Sunday, 11 December 2016

Evaluating a New Method... do NOT try before you buy!

Ooh It's Shiny and New... must be great!

From time to time you hear of 'new' methods and techniques within dog training - for the most part these things are not really new, but repackaged and rebranded, but some are and if the concept is new to YOU, you'll need a way of evaluating it without just trying it out on your dog.

So how do you do that - there isn't an easy answer and if you are a new dog owner or you are at the beginning of your journey towards becoming a trainer or behaviourist, it can be even harder.

I have discussed before 'my' idea of the 'cost/benefit analysis'.. of course that isn't really MY idea, I didn't invent that process but just applied it to dog training methods, as others may well have done before me.

First of all, look at whether the method IS new or is something old, rebranded, tweaked, adapted or changed.

It may be that thats a good thing, or it could be a bad thing or it may actually mean nothing at all, but it might tell you something about the person promoting it, and that might be useful information.

So here's some methods much promoted and marketed by Cesar Millan - the alpha roll, the slip lead high up the neck and jerked hard, the use of prong and shock collars - but these are not new methods, they were used before Millan by the likes of Most, Koehler and the Monks of New Skete!

What about this, the Back-Pack or Rucksack Walk, a concept devised by Steve Mann - as far as I can see, this IS new, even if the concepts of mindfulness and calm engagement are not new, putting them together in that format is.

What about the force free, 'about turn' method of teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash - where you use a harness and line and you prevent the dog from self-rewarding by performing an about turn with a single warning, and reinforce the correct behaviour by rewarding with food, and with forward movement..

It's still not new, in fact its adapted from what Koehler was doing, just with the heavy harsh correction removed - the basic principle that the dog only gets what he wants when he walks beside you is the same, the basic idea that the dog needs to learn to pay attention to you and that its HIS job to do this not YOUR job to keep reminding or telling him, both those concepts were what Koehler was using... it's just that we now know you don't need to surprise a dog by yanking him off his feet by his neck to do this!

So the point of all this is - don't be swayed by things that claim to be shiny and new, maybe they are, maybe they are not, it really doesn't matter, it might well just be a sales gimmick!

The person recommending it is my idol/is super sexy/is an asshat...

Forget the name behind the method - I don't care and much more importantly your dog does not care if you think the sun shines out of the sexy trainers pert little bottom, or if you think he or she smells of wee... Not relevant, and you can be sucked into doing things that actually are not ok because you've put the person before the method, or equally you can chuck out with the dishwater an excellent concept or idea, because you don't like the personality behind it.

They ain't training your dog - you are.

The ONLY time I would put any consideration into WHO is promoting a method, is when you are wanting more information about it and you are  not allowed to access it, or you are told you don't understand or some other weaselly way of denying information, on a method otherwise being promoted and advised to members of the public.

This is the case with the Parelli's for example - you are welcome to buy the DVD and follow their method, do as they say... but you are NOT welcome to ask questions about the science behind their methods, particularly you are not welcome to ask critical questions or offer differing opinions.

If someone is promoting something, but you are not allowed to examine that method in detail, if you are not for example, allowed to ask about the inherent risks... thats when I would suggest you take a look at the persons behaviour a little further and consider that perhaps the animal welfare is NOT their priority, and raking in cash is, and people who ask the sticky questions might reveal something that damages that money making capacity.

I am not for a second saying that trainers or behaviourists should give you, for free, a weekends course in resource guarding or a 3 day seminar on dog - to - human aggression... everyone has to earn a living - but if someones method or technique is safe and sensible they should have no issue with you asking questions about it - if they do then the odds are, they have something to hide.

So go on then.. analyse a method...

Ok so, the latest method I have read about is designed to deal with leash reactivity, and is called Turn and Face, and is promoted/written about and I assume concieved by Denise Mcleod.

I took the time out to read her book a couple of days ago following some discussion on the method on Facebook and viewing some of the videos of it in action.

The method is, in brief, that you set up the reactive dog with stooge dogs, and as the dog goes to react you firmly grab his collar putting pressure on the back of the neck and bring him around and in so that his face ends up against your legs/crotch (depending on relative height of dog and handler).

The claim is that this stops the reaction, and allows the dog to calm down and over time breaks the habit of reacting in this way and allows the dog to choose to not react in this way.

The other claimed benefits of this method are that it works very quickly in just a few repetitions, which reduces the stress reactive dogs suffer from

The author goes to great lengths at the end of her book to outline that this method works 80 to 90% of the time, but also goes to great lengths to explain it isn't suitable for all dogs who are reactive, it shouldn't be done with dogs who will redirect aggression onto the handler, it should be done in a controlled environment with stooge dogs who will not react, it should not be done with dogs under a certain size... there is a long list of where this should not be done and dogs it should not be done with.

In my opinion therefore this method is already starting out 'dodgy' - it can only be applied in very specific circumstances, in dogs who are actually reactive out of habit and frustration and not aggression.

It is my experience that whilst there are a lot of frustrated reactive dogs out there, many dogs are reactive out of fear and pain and if the majority of pet dog owners were capable of deducing that, I would probably be out of a job!

So lets run the cost/benefit analysis.

Claimed benefits:

Works quickly.
Calms the dog
Ends reactivity

Potential costs:

Involves physical force to the dogs neck - risk of injury.
Could result in dog redirecting onto owner - risk of injury to owner.
Could result in dog becoming more fearful rather than less fearful if dog suffers pain or fear and associates this with the trigger
May not work.

The method requires that:

Owner has access to controlled environment.
Owner has access to suitable stooge dogs.
Owner is capable of assessing their own dogs behaviour and temperament as suitable for this method.
Dog be comfortable with being handled but NOT pre-conditioned to sudden collar grabs as the 'startle' effect is necessary for the method to work.
Dog not actually be aggressive.
Dog be suitable size/weight comparable to owner.
Owner be physically capable of grabbing dog and swinging it round and forcing it into their legs AND holding it there.
Dog is 'set up' to fail and flooded, repeatedly, in the days immediately following use of the method.
Method NOT recommended (by author) to be used in public initially due to 'how it looks' and the requirement for a controlled environment.

For me to use a method,  I need that method to be high on benefits and low on risk, AND that method needs to be practical and either applicable to most dogs or adaptable to all.

I also need to be sure that of the available methods applicable to the dog I am working with, this is the least invasive and least aversive, so I need to look at the alternatives.

What are the alternatives to 'Turn and Face'...

Well the first that springs to mind is Counter Conditioning and Desensitization - whereby I pair the sight of the trigger whilst the dog is under threshold, with high value rewards, typically food, and I keep exposure to a minimum duration/maximum distance.

What are the benefits to that:

Dogs emotional reaction to trigger is changed
Reactivity ceases
Bond with owner improves
Dog is kept under threshold so general stress is reduced

What might the costs be:

Might take a while depending on available environment to work in
Might not work.

What does this method require:

Access to a suitable environment to work in or ability to adapt method to environment available.
Understanding of dogs threshold
Understanding what rewards the dog values most highly

You should note here that I have carried out this analysis working on the assumption that the method in each case is being done correctly.

It should really go without saying that if you apply a method incorrectly, the analysis does not work - if you are attempting counter conditioning for example, and you put the dog over threshold then you aren't actually doing counter conditioning, you are flooding your dog!

So going back to the comparisons of those two methods it should be very clear that using Turn and Face has a lot of potential risks to a small handful of potential benefits, and CC/DS has very few risks to a lot of potential benefits.

NOW finally, lets look at which of these methods is kind/humane/fluffy/nice etc etc...

CC/DS requires that the dogs stress levels be kept low by avoiding the dog going over threshold. This requires the owner to consider the dogs day to day life on a holistic level, which can only be a good thing!
CC/DS works by changing the dogs emotional reaction to the trigger, and this further down the line then gives the owner the opportunity to teach/train/allow the dog to choose alternative behaviours as appropriate when they see that trigger.

