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Good Dog: Behavior & Training
July Fourth Celebrations
How well does your dog handle them?

If you love the Fourth of July, it may be one of the few times that you find yourself thinking about the differences between you and your dog instead of the similarities. (It will probably also happen if you ever decide compare your respective views on cow pies.) Having the day off to barbecue, watch a parade, and see the fireworks may be heavenly to most people, but not for most dogs.

Okay, perhaps they’ll enjoy the barbecue if enough of the yummy stuff makes it to the ground, but even then, they may find their insides upset later on. And the parade may appeal to the most social of dogs and those without any kind of personal space issues, but the crowds can be overwhelming and scary to dogs not accustomed to such large groups of people. For small dogs especially, there is a very real danger of being stepped on or otherwise squashed in such a setting.

Of course, the big misery for dogs on Independence Day is the fireworks. Dogs who fear loud sounds, especially those with a phobia of thunderstorms, suffer the most. But even dogs who go through much of the year with nothing more than a normal startle response to a dropped pot or a car backfiring can freak out when dealing with the prolonged nature of these annual celebratory explosions. That’s why I urge people to keep their dogs home and away from fireworks even if they are sure their dog can handle it. I’ve seen many stable dogs who had no reaction one year but fell apart the next. It’s not worth the risk!

It pains me personally that this is one of the most dreaded days for the canine set because it’s my birthday, and I’ve always considered myself lucky to celebrate with the whole country. I love the fireworks, and as a little girl, I believed my Dad’s jokes that they were just for me. I still enjoy his nickname for me—his little firecracker—even though I now understand that even though he sometimes meant it in a good way, sometimes he didn’t. I love to share my favorite activities with dogs, but unluckily for me, my birthday is the one day of the year that it is the most difficult.

Some celebrations on this holiday may be pleasant for quite a few dogs—a small gathering of people for a simple meal, walking around town together away from the biggest crowds, and certainly spending time with you if you have the day off. On the other hand, the fireworks and the parades bother the majority of dogs.

How do you handle the Fourth of July with your dog and what parts of it do you share?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vet Sits in Hot Car for Thirty Minutes
Dr. Ernie Ward shows how car temperatures can quickly rise to fatal levels
Now that we're in the thick of the summer, it's almost unbearable to be outside for an extended period of time--especially here in New York with the humidity! Yet people continue to think it's okay to leave pets in cars without adequate precautions. Just last week, animal control officers rescued a three-month old puppy from a car in a Riverside, Calif. shopping mall parking lot. The temperature outside was in the 90's and inside the car it was well over 100 degrees.  Fortunately the puppy was saved in time, but his internal temperature was dangerously high.   It's common for people to think that they're just going to run a quick errand or that cracking a window will be sufficient, but temperatures can quickly become fatal. I was surprised to learn that on a 60-70 degree day, temperatures inside the car can reach well into the 90's and beyond.   North Carolina veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Ward, is on a mission to bring more awareness to this problem. Armed with a clock, a thermometer, and a video camera, Dr. Ward sat in his car for thirty minutes on a 95 degree day to feel what it would be like for a dog trapped in a hot car.   You can see as the minutes pass that Dr. Ward is not only drenched in sweat (something dogs can not do as efficiently as we can), but is increasingly distressed as the temperature climbs to 117 degrees. Although there is a visible breeze outside, none of it comes into the car, despite the cracked windows. You can only imagine what the experience would be like for a dog who has no control over the situation.     If Dr. Ward's video convinces even one person to leave their dog at home while running errands, his suffering will have been worth it!
 

News: Guest Posts
Make Sense of Scents
How to make your dog happy

I have good news for all of us who don't look like Ryan Gosling or Gisele Bundchen: your dog doesn't care. Dogs are much more interested in our smells than our looks. Just watch a dog with his head out a car window-nose forging ahead. Wind brings innumerable scent molecules directly to the dog's face, which in the dog's world, makes for a pretty good day. * You might look like a one-eyed pig, but to your dog, it's your bouquet that makes you beautiful.

