There are a few phrases that really push my buttons. When talking to trainers, the one that will always get a reaction from me is this explanation for why the trainer used a specific technique or piece of equipment: "I had to."
I recently had a very interesting email conversation with Dylan Boyce, a trainer who took issue with my article That Darned Dominance Debate. With his permission, the interchange is posted here. I deeply appreciate that Dylan took the time to contact me directly. It is far more easier (and sadly, more common) for people to just take shots at trainers who they have not seen work, whose work they have not studied, whose philosoph ...
On Nov. 10, an immeasurably large crowd gathered at the gates of Heaven to meet someone special. There were dogs, horses, cats, goats, birds, snakes, lizards, ponies, sheep and more, animals of many descriptions, all bright eyed, tail wagging, prancing in glorious bodies. There were people too, smiles on their faces, arms open in greeting. All had their gaze turned on the gates as a bright, shining figure approached. The murmur rippled through the vast crowd, "Dr. Sharon is here.. ...
Labor Day hasn't yet arrived, and still, here I am, contemplating the days left in the year and how they will be measured out. If only TS Eliot was right and coffee spoons could be used... but looks like it's going to be a flying finish to the very end, trying to cram in as much as possible before I take a deep breath and hang up my brain for a rest around the holidays.
Once again, a tip from my good friend Ginny leads me to a very interesting book, this time one from 1915. Dogs of All Nations, by W.E. Mason was intended to be a concise, affordable collection of various dogs of the world, created for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. He does not intend it to be exhaust ...
A while ago, I received an email from a reader who took issue with my opinion re: Jean Donaldson's teaching her dog Buffy to hump her leg on command. I have received many emails on that one, to be sure, with some people practically jumping up and down in their defense of Jean's choice, others thanking me for speaking out. It surely touched a nerve, and I still can't help thinking that if it had been a different trainer, and it had been a man or a male dog, folks might have had a very differen ...
In this one simple sentence, Kingsolver sums up not just the value of honesty, but defines why the quality of immediacy in an animal's communications has such a profound impact on us, the species who struggles with truth.
For quite a few years now, I've had a special friend that I only saw from time to time - Sara Kiss. Sara was a lovely little Chinook, and my friend Sue's service dog. We usually met at the annual APDT conference. Sometimes, we saw each other in the hallways of the hotel or conference center.
Recently, I was contacted by Shambhala Sun magazine with a series of questions they asked me to answer for their blog, SunSpace. Interesting to have them note that they felt my approach was informed by Buddhist principles, particularly my blog pieces. I'm not a Buddhist, though many Buddhist ideas resonate deeply with me. You can read the "interview" at Shambhala Sun .
I get asked often, "What are the best rewards to use?"
Sometimes, folks mean what food treats do I recommend. The answer is, whatever the dog says is tasty & worth having. Try a taste test with as many different kinds of treats you can round up. You might be surprised to find that one dog thinks is the cat's pajamas elicits rather ho-hum responses from others. Taste is a really personal thing. And dogs could care less what you think is a great treat, or, conversely, what you think is a ...
Throughout my career, I've tried hard to make freely available many of my articles. Trainers, clubs, vets, breeders, rescue groups and individuals have gratefully used my articles as free handouts and in non-profit magazines & newsletters. Many of these articles have been passed around to a surprising degree. At last count, He Just Wants to Say HI! has been translated into 15 languages!
Once upon a time, there was a concerned client who was considering adding another dog to their household. They already had two dogs, and were quite worried that dog number three might cause the dreaded "pack mentality." And if that wasn't enough, they also feared that the third dog would mean, and I quote, that "situations would get out of hand".
When I was little, one of my favorite Christmas carols was Away in a Manger. To my mind, I did not think there could be anything better than being born in a stable, unless of course it was being allowed to grow up and live in the barn. Not far from our house when I was young was a gas station that every year had a "live" creche, complete with a sheep or two, a donkey and a cow. They didn't go so far as having a live baby, but that wouldn't have interested me at any rate. It was ...