Turn and Face requires that the dog be subjected to the trigger over threshold, the dog HAS to react for the method to be applied, so this increases stress.
Turn and Face risks that the dog or handler could be hurt - imagine if the owner has assessed wrongly and the dog redirects into a male owners crotch... ouch!  Imagine if the dog actually has a soft tissue injury or a spinal injury to the neck and the owner grabs and puts pressure on the dogs neck - ouch!
Turn and Face requires that the dog be startled by being grabbed and turned - that has to increase stress.
It is likely that if and when Turn and Face works, it does so by causing the dog to 'shut down' ie to experience learned helplessness, because the dog is experiencing high stress, an aversive, and then being trapped and unable to escape - pretty classic recipe for learned helplessness.

Really the short version of this is, Turn and Face MIGHT be something you would do in an emergency if you were say, trapped in a location where you couldn't get the space your dog needed and you would rather risk a bite to the crotch or leg than your dog making contact with someone else or their dog.

I might do that, but then, I also might yoik my dog out of the path of oncoming traffic by his left testicle - doesn't mean I'd base a training method around that!

It is not a method I would ever risk applying to my dogs or the dogs I work with, because the risks are too high, the benefits are insufficient and not guaranteed and the specifics about who, where and when are just too much to make it practical.

The bottom line is, there are alternatives (theres also LAT, BAT, CAT and multitudinous variations upon these) which vary in their difficulty and risk level but as far as I am aware, ALL are less risky than Turn and Face.

I would like to add - I would have liked to add videos of Turn and Face to this blog however, the author has blocked me from Facebook and refuses to answer any of the points I have raised about the method and addresses any constructive critiscism or attempts at discussion by deleting posts, blocking people and denouncing them as trolls.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

It's Not About You.... It's About What You Do... PART TWO...

It's Not About You...

It doesn't matter if what you are doing is absolutely fucking awesome, or absolutely dreadful - in dog training it really is not and should not be, about you.

If it's about you, there's a problem - because when it's about you theres a bloody big risk that it's no longer about the dog, or the client.

Heres what that priority list needs to look like:

A bunch of other fucking stuff.

Right now theres a lot of cool stuff happening in the positive, reward based, open minded, caring sharing dog training world.

Oh yes - there's trick training, theres back-pack walks, there's 'do as I do' and there's snuffle mats and sprinkles and doggy zen and mooching vs walking and there's bite prevention and theres teaching kids to interact appropriately with dogs..

There is a veritable fuck-ton of good stuff going on, its awesome, its lovely, there is something there for you no matter what dog you have and what your goals or needs are.

But there's also one hell of a lot of ego flying around, there's trainers with 'celeb' status, trainers who are about to have 'celeb' status theres trainers who used to have 'celeb' status and don't any more - theres organisations who promised a lot and delivered substantially less, theres organisations that actually didn't do what it said on the tin and new ones popping up and brilliant ones doing their thing...

It's a big old melting pot right now and whilst theres some grumbly unpleasant shit under the surface  I WOULD like to focus on the positives.

Theres more good than there is bad, I do believe that - and more importantly, the 'bad' that there is is just human shit, it's going to go away, it will all come out in the wash and it doesn't really matter.

But there is one thing that is starting to become worrying, and this is why all this ego and celeb status shit is a problem.

We all like and follow one another on facebook and if you are a 'name' you've probably got a FB list that is full or nearly full, you probably have a friend list that 95% of which, you do not know - I am not a 'name' and the latter applies to me!

When you like or follow someone, whether you intend it or not you are giving some kudos to what they do, you are saying 'I endorse this'.

You MIGHT just be friends with that person because you've no clue what they do, or you are keeping an eye on what they are up to - but in all honesty, the short hand is, friend on facebook, liked on facebook = endorsement from you.

When you put THIS together with the laudable and positive action of NOT talking about negative stuff..

You end up with bad shit happening and no fucker saying a word.

Whats that saying about that scenario?

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
We have GOT to stick our heads over the parapet - it is a fine line, it ABSOLUTELY is, and this is not and it never should be about people.. as I say, it is NOT about you...

It's About What You Do...

If a method of teaching a dog involves physical force, involves startling the dog, is a quick fix method that carries huge risk, where a much lower risk method could be used.

I will say so. And you should too.

If you are the owner or founder of an organisation, this applies even more!

This nicey nicey lets all be positive and lovely - sure when it comes to talking to people, dealing with clients, handling dogs - yes...

But when it comes to ignoring abuse and welfare risks - no. Hell no.

Now I am of course NOT talking about attacking people and I am not talking about just being a shit-weasel, pointing out flaws with no real back-up, no alternatives, no science behind what you are saying.

Not at all, thats never useful, its as un-useful as the reverse, saying somethings shiny and wonderful and lovely without explaining WHY it is and how it works.

So when you see someone doing something you believe is wrong, what are YOU going to do? Because its every bit as much about what YOU do about it, as it is about what someone is doing in the first place!

Personally, for me, I will be speaking out.

If I believe a method is wrong, it will be because that method is risky, it is dangerous to the dog, the handler, to the public or all three.

It will be because that method does not pass my cost/benefit analysis - the potential benefits do not outweigh the potential risk.

And it will be because there are safer, more efficient, less stressful, less risky alternatives available that are practical and kind.

But I won't just say that something is wrong.

I'll be sure to make it clear WHY.. what those potential risks are.

I'll be sure to make it clear what the ALTERNATIVES are, and how to adapt those alternative methods to suit your situation and your skill level and your dog.

I'll be sure to make it clear how to manage your dog so that during the training or rehab process, your dog is not stressed or upset.

My remit when training or modifying dog behaviour is like medics, to first, do no harm.

I believe as positive trainers though our remit is broader than that, I think we should speak out when we see harm being done, and try to prevent others doing harm.

We should always attempt to educate, but if someone is not interested in learning, that should not stop us in ensuring that the safe, sensible advice is available, so that people can make an educated choice as to what to do - and that, as negative as it might appear, needs to include speaking out against harmful methods, because the average dog owner is NOT in a position to assess the risks and dangers for themselves, that is why we are the experts and they are the clients.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Getting Sneaky - when you can't stop something happening.. change what it means!

So I am inspired to write this because yet again, I am helping someone who through no fault of their own, is stuck in a situation they cannot control.

This happens and over the years I have lost count of the number of people who live with others who handle and train their dogs in a way the actual owner really doesn't want them too but for a variety of reasons, they cannot prevent it.

Most commonly its because the people doing the 'bad stuff' are family members - and if it's hard to train people, its a MILLION times harder to change the behaviour of family members!

So what follows is NOT perfect - I know this, you know this - but we don't live in an ideal world where someone can just up and leave and take their dog to a nice place, or wave a magic wand and stop their Mum or their Sister from doing whatever to the dog.

Here are some ideas for limiting the damage if you are stuck in a situation where people insist on using punishment based methods and you want to use positive reinforcement.

The first thing to know is that dogs are quite capable of figuring out that one person acts one way, and another person or persons act another way - as long as all the persons are consistent in the way they act.

TO put it bluntly, if you are always nice, rewarding, safe and kind, but your brother is consistently a dick - a dog will figure this out.

That said, if a dog is being trained two different ways, that IS going to slow down progress no matter how smart your dog is - thats unavoidable but hopefully some of the ideas that follow will help.

Situation 1 - Joe has a dog that barks at stuff, Joe knows his dog is a bit anxious and barks when startled or to try and make the scary sounds/sights go away. Joe wants to stop the barking in a kind way.

Cynthia just doesn't like the barking and figures using a bottle of water sprayed in the dogs face will stop it - she tries it and it does .. for a limited time, and then the dog barks again and she repeats it. She thinks this is fine.

Joe doesn't like this and nor does the dog.

If we can't change Cynthias behaviour here, and we can't magically stop Joe barking in one training session... what CAN we do?

Well we could make the spray bottle no longer be an aversive!

We could make the spray bottle a 'positive interrupter' - right now, it stops the dog barking for a minute or two because it startles him and he doesn't like it.