 

A Beautiful Sight to Sniff

Unlike us humans who preoccupy ourselves with visual landscapes, dogs smell their vistas. Maybe you've had the experience of walking a dog when all of a sudden the dog gets hooked on something. Even though that something is completely out of range and invisible to you, the dog's behavior indicates, “What I'm checking out is really interesting. We are not going anywhere, buster.”

To get inside your dog's world, you need to pick his brain-and his nose. Dogs have much more nose than us humans. Their extensive olfactory epithelium allows them to trap and assess odor molecules at concentrations of up to parts per trillion, while we are more in the range of parts per million. Yep. I said trillion. Their noses are about a million times more sensitive than our noses. Often, our brains can't register what they whiff.

On top of that, dogs' noses come equipped with a vomeronasal organ (unfortunately, it's not a musical instrument). The vomeronasal organ has tons of receptor cells that take sniffing to the next level. It is thought to be important in detecting species-specific information such as pheromones. While our understanding of dog olfaction still has a long way to go, we do know that yes, your dog is getting quality information from that other dog's behind, face and urine.

Smell Games

If you're starting to look at your dog as one big nose, you're in good company. Many of the folks working with dogs or researching dog behavior and cognition remind dog owners that smelly (or smelling) experiences are integral to a dog's “good life.” In the spirit of picking your dog's nose, here are four ways to give your dog the gift of smell:

1. Take your dog on smell walks

In Inside of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz recommends accompanying dogs on smell walks. She explains:

“[Dog]-walks are often not done with the dog's sake in mind, but strangely playing out a very human definition of a walk. We want to make good time; to keep a brisk pace; to get to the post office and back.”

Dogs don't care about “making time.” While walking with the dog's nose in mind might alter total distance traveled, you and Bucky can bond over quality olfactory experiences. In a smell walk, Bucky might sniff as he likes, choose the direction of the walk or linger to get to the bottom of a particular smell. What else might you provide on a smell walk?

2. Consider smelling sports

Taking a cue from drug sniffing dogs, K9 Nose Work has recently become a formalized fun activity and a favorite of many companion dogs and owners alike.

You don't have to turn your dog into a narc to get into smelling sports. It's about “getting your dog excited about using his nose to seek out a favorite toy or treat reward hidden in one of several boxes.” (K9 Nose Work)

The game can then be expanded to include entire rooms, exterior areas and even vehicles. Of course, scent work can be conducted in less formalized ways. Don't be afraid to get creative with smelling sports. One man's narc is another man's truffle pig.

3. Make up your own smell(y) games

Have you ever put your dog's olfaction to the test? After being out of the country for a year, my friend and I wanted to see whether her dog would remember me. Our sneaky setup was unscientific and simple: Millie and her owner would walk down the street, and I would walk past them, coming up from behind and not interacting in any way, to see whether Millie paid me any mind. As I walked past, Millie turned toward what could have just been another stranger in NYC, and gave one of those glorious welcomes that says, in not so many words, “YOU ARE HERE! YOU ARE HERE! IT'S YOU!! YAYAYAYAYAY!!”

It's possible this is more of a game for my friend and me than Millie. Still, it's a reminder to us humans—who often need reminders—that the nose is a great way to connect with a dog.

4. Make your reunion smelly

Try making “smell” a priority when greeting dogs. While most people don't overtly sniff and greet, we need to keep in mind that Scruffy's schnozzle is her window to the world. You want to keep that window wide open, not close it.

It goes back to our different biologies. When we people walk into a party, most of us look around, see who's there and then make the next move (either toward a friend or toward the bar). For dogs, “looking around the room” is easier done with the help of olfactory investigation because visual cues could be misleading. Who hasn't been confused when meeting a friend with a new haircut/glasses/facial hair/gorilla suit?

With dogs and their wonderful snouts, they don't have to worry about mistaken identities. Sight can be confusing, but a smell check can set things straight! That's the way you'd do it too, if your nose were a million times more powerful than it is.

