting toddler running around the house screaming, or a hormonal adolescent boy having teenagerish rows ... that glass is going to over flow soon..
And then you open the door to go for a walk JUST as the postman is reaching for the letter box and ..... Yep, your dog has lunged and bitten the postman.
Thats the kind of sequence of events that can happen with a 'normal' dog, ie one whose owners do not consider he actually has a problem. And in the main, he doesn't really have a problem.
Now consider you have a dog who does have a problem, lets say he is reactive on leash when he sees another dog.
If you don't factor in the build up and diffusion of stress, it can seem like you make no progress, despite the fact that you are keeping him under threshold, you are rewarding positive experiences, you are taking him out of situations you know he cannot handle and yet you are not getting anywhere!
So what do I do??
This may well mean managing your dogs environment, and life, in a way you hadn't considered before, it might even mean doing things you might not realllllly want to do, or might have thought were not appropriate!
For example, everyone knows dogs need walking twice a day for at least 30 minutes right?
But actually if that 30 minute walk each day is adding a lot of stress to the pot, its worth considering that this is not beneficial to your dog.
So think up ways to exercise his mind and brain without the stress - that means things like walking at quieter times or in quieter places, playing games at home, clicker training, puzzle solving, feeding from food dispensing toys instead of a bowl.
One really great idea is to walk your dog for much shorter durations and focus heavily on rewarding him for all the good stuff he does.
If you can give him six 10 minute walks in a day, that is six times the chances of a successful walk than if you walk him once for an hour. If he meets another dog in that 1 hour and he kicks off, that one walk was massively stressful. If he meets one dog in one of his ten minute walks he has another five that were successful...
It is also much easier for you and your dog to remain focused and not get frustrated, in a ten minute walk - so again, six walks where you stayed calm, he stayed calm and you both enjoyed the experience is MUCH more productive than one walk that started out ok, but half an hour in he got bored, you got annoyed with him etc etc...
Another major thing is blocking views from windows - a lot of people absolutely hate the sound of this but using frosted window film really cuts down on the stress built up from watching stuff going on outside.
This pic is my living room window - my house fronts onto the end of a cul-de-sac and theres a footpath entrance/exit just past it. This means there is a lot of foot traffic, people, dogs and a TON of cats out there. Putting this film up cut out barking and relaxed my dogs within a few hours of it being done, and it doesn't cut out much light at all.
You can get film with nice cut out details along the top edge (or wherever you want) but it costs a little more and I am a cheapskate!
Compare the sacrifice of the view from the front window (woo, a carpark, other peoples cats..) to days and days of constantly telling the dogs to get off the sill, to shuttup, to come here and do something else... its a no brainer, it really is!
For those of you who think blinds might be the answer - we had those, for approximately 2 hours the first day we lived here. Then they were 'half' blinds because someone ATE the bottom 1foot section out of them so he could see out and yell at cats. Blinds are not the answer.
Ok so I covered my windows and I walk my dog in quieter places for shorter times, what else?
So if you have a house with five dogs in it, and only one water bowl, consider that it might for some of those dogs, be stressful to compete with four others for water. Put down a couple more bowls.
If you leave food for your dog out all the time, definitely change that - dogs are really not designed to cope with food being available all the time, this can cause HUGE amounts of stress an owner never notices.
Some dogs will actually obsessively 'save' food, they never see it arriving as the bowl is always kept topped up, they do not know that this will always be what happens and so they eat the barest minimum amount, just in case.
Some dogs will constantly worry about that food being there - for dogs, if food is there, eat it, or someone else will. So they are constantly worried that someone ELSE will take their food!
I guess this is easier to understand if you ever went to work and then realised you left your purse on the wheelybin outside your house.... could YOU concentrate at work all day knowing it was there and knowing someone might take it??
Another on food - if you have more than one dog, feed them as far apart as possible, even in another room. They may never have argued or fought over food, but you never know, it MIGHT be causing each dog a little bit of unnecessary stress.
If you only have one dog, is his food bowl put in a place people will constantly walk past as he eats it, or is it tucked away somewhere secure where he can eat in peace? If it isn't, consider moving it to somewhere more relaxing for him, or, better yet - provide that food in a kong or similar food dispensing toy, in a safe location. That way he can relax and get the maximum mental and physical satisfaction out of his dinner.
I'm sure I don't need to do these things, my dog doesn't have a problem with his food bowl, its his barking at strange men thats the issue...
But if you consider them, and you change the things you can, if you think 'actually maybe me shouting loudly at my Xbox game each night MIGHT be a bit worrying' or 'I'll try not to slam doors in future'... you might be surprised at how much better the other things get.
Training a dog is NOT just about teaching him to do this, or do that - its a holistic thing, which doesn't mean lots of bran and considering veganism, it means looking at the WHOLE of his life, rather than just the aspects that are causing you or him bother.
All the little things add up, so he may not look like he has a problem watching cats out of the window, and he may not seem to mind eating in the kitchen whilst people bustle to and fro - but you CAN change those things, and in changing them, you may well make it easier to address the specific issues!
I started writing this blog back in November, prompted by an incident where I forgot to consider the stress my dogs were under.
I was totally aware that the fireworks going off were stressful, and I was very concerned about the potential side effects that might have on my fearful, reactive Tibetan Terrier.
Then my friend wanted to come visit, and I love my friend so of course, I said yes - they came along, her, her partner and their gorgeous lurcher Charlie, who has visited here before.
What I forgot to think about, was the stress on my other dogs - so we managed Mr Tibetan Terrier, but in forgetting Ellie's needs, forgetting that actually as lovely as guests are and as much as Ellie adores them and likes their dog, it IS still stressful having people stay, we had a situation where Ellie got in a tizz and peed on the sofa!
It just goes to show that everyone makes mistakes, and clearly for Ellie, scary sounds going on for weeks on end, plus human visitors, plus canine visitor = too much. She couldn't pee outside, she was failing to communicate with us successfully, so she went to a safe place and peed there.
What Price Education?
This week, Bergin University of Canine Studies http://www.berginu.edu/ awarded Cesar Millan an Honorary Masters Degree...
Their facebook page WAS full of lovely photos of the smiling Millan surrounded by eager students, accompanied by his dog Junior.... but Facebookers took issue with Cesar's involvement, particularly with his being awarded a Masters Degree (even if it is Honorary)...
Bergin in their infinite (!) wisdom removed all of that and have replaced it with this:
I'd like to write an open letter to Bergin University...
Dear Bergin University,
It would seem you are giving out Masters Degrees to any idiot who makes up a load of rubbish and then talks about it on TV.
If I get my teeth whitened and rebrand positive training as 'magic', please can I have a Masters Degree as well?
I won't await a response and actually, who would now want a real degree from an establishment that feels its necessary to raise its profile by getting involved with a self confessed, uneducated man who REFUSES to educate himself.
I have absolutely no axe to grind against those who did not manage to get a formal education - I am in a very similar boat myself.
My problem is that Cesar HAS now got all the access he needs to education, he has the money, he can make the time, he has the access to all the top people within the profession, and yet he REFUSES, and I can only use that word, there is no other appropriate word for it, to improve himself.
He genuinely thinks, despite evidence to the contrary, that he has nothing else to learn...
Is that a good message for a university to promote?