But if he LIKED it, and he thought it meant 'hey, you might get a treat now, or maybe the chance to do something that earns a treat'... he would ALSO stop barking, because it still interrupts him, but it tells him something GOOD is coming, which starts to make him associate the thing he was barking with, with the opportunity to get something good.

Now this is basically classical conditioning but it won't work as fast as just giving the dog a treat each time he hears a sound, because we have put an extra step in the way.

That is still ok - its not perfect, but its the best option right now.

So Joe takes his dog off to his room or out somewhere quiet, and he has the spray bottle with water in it, and he has a big pouch full of SUPER good treats.

Depending on how worried his dog is about the bottle he MAY start by just showing the dog the bottle and immediately giving a high value treat.

Then when the dog starts to show him the 'yay, treats' face on seeing the bottle, Joe sprays a bit of water into his own hand, AWAY from the dogs face, and gives a treat (or even several).

When Joe's dog associates the sight of the spray bottle AND the sound of it being sprayed with brilliant treats, Joe can move to hte next step, which is a few drops of water touching the dog - this may need to be from Joe's fingers rather than the bottle directly but thats ok - now drops of water with the bottle in sight, = fabulous treats.

Work through these stages slowly, at a pace the dog can handle, and ALWAYS leave him wanting more, we want him to be like 'aww shucks.. ' when you put the bottle and treats away!

The next step is to go through some of these stages around the house in different rooms - pick times when no ones home or people are busy elsewhere, its important they DONT know what you are doing here.

This teaches the dog that the spray bottle, the water, the sound, still means treats no matter WHERE it happens.

The NEXT step is to teach the dog that sometimes the bottle means treats.. and sometimes it means 'now I'll ask you to sit, and you get a treat' or 'now I'll ask for a paw.. and you'll get a treat'. So the bottle means 'a treat OR the opportunity to earn one is coming'.

This step is important as if you have a family who want to punish the dog for barking, you can't just give the dog a treat without having asked him to do something for it -you'll just get into a row, so lets avoid that row.

The ultimate goal is that Cynthia sprays the dog for barking, and then Joe asks him to sit and gives him a treat for sitting - Cynthia does NOT know that now, the dog thinks the spray bottle is GOOD or that Joe has reinforced this idea by asking for a simple behaviour and rewarding it.

The dog stops barking because hey, its fun spray bottle time.. so Cynthia is happy that it works - and whilst this is annoying that she will think it works, it does at least mean she's not going to use a harsher punishment in future!

You can apply EXACTLY the same process to all the startle type punishments or interruptors people tend to use, for example, clapping, shouting, throwing a can full of pebbles or pennies, grabbing the dog by the collar even..

If you work with the dog to teach him that all of these things actually mean he's going to get something good maybe now, maybe in a minute, maybe after doing something else...

Then you dramatically limit the damage that the 'punishments' people are giving can actually do.

Here's how I would desensitize to a collar grab (something I think all dogs should learn anyway to be safe in case someone DOES grab their collar).

1 - Touch your dog on the neck or shoulder near to his collar but not actually on his collar yet (particularly if he currently thinks thats a BAD thing)... you can use a clicker if you like or just say 'yes!' in a happy clear tone, and reward him.

Repeat this step a few times - remember to end the session BEFORE he has had enough so he always wants more.

2 - Touch your dog on the neck or shoulder but now slide your hand toward his collar - mark with yes or a click, give the reward.

At this point, I would start not just feeding the reward by hand, but tossing the treat so he has to get up and get it, and then come back to you to continue the session.

The reason for this is, if your dog is reluctant to come back over to you to continue the session, thats a clear indicator he is not happy about this and that you need to go back down to an easier level - important that you don't push your dog too fast and it can sometimes be hard, so this really helps.

3 - Presuming your dog is now happy for you to touch, slide, mark and toss his treat, he goes and gets it and comes right back for the next go, move to touching his actual collar for a second before you mark and reward.

4 - Now we want to introduce sliding the hand under the collar for a second - same as the previous steps!

5 - Now we want to actually put a little bit of pressure on the collar. At this stage I would work for quite a few sessions on including just one or two 'pressure on collar' events, with lots of 'just sliding hand under' attempts, so that you are not just making it harder and harder each time. Its also good to ensure you are also doing short sessions on other tricks, games or behaviours, so that he gets a break.

6 - Now we start introducing actually tugging the collar a bit - and here I would start to make the slides and gentle pressure attempts be worth a different value of reward to the tugs - so a tug on the collar earns him a big ole lump of cheese (or whatever his $20 reward is) but a slide or touch earns him just a bit of kibble (or whatever his $5 reward is).

This way you are setting him up to WANT his collar tugged, cos BOY thats good!

All these sessions (and the ones that come after, tugging harder, tugging suddenly etc) should be no more than 5 minutes long, sometimes a lot less even, so they are EASY to fit into an ad break, or 5 minutes up in your room, which is really useful if you live in a busy household where its hard to get space away from people!

It can be VERY demoralising and even heartbreaking to want to train your dog with kindness and positive reinforcement, when other people want to use punishment and fear.

Do not let it get you down, do not EVER feel like your 5 minute sessions here and there are not worth doing - they ARE worth doing.

Asides from giving your dog the ability to cope and tolerate stuff htat is otherwise unpleasant for him, you will also find that YOUR bond and YOUR working relationship with the dog improves, to the point where he is always going to come to you, listen to you, comply with you - and the more that happens the easier he is to keep safe from other people.

So if you are someone trapped in this situation - don't despair - this stuff really does work - I had to desensitize one of my dogs to a friends really loud voice and tendancy to bend down suddenly and GRAB him for a really rough cuddle - we worked on this and he now LOVES a cuddle and he can cope with the surprise element to it, and the booming voice -  sure it would be nice if i could just get my friend to quit acting like that but for various reasons, I can't, so this is the next best option!

Make yourself a list of the things that happen that you might be able to limit but you can't stop entirely, and work out ways to teach your dog that these things are in fact a predictor of something GOOD instead of something bad.

As ever, positive training works best when we focus on what we CAN do, and not on what we can't, or what we don't want.

And hang in there - I know its tough. :)

Crates - the ins and outs!

Within my doggy circles there's been some discussion on the topic of crating.

This is something that comes up every so often so instead of ranting at my poor partner Mike, I'll stick it in here.

So, what is a crate, what is it for, how can it be used appropriately and what might constitute inappropriate use?


A crate is a plastic or metal box, effectively - an indoor kennel, a travel container, a cage, - its a secure confinement system that you can have inside your home or your car or your caravan or boat or wherever, where your dog can be contained.

Dogs MUST be trained
to use a crate - I have written about this process elsewhere but the short version is, the dog must WANT to go in the crate, there is NO distress involved, if the dog is crying or trying to get out AT ALL you are doing it wrong. The door is not shut and you do not walk away until the dog is SO happy being in that crate that he doesn't CARE if the door is open or shut, he's happy to stay in there.

It takes time to teach a dog to be crated, and it NEVER EVER involves just shoving a dog in, locking the door and leaving him to cry it out.

Throughout this blog I will be writing with the assumption that crate training has been done properly.

So whats it for?

Well I believe being able to be crated for short periods (four hours max unless travelling in a plane or on veterinary recommended crate rest) is a vital skill all dogs should learn.

This means your dog is happy to be crated if he is in the vets (where if you leave him there, he WILL be crated in one of their built in crates or small kennels), if you need to travel him, if you have a visitor coming over who is perhaps scared of dogs or maybe not able to behave appropriately around dogs, if he hurts himself and needs to have seriously restricted movement, if you go and stay somewhere that requires your dog to be confined.

These are generally 'emergency' situations where the LAST thing you want to be doing or potentially you cannot do, is magic up time to teach your dog to be crated.

Trust me, having an injured dog distressed and in pain, further distressed by being crated is a horrible experience for everyone. Similiarly, dealing with an emergency family visit with a small toddler who is magnetized to your dog, and your dog is scared of toddlers.. the last thing you want to be doing is trying to crate train your dog in 0 time so that everyone stays safe.

