I Was A Criminal

October 19, 2013


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.


A Crossover Dog…

August 10, 2013

“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!”

Food Bribes

October 4, 2012

A new client asked me the following question this weekend.  “Isn’t clicker training just using food bribes?”.

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What is an Aversive?

July 16, 2012

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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Simple Associations

July 9, 2012

We all make associations.  Go to a restaurant and find a hair on your plate. What comes to mind the next time you think of that restaurant or even that particular food?

What about the associations we make with a particular smell or food from our past? White Shoulders perfume makes me think of one of my grandmothers. Buckwheat pancakes and Collies make me think of my other grandmother. These are wonderful, feel good associations.

Just as we make associations so do our dogs. Dogs are constantly making associations. It is part of the learning process. Unlike us, where some of our associations can be complicated, dogs tend to make very direct simple associations. Read the rest of this entry »

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