Take a look at a reunion between a dog and a member of U.S. military returning from deployment:

 
When the dog initially sees the owner, we don't see a “YOU ARE HERE!! EXCELLENT!” response. With only visual cues readily available, the dog doesn't seem to “see” his owner. Instead, the dog shows:
- Tail low and tucked
- Low posture
- Moving toward yet away
- Barks more in line with “stranger” than “happy”

The owner then provides the dog a hand for sniffing, and after olfactory investigation, the dog shows a proper display of, “IT'S YOU!! IT'S YOU!! YAYAYAYA!”

Does this video surprise you? And just as important, do you give your dog opportunities for olfactory exploration during greetings?

Sniff Time

There are things out there in the world that you might not notice and can't understand but that your dog is very in tune with and would like a closer look (oh please!). And these things have nothing to do with whether you are Ryan Gosling (but if you are Ryan Gosling, feel free to give me a call).

Photo: Dog smelling sunflowers by Dylan, used under Creative Commons license

References Horowitz. 2009. Inside of a Dog What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. Scribner Wells & Hepper. 2003. Directional tracking in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 84, 297-305.

* Wind can play a part in scent detection. A recent paper exploring directional tracking in dogs notes that the researchers laid trails at a “ninety degree angle to the direction of the oncoming wind to reduce the possibility of the dogs using airborne scent to determine directionality.” It's easier to attend to a scent if airborne scent molecules are flying directly into your face, like a car ride.

About the Author
Julie Hecht is a canine behavioral researcher and science writer in New York City. She writes a behavior column for The Bark. She would really like to meet your dog. Follow on Dogs Spies at Facebook and Twitter @DogSpies.

This story was originally published by Scientific American. Reprinted with permission.
 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Unlikely Dog Sitters
People who come through for others

As a positive methods dog trainer, it’s natural for me to look for behavior that I like and reinforce it, and I don’t just do that for dogs.  The species that I personally spend the most time with is people, and lately I’ve noticed similar commendable behavior in many of them. The commonality is a willingness to take care of other people’s dogs no matter how inconvenient or challenging that may be. I applaud and admire all those who watch other people’s dogs in times of need, especially the following two who have done so when it was far from easy.

A week ago, I saw a neighbor pushing a double jog stroller and walking three dogs. After rushing over to see her 11-day old baby for the first time and offer congratulations to the new 22-month old big sister, I realized that her daughter wasn’t the only new addition.

“Did you get a new dog?” I asked, secretly thinking that of all the bad times to get a new dog, the first week or so after having a baby has got to top the list.

“No,” she replied, “It’s my sister’s dog. My mom was supposed to watch her while she’s in Hawaii, but at the last minute, she couldn’t, so she asked me.”

When I expressed surprise at the timing of this dog sitting request and offered to walk any or all of her dogs at any time, she just smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t mind. She’d do the same thing for me.”

That may well be true, but I am still impressed that she so cheerfully took on the responsibility of a third dog when she clearly had her hands full with two children under the age of two and a pair of dogs of her own.

I have a distant cousin who also deserves praise for taking on the responsibility of dogs even though her health issues and age would make a refusal completely reasonable. She is well into her 80s with a range of health issues that cause her a lot of pain and also limit her mobility. Despite that, she regularly watches the dogs of her human children, all of whom require more care than her own dog does.

In the last few months, she has taken care of four different dogs at her children’s request. She has watched a rambunctious puppy, a 15-year old dog with arthritis and a serious neurological issue who needs to be lifted in and out of the car, and two untrained 4-year old dogs who constantly make those around them feel like they are in some sort of circus fun house.

She is very caring to attend to these dogs despite the strain on her physically, and presumably emotionally, especially since she is often asked to do so on short notice. In one case, her son dropped off the 15-year old dog while she was not home, left no explanation, and my cousin only knew how long she would have the dog because of how many cans of food were left. Obviously, their family dynamics and boundaries might make an easy target for criticism, but I prefer to focus on the kindness involved in this woman taking care of the dogs. It’s easy to see that they are very happy when they are with her and that there is much adoration all around.