Beyond these reasons, a crate can be used to manage behaviour which can assist in training other things.

For example, you are house training a puppy which requires near constant vigilance, but you desperately need to pee yourself - you know that if left loose your puppy will pee on the carpet but if popped in the crate will hang on for the 2 minutes it takes you to pee.

Another example - your rescue dog is a joy and a delight, however he is absolutely shit hot at swiping food off counters. You have no door to your kitchen and a baby gate won't fit, and your husband is cooking and you are not home.

Crating your dog whilst he cooks means theres no chance for your dog to reward himself by swiping half your pizza off the counter whilst your husband looks the other way reaching for the cheese grater.

Managing your dog so that errors cannot happen will assist training - its crucial to understand that management really won't TRAIN the dog for you, you'll still need to train the behaviours you DO want. But it will help you prevent mistakes.

So sure, use the crate whilst you go pee so your puppy doesn't tinkle on the floor just as you sit on the toilet seat yourself - use that crate whilst you are gone and hubby is cooking because you know, men don't have eyes in the backs of their heads and he WILL let the new dog swipe food off the counter.

But of course, carry on working on potty training taking your pup outside frequently, rewarding for toiletting outside and being vigilant and keeping pup within eye-line when you can supervise.

Make sure that when you ARE home and cooking, you take time to do some multi-tasking sessions where you teach your rescue dog to lie on a mat or bed outside the kitchen whilst you cook a simple meal.

The key is to recognise the teachable moments and CREATE teachable moments whenever you can - and use the crate as a helpful tool for those moments where you really can't.

So what might constitute inappropriate use?

So here's the big deal really, here's where the crate is getting a bad reputation.

There does seem to be a growing trend, a culture even, of dogs being crated for long periods during the day AND night, and only allowed out to interact with owners for short periods.

This is wildly inappropriate use of the crate, even if the dog is taught to accept being crated properly.

A crate does NOT make up for you not having time to interact with your dog, supervise your dog, play with your dog or train your dog.

Using the crate INSTEAD of training your dog, where this means your dog then has a reduced quality of life.

By this I mean, instead of teaching your bouncy young pup how to behave around visitors, you always crate him when people come over, so he NEVER learns how to behave when visitors come over, so he misses out on that lesson on how to interact with people, he doesn't learn the rules and manners expected of him.

In turn this means that he has fewer human friends, is less likely to be able to go places with you because he lacks those skills, and his life is poorer for this, he may even become frustrated or anxious about people because he hasn't gained those skills.

When owners JUST focus on management and never progress to actually dealing with the various issues it can be a slippery slope.

Crate Fido when guests come over instead of teaching him how to behave nicely.
Crate Fido when cooking instead of teaching him how to stay on his bed or stay out of the kitchen, or just not to jump up on the counters.
Crate Fido whilst we go out instead of teaching him how to stay home alone.
Crate Fido whilst we watch TV instead of teaching him how to settle.
Crate Fido whilst we do chores or paperwork instead of teaching him how to play with his own toys quietly.
Crate Fido whilst we sleep..

Until it turns out that unless Fido is playing a game in the yard or going for a walk, he's in his crate!

The crate should not be used to just mask problems either - if you can't leave your dog home alone because he freaks out trashing the house and risking serious damage to the property and himself - crating is NOT your answer, this may prevent costly damage to your home, but your dog will still be distressed, and will probably hurt himself.

Finally - I don't believe crates should be used as a punishment - the most important factor of crating is that your dog ENJOYS his crate. Using it for punishment will ruin that and if it doesn't well its hardly an effective punishment so you'll need to re-assess what you are doing there anyway. (Note that using a crate as a means of asking your dog to settle down and calm down is NOT a punishment!).

So whats the bottom line here? Are crates good or bad?

Personally, I firmly believe that used appropriately a crate CAN be a very useful tool in keeping your dog safe, helping you manage problems WHILST you train or modify behaviour, and that every dog should be taught to accept being crated even if you don't intend to use a crate as part of training your dog.

It is by no means totally necessary to use a crate to train a dog - plenty of people have managed to train dogs very nicely without a crate, so if that's you and your dog, thats fab - but having the occasional practice session every so often will keep your dog happy about being crated should the need ever arise.

It is of course absolutely possible and sadly, it happens every day, that crates are mis-used, that dogs spend too long inside them and not enough time out and doing things, and that dogs are still shoved into crates and left to cry it out.

This should NEVER happen - so please, consider using crates appropriately but when you DO use a crate, check yourself - think 'is this necessary management, or could I train an alternative behaviour'... keep a mental check on how long your dog is spending crated and what can you do to change that?

Thursday, 11 August 2016

When a Behavioural Assessment is ... nothing of the kind.

This video came to my attention today - I apologise that what you are about to view IF you choose to hit play, is not pleasant and involves an old dog suffering unecessarily.

This video is supposed to show a Police Dog Legislation Officer, Constable Davidson, carrying out a behavioural assessment on a dog currently under police care.

Asides from the rudimentary training in identifying 'type' dogs, this man has no valid qualification to carry out behavioural assessments, he is allegedly a student of the Cambridge Insititute of Dog Behaviour and Training, an organisation wholly out of date when it comes to a scientific basis for dog behaviour - though even they are stepping away from the content of this video!

On seeing this video I wrote my initial thoughts, based on my professional experience and my prior learning (now nearly 20 years worth of constant continued professional development), but in that I don't fully explain what a behavioural assessment should be doing or looking for, and really why what happens in this video is not particularly useful and from a welfare point of view, horrific.

You can read that initial review at the end of this blog entry - keep in mind it was written before I had read similar reviews of the footage by other behaviourists and trainers, so the opinions within are entirely my own.

Here are some salient points, these are all points the officer either was aware of, or should have been aware of, had he paid attention to the information available to him.

  • Buster/Butch (he appears to have been known by both names) belonged to an elderly person who had already applied to have the dog taken into a breed specific rescue, Senior Staffy Club, who specialise in old Staffies.

  •   Before they could take him he was due to be vaccinated for kennel cough, but sadly, his owner died. The police I assume were called to the house as Buster was stuck in the home with no food or water and his owners body - sadly as is not uncommon, he had eaten part of his owners body.

  • Buster was then seized by the police and held as a dangerous dog - there is to my knowledge no evidence that Buster attacked his owner, or that any injuries were commited by him before the owner died, however the police still insist that Buster is a dangerous dog.

  • There is no information to suggest that Buster has ever attacked a living person - yet Constable Davidson suggests in this video that Buster attacked his owner who subsequently died, this is not the truth.

  • Buster is an old dog - Davidson acknowledges this on camera.

  • Buster has been held in police kennels for 'some time' I am lead to believe this is months.

  • The kennels as can be clearly seen and heard in the video, are a barren and very loud, stressful environment, and totally alien to a dog who has been a pet well into old age.

  • Buster has in the last few months experienced his primary care giver dying, being sufficiently short of food that he has had to eat his owners body, strangers coming into his home, being taken away by strangers to an unfamiliar and very stressful environment.

  • It can be clearly seen that Buster is not in good condition as Davidson states, but is lacking muscle tone particularly around his hind quarters, and is unsteady, stiff and has a gait that strongly suggests joint pain. It would not be unreasonable for any person familiar with handling dogs to assume he has a degree of pain, most likely arthritis, and that his health conditions may well not be limited to just that.

  • It is possible that Buster has some degree of hearing loss.

  • It is very possible that Buster has not been trained, that even if he has, he has not been trained to a high enough standard that he understands commands given by total strangers, in an alien and uncomfortable environment.

  • It is almost certain that a dog in pain and in an alien environment being handled by a stranger will struggle to comply with commands, particularly if they will exacerbate pain or he fears that compliance will hurt him, will not comply.

    This is not a behavioural assessment of any worth, it does not prove that Buster is dangerous, in fact I would say it proves the opposite, that Buster is highly predictable and has a huge degree of self control, only using the minimal amount of force to end the situation and no more.

