Wednesday, 31 July 2013

It's another Cesar review - Jinx and Ruby the JRT's

To save your eyes from the frankly outright fuckwittery that is this slightly different 'behind the scenes' episode, I provide for you, a review. Ta da.

We are introduced to Ruby and Jinx, two JRT bitches aged 8 and 11.

Their problem - oh, well they HATE each other and they fight, and when they fight, they intend to kill.

We see their owner (I missed what her name was. Honestly, I don't really care) and she's working with one of the two terriers, using food rewards though she's using them in a rather obviously luring way, which suggests shes not 'da bomb' at positive reinforcement, as these dogs are way past old enough to have had outright bribery faded out!

Cesar meets the dogs - one lives upstairs, with an 18" high unsecured barrier (it folds in the middle and doesn't appear to be secured to the hallway wall) stopping her going downstairs to where the other lives, behind a similar barrier.

This does suggest to ME that though these dogs fight when together, out of sight is very much out of mind - I have lived with bitches who hated each other and really did want to kill, such barriers would have been a joke!

Cesar first meets Jinx who lives upstairs. He immediately identifies her as being submissive and weak, though excited because she sniffs him. For those who know JRTs, you'll be surprised to hear that this excited behaviour involves no barking and no jumping around, just curious leg sniffing.

Now he goes downstairs and meets Ruby, who stares at him, or rather, actually, past him at the freaky camera man. You can clearly see her do this in a few shots. She isn't bouncy, she doesn't bark, but he declares HER silence as meaning she's dominant. He asks if this is the dog who has done some hunting/bird dog work, and when this is confirmed he declares her a 'true animal' and pure and a hunter is always silent (remember this point later folks!). He makes a big deal of how awesome it is to be in the presence of this pure hunter... *rolleyes*

The owner discusses that shes tried using a shock collar to stop the fighting, she apparently knows how to use one of these properly as of course, shes trained Ruby to do bird dog work and that 'as any fule kno' requires a shock collar.... but oh, it seems that after the initial zap, the shock collar made no odds at all, they still fought.

We see some footage throughout the show, of Cesar in the editing suite looking at the footage. At one point very bizarrely he shows us a still of Jinx, claiming that ONE of her eyes is hard and aggressive and the other is soft and submissive..... WHAT THE VERY FUCK?

Cringe time...

Now we see Cesar let the two dogs in together, having already seen some lengthy footage of them on leads in the house yelling at one another fairly furiously, it is a bit of a let down to see them trot about generally relaxed and ignoring each other.

Cesar tries to trigger a fight - it takes rather a lot to achieve this. The owner has them facing each other in front of her and gives them food, she drops food between them and makes them wait to take it and then has one take it whilst the other waits.

Then we hit upon using the hoover, but Jinx just sits in a corner and Ruby is anxious but goes to the food bowl and eats. Cesar does correctly identify that Ruby is using the food as a displacement activity (he calls it redirecting), and of course he stops her doing this with a tsst and a jab a couple of times.

He identifies that Jinx is worried, shes sat by the gate and if given the choice, she'd leave - but actually I think its the cameraman who again is on the floor up in her face with a huge camera that is her real problem.

They give this up for a bit then try again and this time the owner starts to squeal 'they are going to fight they are going to fight' and THAT does trigger a fight...

However it is not Ruby who starts the fight, in fact Jinx puts the 'eye' on Ruby and steps towards her, Ruby was actually walking away but the owner screeching and Jinx's offensive behaviour means Ruby flies at her and Cesar has to scrabble to stop them.

He then holds them at arms length, kneeling on the floor, with himself in the middle, so the two dogs are facing one another. THroughout this 15 minute session it is Ruby who backs down first several times and Jinx, our supposedly 'weak' dog who is starting it up again.

At one point, Ruby eventually bites his hand a bit, he tells her off for it and claims shes the hunter because

He tries to let go at one point saying he should reward Ruby for backing down as she is clearly submissive now and the second he does, she flies for Jinx again.

