Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do No Harm

I know. It sounds like the oath doctors take - in fact I'm sure it is in there somewhere. But shouldn't that be the same for all professionals? I am a positive dog trainer. What that means is that I don't use force, pain, intimidation, choke collars, electronic collars, prong collars or anything that can fall into any of those categories. I train by reinforcing the desired behaviors with rewards such as food or play or whatever the dog enjoys at the moment.
Do no harm.
It seems that lately I've been seeing the use out dated punishment  and dominance theory training every where I go.
There's a little pet specialty boutique that Annabelle and I used to (note that I said "used to") walk to at least once a week during our breaks from the office. One day, I turned around and right there, hanging with the collars was a StarMark training collar (pictured left).  I looked at that thing and I looked at the young girl behind the counter and asked her if she would use that thing on her dog. "Sure" she said. "It doesn't hurt them. [The owner] uses it all the time on her dog." I almost asked her to put it on and lets try it out. Instead, I left and I haven't been back. If it doesn't hurt, why use it. Isn't that the whole point of such a gruesome looking device? To cause pain to the dog that doesn't obey?  It says that it is "gentle but effective in enforcing pack leadership."  And what happens when the dog doesn't respond right away?  Most people will yank harder.  I have neighbors that use prong collars and when I asked them about it, they said "[Expletive] right.. If they don't listen they will get pain"
This is what it says in the description of the Neck Tech.
"The enclosed design of the Neck Tech Sport (pictured right) conceals the prongs on both long hair and short hair dogs making this prong collar very discreet without the need for a nylon prong collar cover. In other words, no one knows that you haven't been training your dog, but torturing.
One other note about these and the other collars such as choke and shock,  they can, and do cause undesired (aka bad) behaviors to occur where before there were none, and make existing undesired behaviors worse.
Why would you willingly do this to your dog?  It's not their fault that you haven't taught them what behaviors you want.
According to an article by Timothy Kirn for the VIN News Service
"The AVSAB recommends that verterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follow from it," the position statement says.
Do No Harm
The next one I've been hearing a lot is the "tzz" noise that has been made so popular by a tv personality that likes to add a quick side kick or hard poke to emphasize it.  That is all he is folks.  He is a TV personality - nothing more.  His shows are edited to make it look like everything he does is seamless.  Let me ask you this.  Would you honestly pay someone to come over and choke your dog with the collar until his tongue turns blue because they have a behavior problem? Or pin him on his back until he submits? Now lets substitute the dog for something else.  Would you pay someone to do this to your cat? Your bird? Your ferret? Your child?  What makes it ok to do this to dogs?  And what are you teaching them?  Nothing, except to fear/hate you.  Wouldn't it be better to teach them what you want instead?  
Trainer and friend Jeni Grant of Train Your Best Friend uses a great analogy that goes something like this

Pretend you're starting a new job. They sit you at the desk with no instructions because "you should know what they want you to do" and every time you do something wrong, they give you a jerk or a jolt or a kick.  They never tell you what they want, you are on your own.  Now, pretend you're at that new job and they've sat you at a desk and given you step by step instructions of what they want and every step you do right, gets you a chocolate kiss (or better yet, extra $). And when you do the whole job really well, they give you even more. Which job do you think would give you more confidence, you'd do better at, and which one do you think you'd enjoy more and want to work harder for?

So, the next time your dog is doing something "undesirable", instead of punishing them, simply interrupt the behavior and give them something appropriate to do instead.  If you're not sure how to do this, have a session or two with a positive trainer or sign up for positive training classes. 

Study - If you're aggressive, your dog will be too. Says Veterinary study at University of Pennsylvania

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dogs aren't the only ones to worry about...

We recently started remodeling on the back section of our house which includes a new roof. Anyone that's ever had any work done, knows what this means. Loud bangs, loud equipment whirring and sawing and drilling, loud everything. I wasn't concerned about Doobie and Annabelle. They have slept through everything including earthquakes, nothing seems to affect them. Percy, on the other hand, is a different story. He's never done well with new people coming into the house, let alone people coming in and tearing things apart. I knew what we had (and still have) to do. Percy needs to stay in the bedroom with some light classical music on. The blinds are open but only on the upper part of the windows so light comes in and Percy can't see out. Plus, he has a bully stick to chew on.
That one was easy to figure out. But what about the birds? Talk about stress! I have 4 birds. Two small parrots and two cockatiels, one of which is almost 22 yrs old. Birds really don't do well with stress. Feather plucking, or not eating, it doesn't take long for a bird to go downhill. So, what to do? The room they're in is right next to the back of the house -- lots of banging, not good. So I was going to put them upstairs -- lots of banging again, plus being closer to the banging from the roof AND being in a strange room, REALLY not good.
Then one night as I was tossing and turning while worrying about all of this, it occurred to me that when birds think there is danger around, they are quiet. How can I convince my birds that there is no danger or nothing to worry about? I already had the answer and didn't even know it. When I was leaving the next morning, I put itunes on and started playing birdsong radio ( where the birds are always chirping. There was my answer! If those birds were always singing, there was nothing to worry about. Sounded good in theory. So for the past two weeks, the birds have stayed in their regular room only the streaming bird songs have been playing a little louder than in the past. There has been some major noise going on at my house and not one feather has been ruffled or one seed left untouched. My birds are not showing any signs of stress whatsoever. So, if you have any feathered friends in your home and you need to reassure them that all is well. Try or any other streaming bird sounds you can find and see if that doesn't help.
and as for the fish ... We'll save that one for another day