    It was incredibly stressful and unpleasant for the dog, has almost certainly caused some lasting behavioural damage (he is now going to fear that kind of handling again!) and was totally unnecessary.

    Buster should never have been subjected to this assessment, what he needed was to see a vet and have his pain taken care of, and a veterinary assessment should take place before a dog is assessed behaviourally, because pain and fear of pain will modify behaviour.

    So what is a behaviour assessment and what does it tell you?

    I assess dogs behaviour on a daily basis, as does any behaviourist or behaviour consultant - I personally don't do this for the police, for seized dogs or for the courts, maybe one day I will but right now I do this for private clients.

    It is basically the same thing however.

    I want to know what makes a dog tick, what motivates that dog, what does he love, what does he like?

    I want to know how the dog deals with situations, for example how does he cope with meeting a new person who has come to his house and is sitting there drinking tea and talking to his owners and has some cheese in her treat bag?

    I want to know how that dog responds to being given a simple puzzle to figure out - does he ace it? does he flunk it? does he get annoyed and bash it with a paw or pick it up and fling it, does he (in one case) run up his Moms legs and get in her face and demand SHE sort it out for him cos its too hard Mommy!...

    I find out what behaviours that dog already knows, and how does he respond to being taught new ones.

    I find out how he plays, how easily he relaxes and switches off, how he calms himself down (or if he can't!), what gets him worked up, what makes him feel satisified and content.

    In and among all that, which as a pet dog behaviour consultant, I can also achieve by speaking to the owners and looking at any video evidence they have, I find out a TON of information about each dog I meet and work with.

    That information allows me to predict how the dog will behave in certain circumstances, which allows me to explain how the dog needs to be trained, what behavioural modification is required to help the dog cope with life and to manage the dog safely.

    Provoking a dog to bite you really is a foolish and incredibly short sighted thing to do - yes, it tells you at what point that dog will bite you.

    Of course now you have done this, that dog is likely to bite you or the next person who pushes him, sooner, or with less warning.

    Every dog has the ability to bite you, every dog has the buttons, somewhere, somehow, that can be pushed that will result in a bite. Every single dog in existance.

    We already know this, this is not some sort of mysterious phenomenon.

    So here's my initial assessment of Davidsons 'behaviour assessment' on Buster/Butch

    Assessment of Video of Dog Legislation Officer Davidson, Merseyside, handling/assessing Buster.
    “The following is the professional opinion of Emma Judson – Canine Consultant, based soley on the video evidence of Constable Davidson, having seen no other assessment by any other canine professional”
    Video begins with Davidson introducing himself, the kennel environment appears barren, incredibly noisy and in my opinion a very stressful environment, far from the ideal location to assess the true nature of a dog.
    Buster is handled on a stiff cable slip lead – it is my opinion that this piece of equipment is liable to cause discomfort or pain due to the narrow diameter of the cable, and the choking action the slip loop produces.
    Buster is taken into a secure square pen, metal walls and a concrete floor.
    At no point during the video do we see Constable Davidson introduce himself to the dog, take time to form even a cursory bond with the dog, or give the dog any reason to be particularly interested in him or keen to work for him.
    Davidson tells us Buster has been in these kennels for some months, is an old dog, and is in good condition.
    In fact it is clear from the video that in my opinion, Buster is showing clear signs of joint pain/discomfort, probably arthritic degeneration of his hips and elbows and probably more as is typical for old dogs – he also appears to be lacking the normal muscle tone of a fit healthy dog of his breed.
    Buster is walked around the exercise pen, where his gait is clearly uneven and his movement stiff, consistent with that of a dog suffering joint problems.
    Davidson has Buster held fairly tight on the slip lead by holding the handle up high, stringing Buster up, this is in my opinion likely to cause discomfort to the dog.
    Davidson states his intention to carry out a behavioural assessment on Buster to see how he copes under pressure – he does not make it clear at this point what he means by ‘pressure’, what signs he is looking for, in fact the whole thing is very vague.
    Buster is asked to sit – Davidson is slightly behind the dog and asks in a nice tone ‘Sit’.. Buster does nothing. He then asks in a firm and slightly aggressive tone ‘SIT!’. He is still to the side and out of Busters field of vision, when Buster fails to comply he pulls the slip lead taught and forces Busters hind quarters to the ground.
    Firstly, its highly likely that Buster has some hearing loss due to his age, this would be a reasonable assumption. He is also in a very stressful and noisey environment so this could also contribute to non-compliance.
    Davidson has as far as we know, taken no steps to engage Buster in any kind of rewarding activity, there has been no use of a toy or food rewards and thus Buster has been given no motivation to want to work with Davidson who is a total stranger to him.
    Finally, no allowance is made for the fact Buster is old and most likely has joint pain – this can cause a dog to not want to sit or lie down, particularly on a hard, cold concrete surface.
    Davidson forces Buster into the sit and Buster collapses into it and looks visibly worried.
    Davidson immediately asks for a down by bending over Buster and pointing at the ground between his feet with his hand below Busters chin.
    Again Buster has not actually seen Davidsons face and may not realise he is being spoken to if he has hearing problems. Buster doesn’t look comfortable about having Davidson bend over him with his face in close proximity to his own, but does not react badly to this, however he does not comply with the command.
    Here again Davidson makes no allowance for the fact Buster is old and there may be good reasons for non-compliance.
    Davidson also makes no allowance for the very real possibility that Buster has never been taught to either sit or down before.
    The Constable also appears unaware that dogs are context specific learners and that even if Buster has been trained to sit and down by his owner, if he has never been handled by other people or in a variety of locations, he may well not understand what is being asked of him now.
    Davidson walks Buster around the pen again, declaring ‘The dog seems to be the type that is just happy to do his own thing’.
    As a behavioural assessment goes, so far Davidson has done nothing to warrant that conclusion at all – there are many many reasons as discussed above, as to why Buster may not be complying and they have nothing to do with him ‘doing his own thing’.
    Davidson goes on to say that Buster .. ‘Doesn’t really want to be told what to do’. He again misses the fact that Buster may not understand, may have good reasons for not complying.
    Thus far apart from not responding to Davidson, Buster has shown no real signs that he doesn’t want to do anything – for example he has made no effort to get away from Davidson, nor has he made any attempt to make Davidson leave his space.
    Now Davidson says hes going to ‘put a little bit of pressure on’..
    By this he actually means he is going to forcibly pull the dog over onto his side by holding the skin on his neck and hind quarters and pulling him down.
    As Davidson kneels down to do this, Buster turns towards him, looking interested and wanting to engage with the man – however when Davidson pinches the skin on his back and pulls him down and puts pressure on his side, Buster stiffens, snarls and snaps.
    In my opinion, this was not ‘pressure’ but a highly provocative, threatening and intimidating move, viewed as a physical threat or attack by the dog.
    Given Busters age, lack of mobility and poor muscle tone, being forced onto the concrete floor on his side almost certainly caused him pain.
    Having a stranger bending over him, pinning him to the ground would be an incredibly intense and frightening experience for almost any dog, but particularly a dog who has had a very stressful few months, who is already in pain.
    Busters reaction to this treatment is well within the bounds of normal dog behaviour, he is reacting in fear and in pain, and his behaviour is designed to make the man stop hurting him, nothing more.
    This is clearly evident as the second Davidson lets Buster up, he gets up and does not make any attempt to further growl at, snarl at or snap at Davidson. In fact he tries to ignore him, a typical reaction when the dog is aware he cannot get away from a threat but isn’t willing to use more aggressive or violent behaviour.
    Davidson tells us that Buster doesn’t like pressure – he appears wholly unaware that for a dog, being physically pinned to the ground is probably one of the most threatening and frightening experiences they can have, and again fails to acknowledge that Buster may well be in pain.
    The next step of the test Davidson explains is that he is going to try picking Buster up.
    He doesn’t explain why this is a part of a behavioural assessment, but it is rare that a dog who hasn’t been taught to be lifted up will relax or tolerate the experience. It is a high risk thing to do when you have no idea of the dogs background or training history, as it puts the dog in close proximity to the handlers face.
    Davidson calls Buster to him and stops walking, Buster turns again willing to engage but sees Davidson bending over him reaching out to him.
    Bearing in mind the experience of being forced to the floor and pinned there just a few minutes earlier, it is not remotely surprising that Buster stiffens and lip curls and growls at Davidson.
    Here the dog is very clearly telling Davidson ‘I do not want you to touch me’ – this is again a perfectly normal behaviour for a dog in pain, a dog stressed and a dog fearful of what is about to happen next.
    Davidson ignores this and pushes on with his insistence on picking Buster up, which he does very awkwardly with both hands under Busters body. Buster growls and snaps at and bites Davidsons hand in an attempt to get him to stop, which Davidson does.
    Davidson points out that whilst the dog has bitten him and isn’t happy about being picked up, he is wearing a bite sleeve under his jacket.
    Again in this frightening experience, Buster has done what he perceives to be the minimum amount of aggression to get the situation to stop and to gain space away from Davidson.
    It would have been very easy for Buster to turn and bite Davidsons face, and to bite him again as he goes to pick up the lead, but once the threat level is reduced, Buster has no need to aggress and does not.
    Davidson goes on to say that Buster, ‘obviously isn’t happy being put under pressure’.
    In my opinion, Davidson has subjected this old dog to fear, and physical discomfort or pain. The dog has reacted in a way I would expect a stressed and frightened animal in pain to respond to threats of physical harm and actual pain – by lip curling, snarling, snapping and biting sufficiently to stop the situation and gain space or respite from the stress.
    Davidson repeats again that in his opinion Buster is not happy ‘being told what to do’.
    In my opinion it is likely Buster does not understand what he is being told to do, or due to stress, mobility and hearing issues and pain is unable to comply.
    Davidson concludes that this dog will react when put ‘under pressure’ or is ‘made to do something it doesn’t want to do’.
    In my opinion based on this video, Buster is an old dog potentially suffering joint pain and hearing issues, who has possibly never been trained.
    He reacts in a way consistent with a dog responding to fear and pain, and uses the minimum amount of aggression to keep himself safe.
    There are plenty of opportunities in this ‘assessment’ for Buster to have seriously injured Constable Davidson, when he puts his face near Busters, when he lets him up from the pin-down, when he puts him down after picking him up.
    At no point does Buster do more than is necessary to stop the situation.
    In my professional opinion, Constable Davidson has not carried out a thorough or useful behavioural assessment, but instead has subjected an old dog suffering pain, to more pain and fear in a thoroughly unscientific manner.
    He has missed many obvious signs such as the dogs uneven gait and lack of muscle tone, and misread others to come to a conclusion that is of very little use in determining the risk this dog poses to others or the dogs future.
    Emma Judson – 11.08.16 at 15.36pm