I’m still grateful to my neighbor Stephanie and my fellow dog trainer Shannon who took care of our dog Bugsy when I was in the hospital giving birth to my first son. It was such a relief not to have to worry about him and or about having to call before the sun came up since we had been given permission to call them “at any time of day or night.”

Is there someone who has taken care of your dogs who deserves a special thank you for extra effort?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
China's One Dog Policy
Beijing and Shanghai are confiscating pets amid confusing rules
China has an infamous one child policy, but I was surprised to learn that certain Chinese cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, have a one dog policy. And it's not just the number of pets you live with.  Believe it or not, these cities have banned all dogs taller than 13.7 inches. That means I couldn't live with my pups in either of these areas!   For years pet lovers in Beijing and Shanghai have gotten away with their larger breeds, but over the last month the government has been cracking down. The Beijing Municipal Public Safety Security Bureau says that the increase in human deaths attributed to rabies is responsible for the sudden enforcement. They also believe that big dogs are incompatible with city living (they've obviously never lived with a Jack Russell Terrier!).      Over the past few weeks, the police have been carrying out frightening raids on homes, confiscating even legally registered pups. Animal rights advocates say that many of the seized pets are likely to end up in the hands of dog meat traders.   Inconsistent rules have made the issue confusing and even more controversial. Despite the ban, the government had been licensing large breed dogs across the city and collecting the $160 registration fee for years.   To protect their dogs, pet lovers are walking their pups in the wee hours of the morning or limiting potty breaks to hidden apartment balconies. Those who can afford it have been boarding their dogs outside the city limits, but not everyone can afford to do that and it's certainly not a long term solution. Most people are hoping that the campaign will blow over.   China's rules may seem excessively random, but think about the breed bans against Pit Bulls that we have in the United States. The laws in Beijing and Shanghai come from the same problem--trying to solve a problem without treating the root cause.   Eliminating large breeds doesn't eliminate vicious dogs. And limiting people to one dog doesn't solve the rabies problem.  Responsible dog ownership--administering rabies vaccines, keeping dogs on leash, and encouraging people to train their pups--is where the real issue lies.
News: Editors
Rescuing Dogs with Medical Needs
Arizona group steps up to help

I got to “meet” this adorable, adoptable dog, Pippy, a Pit mix, this morning when I opened my “smiling dog” email messages. I also got to learn about a remarkable rescue group in Phoenix, AZ called M.A.I.N., Medical Animals in Need. More about them later, but as for  the two-year-old, Pippy, he came into their foster program when they found him at the county shelter (where he came in as a stray) suffering from a very sad condition known as “happy tail,” something that I had never heard of. As they note in his description:

"The concrete walls of his kennel have caused his tail to split open and his tail cannot be treated properly as long as he remains at the shelter. Contrary to the term, Happy Tail is actually very dangerous. Dogs end up with this ailment by wagging their tails so much that the concrete walls of the kennels split open the tips of their tails—causing infection in some cases and a bloody mess in most. Some dogs come into MCACC with Happy Tail, and others develop it after a short while. The danger, of course, is that it can make the dog go from being very adoptable to very unadoptable—through no fault of its own. They wag their tails and try to be as friendly as possible, and this is what they get for all of their hard work."

As with most of the dogs who M.A.I.N. rescues, his condition was treated by the kind vets at the Bethany Animal Hospital in Phoenix. Dr. Katie Andre and Dr. Melissa Miller work with M.A.I.N. to ensure that all the animals are treated and well-cared for. Then fosters step up to complete the final step of a dog’s rehabilitation, and help to find forever homes for the dogs. What really impressed me when I looked around their site is how much information is provided for each dog, including notes from foster homes and trainers so you get to really know each dog. And then they have wonderful videos (of before and after) like the one below, which makes a adoption all that more possible.