We are seeing Cesars concept that one dog MUST be the dominant one and one MUST be the weak or submissive one, fall apart here, because in my opinion, NEITHER of these dogs is particularly confident nor 'dominant' - they are both pretty much riddled with anxiety and fear, and just don't really want anything to do with the other.

Eventually when Cesars feet go numb he separates them, carrying Ruby away and leaving Jinx with a member of the crew, then he comes back and lets Jinx go, but immediately she tries to get in her bed, he claims shes STILL not submissive and he stops her getting in the bed, stares her down, until she rolls and she crawls to him...

But apparently she is STILL not submissive, shes lying to him, shes faking it because her front legs are bent and stiff.

Hold up a minute - this dog was the one Cesar claimed was weak and submissive!

He prods her legs around a bit trying to make her relax, this doesn't actually work and then we cut to a scene where the owner is bringing both dogs to Cesar's centre.

They are let out off lead together and enter his compound and immediately meet some of his pack - they are pretty much ignoring one another and the other dogs and just exploring their environment, again, I strongly believe these dogs REALLY want nothing to do with one another and are only fighting when its triggered by something else.

Some of Cesars dogs are pretty rude, crowding, head over back etc, but there is no reaction until at some point the two girls end up in the same spot. We don't see why but its under a small table type thing and almost immediately they are clamped on to one another. Cesar picks them up together as they won't let go of each other and even when he prizes one off she re-grips onto the other bitches leg. Id be surprised if there weren't some fairly severe bite wounds.

Throughout this 'meet the pack' scene, Cesar waffles on - he starts asserting that JINX is the dominant one and that Ruby is the submissive one and then theres a voice over where Cesar explains that their roles have changed.

Here I suspect he made a mistake, and corrected it with the voice over edited in later - he is correct that dogs change roles when you change the environment, the context etc but at no point does he SAY this, he makes it sound like they have suddenly flipped roles permanently!

Then the show ends with some more footage in the editing suite, where Cesar explains that of course they only had 2 days with his pack, and he is absolutely positive he could have solved the problem but unfortunately the rehab has been postponed.... indefinitely. (So... cancelled then. Yeah? Postponed is temporary... indefinitely is forever)... due to Ruby having some serious health problem.

This episode was, frankly, fucking dreadful. Cesar reveals in the first five minutes of the show that he is guessing at much of what goes on. Good behaviourists take details BEFORE they show up, but Cesar clearly hasn't, because he has NO idea that these are both bitches, a fairly crucial point in my opinion!

It is quite possible that Ruby ALWAYS had a health problem, if this information is in fact true - a good behaviourist would insist that all dogs involved had a thorough vet check to rule out any underlying condition - again, it is possible Ruby always had this and no vet check was done.  If she did have a serious issue, this could have been enough to upset the other bitch (who was very clearly anxious!)

I actually think that the owner put the kybosh on this episode after her dogs injured one another at Cesars centre. I know I would be mighty pissed off if a behaviourists actions ended with my dogs being injured (of course I wouldn't send my dogs to a prat like Cesar though!).

I think THIS is why he chose to make this episode a sort of 'behind the scenes' one, filling in a lot of gaps created by the fact that he COULD not resolve the problem and that the owner threw in the towel.

What Cesar never ever picked up on was that simply, these two dogs are anxious, caused by a fight that kicked off with a third bitch, Lucky, who was subsequently rehomed. They had also spent HUGE (years) amounts of time separated, reintroduced only to fight, being shocked with shock collars - all things that would increase their anxiety and antipathy toward one another.

They just did not want to live together and part of being a GOOD behaviourist, is actually recognising the animals needs, not forcing them to do something for the owners benefit.