Friday, 1 April 2016

Fear II - the Sequel!

So you have a pup and they are out of the tiny cute sponge stage and they are doing pretty well and you socialised well, habituated well, your pup can go most places, do most things and you have nothing to worry about right...

But then your pup is suddenly freaking out at your neighbour, or for some reason the car has turned into a dog eating monster-machine...

What the heck is going on.

The chances are your pup is somewhere between 6 and 14 months old now, if its a little breed then nearer six if its a big breed then nearer the middle of that range and if its a giant breed probably nearer the end of that range.

This is the second fear imprint stage and I won't baffle you with science here, this is a normal development stage for animals (even people have them, when they are small people!).

This stage is in effect, Mother Natures way of saying 'now hold on there son... back up the truck.. wait a second'..

At the same time or thereabouts as this fear stage, your dog is also experiencing a ton of hormones that tell them 'woohoo, you will soon be able to reproduce' - those hormones tend to give a lot of confidence and cause your dog to push boundaries, find it 'what happens if I....' and 'maybe I can just throw my weight around here.... '...

Without a dollop of fear to put the brakes on, its really easy to get an over confident pup who hurtles around doing exactly as he pleases with no worries at all... and in nature, that leads to a dead animal!

So this fear is normal and it has its purpose - its really annoying and its often confusing, frustrating and upsetting for owners, but its good to know it is there for a reason.

So What Do I Do?

Now here's the tricky part - its easier if you are really in tune with your pup and you are willing and able to listen to them and react quickly if necessary.

Its a lot harder if for whatever reason you aren't doing that or if you have someone giving you duff advice or trying to tell you what to do - and I say this for a reason because often we are listening to our dogs.. and then someone belittles us or makes us feel silly!

First of all any situation you notice your dog is now uncomfortable with - stop immediately, take your dog away.

Now figure out what it was about that situation that your dog couldn't handle - don't get hung up on 'well he could handle it last week' thats not important. He can't handle it NOW, thats whats important.

Now you can figure out a way to avoid it happening again - great, and ideally you can also figure out a way to either dilute the situation or introduce your dog to a much less scary version of it at some point in the future when he is ready.

So as a working example, lets say that Fido used to be totally fine with having a whole load of guests come over to watch the football and drink beer and eat pizza. Suddenly he is not fine, hes cowering away from people, barking at them and wont shut up and backing off from them and if they leap up and cheer at a goal scored, he craps himself and runs out of the room and hides under the table and pees.

Step one, lets take Fido into another room, lets go there with him with some treats maybe a Kong filled with squeezy cheese or peanut butter, lets put some nice music on and chill out with him until the football is over (or you could go out for a walk or take him for a drive or you could kick out the footy fans and tell them to go watch it in the Pub!).

The point is, you immediately spot that Fido can't cope and you remove him from the situation or otherwise end the situation.

The next step is to think a little longer term - this won't be forever but equally, its not likely to be a one off.

So organise that football watching happens elsewhere, or that you are out when it happens or you are in another room if Fido can handle that.

The next step is to think about how we can remind Fido that the football watching thing is fine, the people are not monsters.

To do that we need to break the situation down, a crowd of beered up lads cheering at the tv in a small room is NOT the place to start.

Get ONE of those lads round, without any beer (give them some to take home afterwards!) and have them sit and eat some pizza on the far side of the room, whilst you and Fido do ten minutes of easy tricks or just enjoying a Kong with something in it, and then you take Fido out and your friend goes home.

Repeat this ideally a few times a week and when Fido has re-established that this person is actually fine, you can have them throw a few treats to him (but NOT approach him or try to bribe him with treats) you can start the process over again with a new person.

In addition to this process it might also be that Fido finds the sound of the football match on the tv upsetting, so you could play that sort of sound at a really low volume and give Fido treats, so you are counter conditioning to this experience. Football noise = goodies.

Its a good idea to move on quite quickly from 'trigger = goodies' to 'trigger = lets work on a fun trick/game/job that involves rewards' as this is much more constructive and gets him thinking actively about doing something useful.

Be sure not to move too fast, he needs to be eager and willing and able to comply with simple cues first - if he is still really worried then asking him to actively DO something will backfire - again, read your dog well and work at his pace!

The above is just one situation, the same thing applies to anything your dog suddenly finds upsetting.

Don't force him to face his fears, this doesn't work at all well even with people who can discuss and rationalise their worries.

Don't lob him in the deep end and hope he will just get over it - again, doesn't work well and its likely to make matters worse.

Don't JUST avoid all the situations and hope he will grow out of it - you do need to actively work on it!

DO - take a few steps back and work on much easier tasks, break things down and re-cover ground you covered when he was smaller, 'back to basics'.

DO remind yourself - this is normal, this is useful, and its just a stage.

DO - act confident and normal if you do get in a situation he is worried about, but get OUT of that situation as soon as you possibly can (even if that means being rude to people, leaving somewhere abruptly, telling people 'no don't do that' etc).

Final word - you will hear over and over again, people tell you  not to 'coddle' your dog, that if you do you will teach him that being fearful is rewarding and this will make him more fearful.

