Beautifully written blog. The only way to make life long change in fearful behavior is to change the emotional response. Period.
When I first read Kathy Sdao’s book, Plenty in Life is Free, I cried. I cried because her words made sense. I cried because she described the incredible impact, negative and positive, we can have on our dogs’ lives through what we choose to reinforce, and through the contingencies we place on those reinforcers. It’s a daunting responsibility, but one that is so rewarding if done correctly.
As you can probably guess by now, I do not recommend Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) protocols for my training clients. Sdao explains the pitfalls of NILIF much more eloquently than I ever could, so I will refer you to her book for those details. At times, depending on the severity and urgency of a behavioral problem, I will “close the economy,” meaning I ask owners to feed their dogs a certain portion of their food via training, either via classical…
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I was a criminal. For five short weeks I harbored a vicious dog. What made her vicious? What unspeakable acts had humans done to her to make her so dangerous? What terrible acts of violence had she unleashed to earn this designation?
Well, nothing actually. Diva was a lovely sweet and funny little dog that got along with my friends, family, dogs and was even a buddy to my cats. Diva’s only crime was the way she looked.
By her looks she was deemed to be some kind of Pitbull mix. A little “pocket” Pittie of about 35 pounds. She was picked up as a stray by a county dog warden. That county did not allow Pitbull and Pitbull type dogs to be adopted out. So they needed to find a rescue. A friend contacted me to see if I could help and I said I would contact a rescue I do training for and see if they could help.
Somehow something got lost in translation and she was on her way to my home. I couldn’t say “no” as I wanted to see her safe. The rescue was waiting for a foster home to open up so she stayed with me for five weeks.
You see, in the town I live in she is deemed vicious based soley on the way she looks. To keep her legally I would have had to register her with the city as a vicious dog, baught liability insurance, put a sign on my house, etc.
Without registering her I was in danger of being caught and facing the criminal charge of harboring a vicious dog. So for five short weeks I was a criminal.
Our friend, Jett, who is still in search of his forever home.
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“A Crossover Dog” was a note I originally wrote on facebook several years ago. When dogs are given the opportunity to “color outside the lines” amazing things can happen!
“This morning I got together with a friend to train. She has just recently crossed over into positive reinforcement and clicker training. So now she is in the process of retraining her Dane for Utility. Well, this morning I was helping her break down the “go-out” exercise and I was going to click/treat as the dog made it across the ring.
Well, you could see the fear and stress all over this dog as she approached my end of the ring. She was afraid it was a correction set-up. As soon as she heard the click she continued down to the gate, got the treat and was released. We did it again, and this time she made it almost all the way to the ring gate, c/t and release. The third time she came all the way down to the ring gate, a little faster, and her head a little higher up. C/T and release. This time upon releasing her the dog jumped up in the air, and danced around the ring with her head held high and a big bounce in her step! It was amazing! My friend called her back and sent her one more time. This time she galloped across the ring, touched the ring gate, turned, sat, c/t, jackpot, release and we all danced around the ring!
It was thrilling to see the moment when it all clicked for this girl! We stopped right after that and the Dane pranced out of the building with her head held high. Kudos to her owner for realizing what she had been doing to her dog and making the big step of crossing over!”
Joplin loves kids. It isn’t that she doesn’t like adults but if given a choice kids win out every time. It makes me wonder about her life experiences before landing in Cleveland Animal Control. When she first came to me in September she would hit the ground and close her eyes if she saw me even move my arm. It made me cringe. This girl must have been hit.
When she meets an adult she is very timid with a low tail wag, head turned slightly to the side and a occassional lip lick until she knows that they are safe. Then she instantly becomes a lap dog. Yet, when she sees a child she turns into a pile of goo. She wants nothing more than to be with them.
The adults she encountered may have not showed her love but a child certainly did. They are safe. Now to find that perfect family so Joplin can have a child of her own.
For more information on Joplin see Joplin!
A new client asked me the following question this weekend. “Isn’t clicker training just using food bribes?”.
What a beautiful insight into not only one of my favorite places on the planet, but into the dogs I love so much. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing.
Back in the early 1980’s I was intent on finding ways to get university credits without actually sitting in a classroom. I discovered study programs which were taught ‘in the field’ and awarded credits toward graduation. I spent months hiking in the Sierra Nevada in California, weeks canoeing rivers in Montana and sweating in Death Valley. My biggest regret to date is that I didn’t participate in a wolf study program because someone told me all you ended up seeing was wolf scat.
On a reading list for one course was Barry Lopez‘s Of Wolves and Men which followed the histories of people’s relationship to and mythology about wolves, and made a case for the conversation of the species. It seemed long overdue that I would visit a place like Wolf Park where I could actually meet, and interact with wolves. A 3-day seminar contrasting the behaviors of wolves…
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According to The American Heritage Dictionary “aversive” is an adjective for something “causing avoidance of a thing, situation, or behavior by using an unpleasant or punishing stimulus, as in techniques of behavior modification.”
In other words, when we punish, we have to use something that is aversive to the subject of our punishment. It has to be something they find “unpleasant or punishing”.
So what or who determines what is aversive? The person or animal on the receiving end makes this determination. This is an important point often misunderstood not only by people in general, but even some trainers. Why is this important? Because when you are training any animal everything has a consequence, good or bad. Too often punishment is misunderstood to the detriment of the animal.
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