M.A.I.N.'s mission is statement: M.A.I.N. Team is an Arizona based 501(c)3 all volunteer group focused on identifying, transporting, aiding and promoting animals from Arizona shelters who need immediate and sometimes costly medical attention the shelters are unable to provide.

Good news about their dogs, they seem to be open to out-of-area adoptions, if you are interested in any of them, do let them know! Or if you are in the Phoenix area you might want to step up and volunteer to help or become a foster for this program.

 

 

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ex-Marine Reunited with His Pup
Brad O'Keefe finds the dog that saved his life in Afghanistan
Last week, ex-Marine Brad O'Keefe was reunited with Earl, the Black Labrador that saved his life in Afghanistan. Brad and Earl had worked together for two years, detecting IED bombs, but hadn't seen each other since they were both injured in 2010. The pair was crossing a bridge with a U.S. army unit when Earl detected an explosive device. A resurgent ended up detonating the device before they could completely escape, but the warning ultimately saved Brad's life and the lives of the 13 other men.   Earl ran the five miles back to base and waited next to Brad's gear. Brad never returned, requiring seven surgeries to recover.  He was later awarded the Purple Heart, but Brad always wondered what happened to Earl.   In May, Brad's sister, Rachel, decided to make it her mission to track down the courageous pup through a Facebook page called Bring MMD Earl Home. Within days Rachel found out that Earl had been transferred to the Rhode Island State Police after the military downsized its K-9 corps.  Earl had been training with his new handler, State Trooper Damien Maddox, and even worked the Boston marathon bombing.     The decision to relinquish Earl was left up to Trooper Maddox who agreed without hesitation.  However I'm sure it was not easy for him. In the video clip of Trooper Maddox and Earl working together, and the subsequent reunion with Brad, you can see that they developed a strong bond even in their short time together.   Brad is currently working as a machinist in Rochester, N.Y., coping with his injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no doubt that Earl will provide the type of healing only a dog can give—especially one who truly understands the trauma that happened that day in Afghanistan. Now that both Brad and Earl are retired from the Marines, they can play fetch, take walks, and really enjoy the time they have together.
News: Editors
Happy Greeters
Dog Joy at its finest

The other day I was looking through a round of recent submissions to our Smiling Dog contest, when I came upon this one which truly made my day! It is our first video entry, and it could not have been more perfect. Annette K. seems to be inspiring her Boxer pups, Sable and Woody to give her a big smile and in doing so, has spread their joy to thousands. We posted this on our FB page and already almost 50,0000 people have viewed it.

Her pup-perfect pitch even woke up my dozing dogs who seemed to want to join in on the fun.

One comment on FB, said that they "remind me of the old SNL skit..."we're just two wild and crazy guys." What do you think? And tell us, how do your dogs greet you? Do they have their own happy dance?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs Are Like Children To Us
Science supports what we’ve long believed

Our dogs are our kids. It’s not rocket science—we love them, they love us. They look to us for comfort and care. We call them our fur kids or our four-legged children. So, even though it’s not news to us, it’s validating to see science confirm what we already thought was true: Our dogs are like children to us.

Children have been shown to explore the world most confidently if they have a strong attachment to their caregiver (usually a parent.) They use the parent as a secure base from which to explore their environment if they have learned that the parent is dependable and reliable, and this phenomenon is called the secure base effect.

In the recent study, The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs—Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task, researchers conclude that dogs are bonded to their guardians in the same way that infants are bonded to their parents. They found that dogs use their guardians as a secure base, just as children do.

In the study, dogs were tested in each of two experiments and their behavior was quantified. In the first experiment, dogs were given the opportunity to obtain food from interactive dog toys, and the amount of time the dogs spent attempting to extract the food was recorded. The dogs were tested in three different experimental situations: 1) with their guardian absent, 2) with their guardian present and encouraging them, and 3) with their guardian present but silent and unresponsive. Researchers also recorded how much time the dogs spent in close proximity to their guardians as well as to the experimenter, who was present in all conditions.