This is total bollocks. You cannot make fear worse by doing something your dog actively likes, enjoys, seeks out for comfort etc etc.

HOWEVER - If your dog is scared and you do something out of character, if you run around getting hysterical and upset yourself, if you pick him up and cuddle him and he actually doesnt LIKE cuddles, if you hold him still and tell him 'there there its alright' and he actually finds that really frightening because despite your intentions he is now TRAPPED and being forced to remain in a scary situation...
Then yes fear will get worse. Not because you did something nice, not because you coddled him, but because you inadvertently added something MORE scary, MORE aversive, to an already stressful situation.

So if your dog is saying 'Hey Dad I'd like to get outta here'... do it, take him away. If your dog is saying 'Hey Mum, I'd feel better about this if I could sit on your lap' then fine, do that.

To turn your dog away when they are asking you for comfort and assistance is one of the nastiest, most horrific pieces of advice I see people give out and its totally unnecessary!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

We CAN make a difference...

Far too often we feel powerless, like the little people who alone, speaking as one lone voice, cannot change things.

But that's just not true - those of us involved in any way in the reaction to the Cesar911 episode involving Simon and the pig HAVE started something.. and that something will continue.

L A Animal Control are keeping the case open for a YEAR - please ignore any media coverage that suggests the investigation is coming to a close, this is not true.
The case remains open and now we are asking that anyone with FIRST HAND evidence, anyone who has witnessed activities, methods or practices at the Cesars DPC in L A that they now think perhaps weren't the kindest or most humane options available, to come forward.

Its your turn to speak out now.

Animal control have all the videos, they have expert statements from professionals but what they  need now is you, someone who has witnessed this, in person.

Did you go to the DPC and train there, did you work there in any capacity or volunteer, were you on the show?

Did you see things that with the benefit of hindsight or even at the time, you thought were distressing to animals, caused animals pain or discomfort or fear?

We are NOT necessarily asking you to state yourselves whether YOU think these things were either cruel, or justified, the D A and the court will decide that.

I'd like to clarify again this is NOT about having a pop at Millan, this is about improving the welfare and the safety of animals, not just the animals Millan deals with but all those belonging to people who watch his show and who emulate him.

Potential examples might be...

Dogs being shocked with shock collars causing them to yelp or scream.

Dogs being strung up and asphyxiated on slip leads.

Dogs being pulled off their feet by leash corrections.

Dogs being caused to urinate or defecate in fear.

Other animals being used to assist in training being caused fear or distress or actual pain/injury, such as sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, chickens, pigs etc being chased or caught by dogs.

Dog returning from the DPC's care injured or with signs of injury.

Training methods that you feel have subsequently caused your dog's behaviour to worsen.

Risks being taken with animal health or welfare that were unnecessary.

These are just examples, if you have ANY first hand account of potential cruelty or the causing of unnecessary suffering, please come forward and speak to the L A County Animal Control.

If you just aren't sure - come forward anyway, as long as you were there, at the DPC and  you saw it with your own eyes, Animal Control wants to hear from you.

You may have signed a non-disclosure order - if that is the case you can speak to your own lawyer, or contact Lindsey Laris at the Animal Legal Defense Fund to check that out ALDF

Once again, our objective is not to 'do down' Cesar Millan, it's to ensure that going forward, the methods used and advised are safe, humane and effective without risk to animals or people.

To that end we would like the American Humane Association to be present on set during filming, which currently they are not, and for Millan to update his methods in line with current science and modern understandings of animal behaviour.

We appreciate that this subject raises a lot of emotions - but please only contact Animal Control if you have first hand information. Animal Control HAVE all the video evidence from Cesar's TV shows that they require, and so bombarding them with passionate or angry emails won't help our case.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Canine Professionals Worldwide - Press Statement

Canine Professionals Worldwide -  Press Statement regarding Cesar Millan Animal Cruelty Investigation.

As professionals we work with dogs who are aggressive to people and other animals;  have displayed predatory behaviour towards other pets or wildlife;  have bitten people or other animals and who have killed other animals.
This is every day run of the mill work for us all – we are all dedicated to improving the lives of animals, and to that end we are all educated  professionals who work hard to ensure we follow best practice at all times.
Mr Millan is not following best practice:

  The episode in question showed Millan choosing not to take several safe options (work with a fence between the dog and the pigs, work the dog on a long line, work the dog muzzled or all three) – these risks were not necessary for effective training.
- Later, an assistant holds a pig, causing it to squeal, which causes the dog to bolt and attack – the assistant remains holding the pig as Cesar releases the dog a second time and the dog attacks again.
This course of action was not necessary for effective training or behaviour modification, and caused the pig distress and injury. Therefore,  it is our belief that Mr Millan’s decisions are based on what will make the best TV viewing and what will gain the best ratings, rather than what is in a particular animals best interest.

Our interest in the ongoing investigation is in seeing Mr Millan prevented from ignoring animal welfare laws surrounding cruelty and animal baiting.

The law states both in the UK and the USA, that it is not legal to permit unnecessary suffering, injury or distress to any mammal, and it is not legal to bait animals, i.e. to cause one animal to attack another.

There are alternative, scientifically proven, ways to train and modify animal behaviour – we are practitioners of those methods because they pose no risk to any animals’ welfare, whilst at the same time being more effective and easier to apply.

We ask that Mr Millan be held accountable to the laws in his own country and own state, have the AHA present during any and all filming, and cease using methods and practices that cause stress, distress and physical harm to the animals he works with.

Notes for editors:

‘Canine Professionals Worldwide’  are a number of professional dog trainers and behaviour consultants, working with dogs on a daily basis across the world.

Canine Professionals Worldwide are (full list at

Rick McGaw / At Your Bark and Call
P.A.C.E. Positive Approach Canine Education
Professional Trainer/Handler

Lindsay Porter / Owner/operator/dog handler - Driving Miss Doggy Pet Services, Lethbridge Alberta Canada.

Anna Bjurgård Compton / Compton's Harmony AnimalTraining
MSc Ethology, Certified Animal Behaviourist
Oslo, Norway

Cheri Burger CPDT-KA, owner Dog Lady Family Dog Training. Professional Member of the Pet Professional Guild. Business Member Force Free Trainers OS Wisconsin.

Lynn Dowrick, CPDT-KA, CBATI
The Happy Dog K9 Training, LLC
Professional Member, Pet Professional Guild
Professional Member, APDT

Briony Lazarides, independent behavioural dog trainer UK (original founder member APDTUK).. AMACC , DipCABT(COAPE)NOCN, C&G7407

Jo Maisey FdSc CBT

Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA. Phenix Dogs, LLC Phenix Dogs Canine Behavior Experts, Author of; The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with a Reactive or Aggressive Dog
Ally Murdock- Member Pet Professionals Guild owner of Onward Bound Incredible Dog Training. Karen Sinovich
Animal Behaviour Practitioner
Doghub SA
CAPBT SA Practitioner Member

Peggy Scheidemann, Doglover and Owner

Dawn Gardener, CPDT-KA,  ABCDT
Full time dog trainer and behavior consultant, freelance writer, columnist, and host of podcast for Modern Dog Group. Member APDT, PPG, MDG, IAABC.
Darlene Arden, CABC (Certified Animal Behavior Consultant - Dogs and Cats)
Author of "Small Dogs, Big Hearts,"
"Rover, Get Off Her Leg!" "The Complete Cat's Meow”

Karen Tonge
Member APDT UK and PPG
Doggone Safe Member
Dog AID (Assistance in Disability) Trainer

Britt Merethe R Ekerhovd - International dogtrainer, Britt's hundeglede, norway

Anne Marit Stakkestad, Dog Behaviorist, KPA CTP, canine massage therapist and therapy dog handler, GoodDog and Raptus, Norway

Matt Rolfe, IMDT,

Sarah Groves, Dog Trainer,South Wales UK

Turid Dyvesveen Sunde. Dog Trainer and owner of

Jackie Drakeford dog behaviour trainer specialising in aggression, KC accredited, West Sussex

Tiina Jor, Dog Trainer and owner of Bra! Hundetrening, Norway

Ruud Schoorl - Doglover and advocate of positive training methods.