Of course the other thing GOOD behaviourists hold forefront in their minds is the ethos 'DO NO HARM'... but Cesar has never concerned himself with THAT one!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

I don't care how damn cute it is... Kids & Dogs

I Need To Rant...   Do you think this is cute? 

I make no apologies here, I have stolen these images off the net, and if it makes ONE dog owner or parent see sense and behave more responsibly, I'll do it again.

Children and dogs CAN have a fine old time, they really can. I adored dogs from an early age and, though we didn't have one, I was taught how to behave around dogs, just as I was taught how to behave with other children, how to cross the road, not to touch the fire ...

And until I was of an age where I could be trusted to follow those rules and that education on my own, I was not allowed to cross the road alone, be around dogs unsupervised, was not given access to the fire or the kettle or the sharp knives.

So why is it these days I am seeing endless frigging photos of children with dogs, being allowed and often ENCOURAGED to do things to dogs that dogs DON'T like, should NOT have to tolerate and that can and sadly does, tend to result in a child being bitten!

I hear really really frequently 'Oh, the dog lets him climb all over, he rides the dog like a pony, the dog lets him pull his ears and tail, he wanders round with food and if the dog approaches he bops him on the nose and says 'No!'...

"my dog would never hurt our child"...


Well, that's what Blakes' parents thought - here's Blake, he's so cute, that huge wound on his face is pretty cute too don't you think?

You don't? But Blake was just hanging out with a pair of dogs who were eating a bone, in fact, the dogs owners and Blakes parents don't actually know WHICH of the two dogs bit him - do we think this suggests that a/ they were not supervising him and b/ he was too close to the dogs and maybe c/ the dogs should have been left alone to eat their bones?

I'll quote from their own article on this incident, Blake was bitten by a dog:

"is a dog my son is used to walking around with food.. especially hotdogs.. and the dog will try to sniff his food and Blake will tell him no and pop his nose and the dog NORMALLY jumps away as if he is scared. My son rides this dog like a horse.. pulls his tail and ears.. anything you could imagine like that."

Dogs can and do tolerate a huge amount of  crap from us, from our kids - but they should not HAVE to. The likelyhood is, in fact, most dog's won't bite a kid, but very scarily, the likelyhood is this WON'T be through training, good management or an understanding owner.

Most owners do NOT see the warning signs that a dog is not happy, they do NOT read the body language of a dog avoiding a child, they don't know how to read (or even look for!) tension in the dogs body or mouth. They don't seem to realise that a dog is a sentient being with his own feelings, likes, dislikes, and he or she should NOT ever be considered a childs plaything.

If you want your dog to tolerate your child, you have to teach him how, you have to make him  feel that it is rewarding to stay calm and relaxed around the kid... and... you have to prevent the kid doing anything the dog won't like.

Here's a heads up folks - dogs do NOT want to be climbed on, bounced on, hit in the face, have their tails pulled, ears pulled, eyes poked, be sat on, be ridden like a pony, be taunted with food, have their toys snatched from them, have kids climb on them when they are in their beds....

In fact, a lot of dogs find babies and toddlers outright FRIGHTENING. They are unpredictable, they are grabby, they fall down a lot,they make sudden high pitched noises, they smell strange ... and if you think that is weird it is worth remembering, a lot of adult dogs actually freak out at first at puppies. If they find it hard to cope with a juvenile of their OWN species, can you see how a baby of a totally different species could be pretty damn scary?

Dogs do NOT automatically know how to behave around kids, nor should you expect them to. They are not 'bad' dogs if they are fearful, or boisterous or outright aggressive even - they are DOGS and unless you teach them how to be around children or manage them so that they CANNOT get near to children, then accidents like Blake's will happen.

Of course Blake is pretty lucky, he's just got some facial disfigurement. He seems like a pretty happy chap considering what a fright and what pain he has suffered.

None of it was necessary of course, if Blakes parents (and all the other parents who put their children AND their dogs at risk) had just taken some common sense management precautions.