The results of this experiment showed that the different situations had an impact on how long the dog manipulated the interactive toy in an attempt to extract the food. The dog manipulated it longer when the guardian was present than absent, but there was no difference in response to whether the guardian was encouraging the dog or remaining silent. The dogs spent an equal amount of time close to their guardian regardless of whether they were receiving encouragement or not. They spent more time close to the experimenter when their guardians were absent than when they were present, suggesting that the experimenter offered some security, social support or comfort in the experimental context.

The second experiment was designed to determine if the effects seen in the first experiment could be explained simply by the fact that in the situations in which the guardians were present, there were two people in the room, whereas in the guardian-absent condition, there was only one person. In other words, what if dogs are not affected by having their guardian as a secure base, but simply react to the presence of more than one person in the room? So, in experiment two, the first experiment was modified to include a fourth condition in which an unfamiliar person (rather than the guardian) was present along with the experimenter.

The results of the second experiment were that dogs manipulated the interactive toy longer in the presence than in the absence of their guardians, regardless of whether an additional unfamiliar person was in the room. The dogs spent more time near their silent, unresponsive guardians than to the unfamiliar person, who also refrained from interacting with the dog. The addition of the unfamiliar person condition allowed the researchers to determine that the guardian had a specific effect on the dog’s performance that cannot be explained by the presence of just any person.

Prior to participating in this experiment, all dogs were tested for their willingness to eat food in the absence of their guardians. They were also scored for their tendency to exhibit separation distress when kept away from their guardians. Interestingly, there was no relationship between the time spent manipulating the toys in the absence of their guardians and the amount of separation distress they showed, which means that the results of the experiments cannot be explained by a tendency of the dogs to manipulate the toy less because of the distress of separation.

This is the first study to demonstrate that the relationship between dogs and guardians is similar to the relationship between children and their parents in that both involve the secure base effect. This raises concerns about experiments into cognitive abilities that involve problem solving that is far more complex than in this study because the absence of guardians could significantly lower performance by the dogs.

It also confirms the view that most of us have about the canine members of our family—they are like kids to us!

News: Guest Posts
Herding Sheep with a Border Collie and Your Stetson Hat
A fine memoir of a road trip with dogs to the World Sheepdog Trials

Not far into Mr. and Mrs. Dog, Donald McCaig says of himself and his talented “Blockhead” of a Border Collie, Luke, the male of the title: “I’ve never done as well with Luke as a better handler might have, but Luke adores me. When I go out at 2 a.m. to check lambing ewes, Luke comes too. When I wake with the night sweats, Luke wakes. He thinks I am a better man than I am.  If I sold him, his earnest doggy heart would break.”

It is a tribute to McCaig’s capacity for self-reflection and humor that he is willing to admit his own failures as an occasionally over anxious sheepdog handler. He knows that dogs are not machines and we are not infallible. Ultimately all you can do is the best you can do under sometimes disastrous circumstances.

Upon reaching 68 years of age half a decade ago and finding himself with two quality border collies in their prime, McCaig decided the time had come to launch a campaign to fulfill his dream of the worlds. 

Traveling 34,000 miles in his twenty-year-old car, McCaig, Luke, and June (Mrs. Dog) compete in sheepdog trials around the country hoping to compile enough points to secure invitations to join the American team in Wales.  At the last minute, June garners the invitation, and Luke gets to compete as McCaig’s second dog.

If his best-selling Nop’s Trials is McCaig’s contribution to “lost dog” literature—think of Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang—Mr. and Mrs. Dog: Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies is his homage to an equally venerable tradition, the “the dog road trip,” of which John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley is perhaps most famous. McCaig is on the road not only to qualify for the worlds but also to broaden his dogs’ experience of different sheep and environments—in a fundamental sense to educate them so they will be better able to cope with situations and varieties of sheep they have not seen before.