A recent article in Science News simply blew me away: for rats who had strokes induced, the simple stimulation of a single whisker proved sufficient to completely prevent the damage in the brain typical of strokes. The touch of a whisker was done at intervals during the 2 hour window from onset of the stroke. Total "whisker" time? Less than 5 minutes within that 2 hour time frame.
Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes meeting a cheetah up close and personal. What I remember with delight is the deep purr, the rough tongue and the clarity of the cat's eyes as he considered me face to face.
Always one of my favorite wild animals, the cheetah amazes on so many levels. But in this spectacular footage, there are details only visible when the video is being shot at an astounding 1200 frames per second! (Typical vi ...
A friend wrote: "Our dog is behaving strangely. We keep a diary on how his behaviour is different than before. He has always been a 'different dog' but we feel something is changing. And so does our other dog. Because of my medical background, If he was a human I would think it is the early stages of dementia. I know it can occour in dogs as well, so we're observing and asking him on regular bases how he's doing.
CARAT is a behavior assessment tool Suzanne Clothier developed back in 2008. Put to work on behalf of one of the world's largest guide schools, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, CARAT and the Clothier puppy & adult tests developed to be scored with CARAT quickly proved their value in a number of ways:
A trainer wrote to ask: "I heard over the weekend that Suzanne? doesn't approve of or subscribe to clicker use. ls this true? What does she think of clicker training and does she subscribe to the?belief that operant conditioning is the most effective way to teach a dog? what you'd like them to know (or not)."
It's seductive, you know? The slick photos or videos that show something that looks great, and better still, looks so danged easy to do. You feel inspired or even past that, suspect that unknown to anyone around you, a spectacular talent lurks untapped inside you. All you need is that recipe, and voila! You will produce something amazing. Martha et al know this all too well.
As if Dr. Ian Dunbar hasn't given enough to dog lovers & dogs everywhere, January brings a wonderful offer of his book, "After You Get Your Puppy" as a FREE download! This 156 page book contains a wealth of information to help anyone raise a well adjusted & well mannered pup. Limited time offer - available here.
Continuing the dialogue about the many considerations involving Animal Assisted Therapy, our colleague Dr. Kirby Wycoff is a featured guest on the NPR program, Dog Talk. Dr. Wycoff's continuing work in this field offers everyone involved in AAT food for thought.
A recent discussion on a trainers' list brought several comments regarding the "drive" in "working lines" leading to puppies and young dogs leaping, jumping, biting and gripping hard. It was particularly worrisome to several list members that some trainers and breeders considered this behavior "normal" and part and parcel of the set of behaviors that are seen in "working" lines. It seemed to me that there were some important points missed by both sides.
On a fine snowy day, looking at one of my dogs who nearly died on Feb 8, contemplating the joys and heartbreaks of dogs, it seems fitting to share these two lovely pieces. Warning: tissues should be ready to hand. If you're not teary eyed after these, I'd have to wonder what's beating beneath your ribs.
My friend Tom O'Dowd is not just a long time friend as well as a wonderful, kind, smart man and a talented videographer. He's also a singular source for cool information from every corner of the 'net. We share a fascination with animals and behavior, and so he's great about passing along to me all kinds of stuff.
Every season brings new adventures. One fine winter not too long ago, I found myself developing a new technique for dealing with a pee accident. At my age, you'd think I'd pretty much know a lot about what dogs can do and where they can do it and how to clean it up, but apparently, the Dog Gods still have some jokes to play.
I read. A lot. And a lot of odd things. Glancing over at the nearby table, I see a book on prenatal testosterone, one on horsemanship, and still another is a dark, disturbing astounding novel. Plus current issues of science, horse and other magazines.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of meeting Cindy Hickey while I was teaching in Minnesota. In every seminar, I have a deep conviction that there is at least one dog and one person that I am there to help in some way. Additionally, in each seminar I give, there are blessings and lessons that I take away from the dogs and people I work with and meet.