So next time you see a picture like the one at the start of this blog, and you think 'aww, cute' - stop, and remember that it can end up like the picture in the middle and if it does, the chances are the dog ends up like this one:

And that's definitely NOT cute.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Balanced blogging... force free Gun Dog Training!

In the interests of 'balanced blogging', I'd like to show some examples of positive, force free training that cover most if not all of the jobs a working gundog would do.

Some of these will be with actual gundogs, and some will not, they will be pet dogs doing 'tricks' that can be applied to a variety of activities.

Whilst thinking about the previous blog, I have to say, (and this is absolutely no defense for the actions taken by Mr Upton), there ARE a lot more trainers out there behaving the way he does, treating dogs the way he does, and in a fair few circumstances, getting good results from it.

So first of all I'd like to address why that is.

Traditional gundog trainers don't start training a dog until it is around 12 months old, some wait til 18 months and they will tell you that to start earlier will ruin the dog...

Now I start training my dogs at 8 weeks old, and if I am lucky, I buy a pup from a breeder who has started the pup off at even younger, housetraining, chew toy training, the beginnings of recall, sit and settle down in a crate or kennel can ALL begin at around 5 weeks old!

So to hear that gundog trainers wouldn't start until the dog was practically an adult baffles my mind... until you realise that by training, they mean using fairly harsh physical punishment.
And now it makes sense - because you WILL ruin a puppy, you will kill all trust he has in you, if you start strangling him, lifting him up by his scruff or his ears, hitting him, kicking him etc, when he is a little baby. You also risk serious injury or killing the dog too.

So, for a lot of these pups they have spent maybe the first year or more of their lives doing nothing more than running around, being fed, playing and having fun. They have absolutely no reason not to trust their owner/trainer, because that person is the enabler of all the fun (bear in mind most of these dogs are also kennelled so their exposure to humans is very limited, what they do get is then awesome).

Next, when you are looking specifically at working dogs, doing the job they were bred to do, you must realise that there is one HECK of a lot of functional reward going on there. These dogs are not cooped up in a home and they are not going nuts being prevented, as many of us have to do, from doing what they inherently and instinctively are driven to do.

So, the dog is now 12 months old, and he is itching to get out there and hunt, he wants feathers in his mouth, he wants to retrieve, to mark, to quarter and flush, he is bursting to do this job and to please this person who has been his fun, his food source, his world...

And then that person sets him up to fail and punishes him physically. Whoa! But hang on.... there is still the FUN FUN HUNTING FUN OMG FUN... but wait.. erm.. hmm this guy, he was mean...

Well maybe that was a mista...... OW, he hit me...  oh now it's getting confusing!

So little baby gundog has suddenly discovered his owner is unpredictable, but he has always been a source of fun and still is, he is baby gundogs entire world and still is... and he enables those functional rewards, doing what baby gundogs want to do.. WORK...

It is against THIS backdrop we have to consider that, whilst it may APPEAR that harsh, force based methods work... its actually the truth that these dogs enjoy their jobs DESPITE the abuse they suffer under the guise of training.. not because of it.

People will of course tell you that the majority of dogs working successfully in the field are trained using compulsion, force based and physical punishment methods. They will also tell you most of the dogs winning field trials are also trained this way... ergo it works, ergo it is necessary...

But that isn't really the full story now is it. If all the dogs in a contest are trained the same way, that just means all the dogs in the contest are trained the same way.

If 50% were trained one way, and 50% were trained another way, THAT might give you some indication of whether force based training is 'better' or 'necessary'... but the currently status quo does not reflect this, because there are still more old school force based gundog trainers around.

So lets consider my point - these dogs are doing the job and doing it well not because of force based training, but, despite it.

Lets have a look at what positive reinforcement, force free gundog training looks like.

Here's Thomas Aaron from Fetchmasters, training young dogs to remain steady when the dummy is thrown, first without and then with, gunshot.