Although June pulled them through on cumulative points for the year, her most memorable performance came at a trial in West Texas when she decided to forego herding sheep and goats in favor of far bigger game--a huge, ground-thumping oil exploration seismograph truck. “June wanted, nay NEEDED to fetch that big thumping, flickering weirdness,” McCaig writes, “and nothing I said—neither my shouts nor redirects—swayed June from her goal.”

Once abreast of the thumper, June realized she had not a clue what to do with it and returned to McCaig, but there were no longer any goats to fetch.  Her assault on the seismograph thumper had disqualified her.

Hoping to further his own education, McCaig periodically detours from the sheepdog circuit to visit trainers known for their skill in training methods they have developed or adapted. Along the way, he correctly points out that the battle between practitioners of what we might call punishment-based training and those who prefer awards-and rewards-directed training is now more than 100 years old.

For much of that time it appears that punishment has ruled—aversive training, as it were. McCaig himself is something of a follower of William Koehler, the Disney animal trainer from the mid-twentieth century, who developed a method of obedience training relying on long lines and various chain collars and leashes.  Even today, most people attending obedience classes probably follow some version of Koehler’s method. 

McCaig is looking for training epiphanies; bright moments of understanding or enlightenment that will help him better train and manage his dogs. He meets animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, and attends sessions given by trainers using the dog’s ‘innate’ drives, rewards, the Koehler method, and shock collars, which so engage him that he adopts the industry’s terminology and calls them e-collars.

Over the years, McCaig and I have agreed to disagree about shock collars, and in future postings, I hope to examine different approaches to training. For now, I’ll just say that people searching for a blanket endorsement of shock collars or other training devices or methods will not find them here—with the possible exception of the thirty-foot long line, which need not deployed in punitive fashion.

McCaig’s book arrived shortly after I had visited my favorite trainer, Lourdes Edlin.  She is one of those gifted people who will have a dog literally eating out of her hand within minutes of meeting it. She understands that to train a dog, she must learn what motivates it—food treats in many cases, but in others a ball or Kong® or simply praise. 

Edlin said that she was growing tired of teaching people basic obedience—sit, stay, heel, come—and becoming more focused on “teaching people how to do things with their dogs.” The basics would follow from that.

I was reminded of Edlin’s comments when I read McCaig’s reflections on his forays into the world of training. “Though each trainer believes his or her method is best, I don’t think it matters which method the pet owner adopts so long as that owner finds a capable mentor and sticks with the training,” he writes. ”Eventually you will learn to see your dog and when that happens the richness of your and your dog’s lives will tell you what to do next.

“Neither Luke nor June was ever trained to ‘heel’ nor ‘sit’ nor ‘stand for examination.’ They have never retrieved a ball or dumbbell. They rarely play with each other and never play with other dogs. Yet they would be mannerly in any human environment. Not because they were ‘trained’ for good manners, but because they were properly socialized, exercised daily, and have a job—stock work. Mannerliness is a by product of that training.”

A few paragraphs later, he concludes, “Have the highest expectations, do the work, and your dog can walk at your side anywhere on earth. He’ll become the dog you’ve empowered to change your life. As Luke and June have changed mine.”

McCaig’s account of the trio’s trip to Wales is informative, amusing, and somewhat sad.  The two males manage to win a local Welsh competition, the South Wales Sheepdog Trials Hafod Bridge, where McCaig penned his sheep brandishing his Stetson® hat instead if the traditional shepherd’s crook.  A revolution was doubtless averted when McCaig confessed that he simply had deemed his crook too difficult to manage on the flight across the pond and he had neglected to obtain one.  Clearly a telescoping shepherd’s crook is in order.

Luke, June, and McCaig washed out in the first round of the big show.  McCaig blames himself for failing to meet his expectations, but he should not.

He’s written a fine book and made a most excellent life with Mr. and Mrs. Dog. Moreover, they have had many an excellent adventure. What  more  could a dog or human want?

This blog originally appeared on Psychology Today. Reposted with permission.

 

 

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