Inger E. Berg, dog trainer, GoodDog Norway

Beathe Pilskog, Dog Behaviorist, Lykkelige Hunder / Canis Hundeskole , Norway

Nina Haaland, Dog Behaviorist, Hund i Fokus, Norway

Nina Sommer, DipCBST, CBATI Austria

Michelle L. Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
Licensed Family Paws Parent Educator
AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
Member - International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Member - Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Member - Association of Professional Humane Educators
Past President - Association of Professional Dog Trainers
Contributing author: Top Tips from Top Trainers (2010 TFH) and The Dog Trainer's Resource (2006 Dogwise)
Owner The Refined Canine, LLC

Tess Erngren, Dog Behaviorist, GoodDog Norway

Lisa Lyle Waggoner, CPDT-KA, CSAT, PMCT2
Certified Professional Dog Trainer, CPDT-KA
PMCT 2: Pat Miller Certified Trainer, Peaceable Paws
CSAT Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer
Faculty, Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior
Professional Member, Pet Professional Guild
Professional Member, APDT
CGC Evaluator, American Kennel Club
Certified Dog Walker, dog*tec
Instructor dog∗tec Dog Walking Academy
Trained in Pet First Aid & CPR, PetTech

Tiffany Lovell, CPDT-KA, CSAT, AAI
Owner Cold Nose College, Space Coast, FL
Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT) #2133321
Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT)
Associate in Applied Science-Human Services with specialty in Animal Assisted Interactions (AAI)
Certified in Low-Stress Handling by Dr. Sophia Yin
The Pet Professional Guild Associate Member Dog Training Professional (PPG) #9241395
Association of Professional Dog Trainers Professional Member (APDT) #80109
AKC CGC Evaluator
Pet Tech certified in Pet CPR & First Aid

Dawn Goehring
Animal Biz
25 years force free training
Member Pet Professional Guild, International Association of Behavior Consultants, and Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Robin Sweetapple ABCDT
owner operator @ Quality Dog Care
Pet sitting , Dog Walking, Training
March 15/2016
Fort McMurray AB

Donna Hill B.Sc.(zool) B.Ed. CHI
Owner Donna's Dog Training
Founder Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs
Co-founder and professional member of Vancouver Island Animal Training Association
Founder Admin Observation Skills for Training Dogs Facebook group
Behavior Interventionist for autistic teens
Owner Service Dog Training Institute

Paul G. Arrighie
Paul For Paws Training and Behaviour

Shannon B. Thier, CPDT-KA, CTDI, ABCDT
☆ K-949: Training for Humans with Dogs

• Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) #2133358
• Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI)
• Animal Behavior College/Certified Dog Trainer (ABCDT)
• Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
• Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Professional Member #79827
• The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Member #7502508
• International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) Member
• National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) Member #M005118
• AKC CGC and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator #89613
• 2015 & 2016 Co-Facilitator of Southern California Dog Trainer's Forum (SCDTF)
• PetTech Certified in CPR, First Aid & Safety

Vicky Alhadeff BA, DipCABT, TTouch P1, Member of CABT, IMDT and PPG
Owner: Happy Dogs and Cats:

Ellen Slater - Owner - Serenity Paws Small Animal Massage

Anke Maria Hofer, Student Dog Trainer at "cumcane", Germany
Administrator of "Gegen Cesar Millan "the dogwhisperer""-Group

Dawn Carnell -Owner Paws-Forward
Member PPGBI
member APDT
Member Doggonesafe
Pets As Therapy Assessor
Trainer Veterans With Dogs

Louise Jones
Owner of Pawsitive Dog Training.
Cert. Canine Behaviour & Training
O.A. Dip. Animal Psychology
Cert. Pedagogy
Cert. Evolution
Cert. EFR for Animals
Cert. Dogs & Children
Cert. Anatomy & Physiology
Cert. Animal Welfare
Cert. Animal Psychology
Cert. Dog Grooming
Cert. Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Cert. Companion Animal Zoonoses
Cert. Understanding What Makes Dogs Tick
Cert. Setting Up A Successful Training Class

Member of APDT Ireland
Member of PPGBI
Member of Doggone Safe

Ashley Oslund Altamirano CPDT-KA

Carol A. Byrnes, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed and owner of Diamonds in the Ruff-Training for Dogs & Their People. Charter member of the Pet Professional Guild-The Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals; Professional Member Association of Professional Dog Trainers, IAABC associate member. Author: "What is My Dog Saying?" Canine Communication tool for trainers.

Rachel Hayball- Life Skills Dog Training. Member of the PPG, student member of INTO dogs. ISCP behavioural practitioner.

Kristin Gransbråten - Dog trainer and owner of Positivt Hundeliv, Pet Professional Guild member and force free advocate, Associate Dog Trainer student.

Holly Simmons
BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Paws N Claws

Tracee Sule, CPDT-KA
Owner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Zoomeez Dog Training, LLC
Jacksonville, FL
Member, Association of Professional Dog Trainers
Member, Pet Professional Guild
Former Pet Partners Animal Therapy Team

James Butler - Barking with Butler dog training, PPG

Jill Breitner, Dog Body Language Expert
Author, Dog Decoder Smartphone App about dog body language

Patricia Calderone, CPDT-KA, DN-FSG1
Owner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Certified Fun Scent Games Instructor
Pet Professional Guild Member - The Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals
No Pain, No Force, No Fear

Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA "The Fairy Dogmother"
Pim Schuurmans, owner Dogs&Co.
Dogtrainer and dogbehaviourist.

Diane Garrod PCT-A, PPG accreditation
CA1 - Tellington Touch COmpanion Animals
BSc - Bachelor of Science Communication/Journalism
Certificates/diplomas: Animal Behavior; Writing for the Sciences: Fearful Dogs; Resource Guarding; Cujo vs. Pavlov; Emotion and Cognition
Owner/Behavior Trainer/Analyst/Consultant Canine Transformations
Creator of and Speaker worldwide on topics of "Solving the Aggression Puzzle" "Nulti-dog Households Fighting (ATA Dog process) and "Canine EMotional Detox: Stress release protocol for challenging canines
APDT C.L.A.S.S. Instructor
Founding member, Ethics Committe member Pet Professionals Guild: anassociation for force free pet professionals
Charter Member and Marketing Chair, National Association Treibball ENthusiasts
Certified Instructor and Judge American Treibball Association

Jessica Thovson - Owner Dog Training by Jess/Tia's Pet Place LLC, Licensed Family Paws Parent Education Presenter, AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator, Member Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Member Pet Professional Guild, APDT C.L.A.S.S. Trainer and Evaluator, Member Doggone Safe, Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer, Purina Certified Weight Coach, Trained "Sandy" for live theater production of Annie, Can Do Canines Field Trainer

Diane Purcell - Diane's Pet Sitting Services - Member Pet Professionals Guild & force-free advocate
Louise Thompson ABC of SA SABCAP Paws Abilities Behaviour & Learning Centre

Jelena Kallay, founder of Vagabond Positive Animal Communication, Dip.ABT, KPA CTP

Renea L. Dahms ~ Certified Dog Behavior Consultant

Marta Young, Barking Up the Right Tree, PPG

Debby McMullen, CDBC,Pawsitive Reactions, LLC,Professional member, APDT
Author:How Many Dogs? Using positive reinforcement training to manage a multiple dog household
Victoria Stilwell positively contributor

Sally Bradbury – Founder  of Scallywags School for Dogs , PPG

Stu Canavan - DWA, PPG, KCAI -Working towards accreditation

Denise O’Moore - ADipCBM, MISAP, MIACE, PPG, PPGBI Steering Committee, Doggone Safe

Vicki Dawe – Dawes Paws Dog Training - PPG

Emma Judson – Canine Consultant - IMDT, PPG, KCAI – working towards accreditation