You'll notice, this IS a little scrappy, its rough and ready, but that's cool because Thom is clicker training, he can refine these behaviours later on. No they probably wouldn't win a UK field trial but hey, he's training a working dog, not a competition field trial animal (I am sure he could!)

What you will see is that the young dog is CHOOSING to exercise impulse control HIMSELF, he is not choosing to sit because he fears the repercussions, he is doing so because he understands that IF he does so, he earns his (functional) reward.. being allowed to go retrieve the dummy.

Nice. I like this, this dog is enjoying his work, he is building on his relationship with his owner/trainer here and no force is required.

Here's some non-gundog work that is totally applicable, training a sendaway, a drop on recall and heel, all completely fun for the dog, completely force free. This is Kikopup, aka Emily Larlham and she is a fantastic clicker trainer.

One of the most pervasive and I think, horrible concepts within traditional gundog training is the 'forced retrieve or forced fetch'.
I have just watched a video that claims the force fetch is the ONLY guaranteed way to teach a solid and reliable retrieve in a gundog. The vid (which I won't subject you to here, shows two very very miserable unhappy looking young labradors being subjected to ear pinches).

The concept of the force fetch is that the dog is taught the ONLY way to avoid pain (pinched ear) is by hanging on to that dummy until the handler asks him or her to hand it over.
This is negative reinforcement in action - the dog is subjected to something unpleasant (the ear pinch) which is removed as soon as the correct action is taken (holding the dummy).

In contrast, a clicker trainer teaches a retrieve by marking (clicking) the dog for first touching, then mouthing, then holding the dummy, then holding the dummy for longer and longer periods, and back chaining the sequence of behaviours, so the final stage 'present the dummy into the hand' is the first thing learned, then the distance is increased until the dog is retrieving the dummy to the hand.

Because the first thing learned is the last thing in the finished behaviour, it is also the most ingrained behavior, the dog knows that THIS is when the reward comes, and so he is not going to drop that dummy anywhere, which translates to, he is not going to drop the bird on his way back with it, because above all, it is returning the bird to the hand that is the important behaviour here.

All this is also fun for the dog to learn because it involves learning each stage with lots of praise and reward. You can see this in action here, in this video by Donna  Hill


No pained expressions here, no looking away, ears back, pawing at arms trying to avoid the punishment - here this dog is having fun AND learning efficiently and effectively.

So given that all this is possible, why DON'T people use it - I really don't know and I would love to hear peoples explanations as to why they think causing pain and discomfort and fear is acceptable and necessary, and why clicker training wouldn't work - I really would, and I promise you I won't call you an asshat if you come and talk to me. If you refuse to LISTEN and TRY of course, then you are THE biggest asshat going, but if you genuinely have not seen this stuff before, if you don't know how it works and you want to know, come talk to me!             

Monday, 8 July 2013

You have to be cruel to be kind??

Stills from video footage belonging to Christopher Upton, Callington, Cornwall
... Said the man who picked his spaniel up by the ears, threw it to the ground and then hit it a couple of times across the back for good measure.

It is shocking that even now, despite science and plenty of very successful, modern, force free trainers writing books, demonstrating their dogs work - despite the fact that all manner of dogs from pet dogs to dogs with serious jobs such as search and rescue, assistance dogs, bomb detection dogs... we STILL have people insisting that they need to use abusive methods to train dogs.

And let me ask you, just HOW serious a job actually IS a working gundog doing? Really, whose life depends on that dog quartering nicely, stopping promptly, recalling swiftly?

Nobody's, except perhaps the dog itself and that's the same for ANY dog off leash anywhere.

So why do people like Christopher Upton of Corleone Gundogs, think that it's not just acceptable, but completely necessary, to pick dogs up by their ears (he prefers this to a single hand on the scruff as it limits the dogs ability to whip round and bite him, which one presumes some dogs have done!)?

The video footage I took the stills from here is publicly available on Christopher's facebook page - I reproduce stills from it here under the UK copyright legislation 'fair dealing - using the work of others' as specified here:

"Criticism or review
Quoting parts of a work for the purpose of criticism or review is permitted provided that:
  • The work has been made available to the public.
  • The source of the material is acknowledged.
  • The material quoted must be accompanied by some actual discussion or assessment (to warrant the criticism or review classification).
  • The amount of the material quoted is no more than is necessary for the purpose of the review."

    Just in case Mr Upton does not like me discussing his behaviour or use of his publicly available video footage.

    So - is it necessary to use force? Or painful methods? Or fear? Or intimidation?

    I don't believe so, and a great many people agree with me - if we don't need to use force, fear, pain, intimidation etc to train dogs to detect bombs and save peoples lives, and we don't need to use these things to teach dogs to tell deaf people that the smoke alarm is going off...

    Why do we need to use them to teach dogs to flush game or retrieve dead game? These jobs cannot possibly be claimed to be serious or of life-or-death importance. They are just the things we need dogs to do as part of a hobby!
    Would it be acceptable to claim that we must use force and pain to teach heelwork-to-music, which no one would claim was a serious job - of course not!

    In one of Mr Upton's videos (one where he demonstrates teaching a loose leash walk by jerking a slip lead so hard he lifts a little spaniel bitch off her feet, whipping her round and seriously risking injury to her neck) he claims he has to be "cruel to be kind" and setting aside the fallacy of this thought process for a moment, this suggests very strongly that Mr Upton KNOWS that these methods are cruel - he is not of the opinion that picking a dog up by its ears, hitting it, jerking it off its feet by a noose round its neck, is NICE, he KNOWS it's cruel.

    It is perfectly possible to teach a dog any number of tricks (and yes Mr Upton, retrieving game is a trick, staying at a distance is a trick, dropping into a stay when running is a trick, these tricks are no more nor less difficult to teach than any other, they just happen to be relevant to your hobby, where reversing in a circle around someone's legs, hopping on three legs or closing a door might not be!) using positive reinforcement.

    Emily Larlham has some fantastic videos demonstrating a wide variety of behaviours trained using the clicker, some of them are frivolous and fun, some of them really useful for responsible and safe ownership of a dog.

    To a dog though, they are all the same - just tricks.

    Mr Upton claims that his training methods are justified because they work - personally I disagree with that concept.
    Now that we know WHY various methods work, and now that we have a choice in what methods we use, it really is not as simple as saying 'this works, I'll use it'.

    Allowing myself a little hyperbole at this late hour - I can cure a dog of stock chasing in under 30 seconds and I can promise you a 100% success rate, that dog will never chase stock again.

    How? Oh well I'll shoot your dog.

    It works right?

    Clearly this example is over the top, but the point is certain methods come with a price - and it is up to us to judge if that price is fair and acceptable.

    I can't comprehend that any right minded sane person thinks that causing pain, discomfort, fear, is an acceptable price - even if there was no other way...

    And of course, this is not the case, because there IS another way. There ARE people training dogs to do serious jobs, without using force, pain, intimidation, fear... there are also people very successfully training gundogs to do their jobs without using any of these things!

    For positive gundog training in the UK, speak to Helen Phillips or buy her book -

    For US readers -

    There are undoubtedly more out there, these are just the first two I found in under one minute's googling - they are NOT hard to find!

    Mr Upton has been reported to the RSPCA and they are allegedly dealing with the matter.

    Mr Upton is most assuredly not the only person using methods like this across the world, but for it to be stopped, we do have to stand up and be counted. Saying 'it shouldn't be allowed' is not enough - please take appropriate action!

    I would ask anyone reading this to keep their comments clean (no matter how hard that might be) and not to harass Mr Upton in any way - but if you feel strongly that abuse under the guise of training should not be permitted, do feel free to contact the RSPCA, your local press, dog magazines etc.