I deeply appreciate how clickers can teach a client to focus on watching for the good instead of waiting to correct or punish the bad.
I deeply appreciate the value of a clicker in improving observation skills as well as timing. And I'm well aware that the physical movement to click can be organized more quickly than a verbal marker, and that's great when trying to improve training skills.
The paradigm shift that clicker training can make possible can be profound. It's an import ...
There is a radio program that I love. I never know what the topics will be, but RadioLab.org is a wide ranging program that has covered everything from the rescue of a humpback whale to sleep disorders. ...
On Monday, Dec. 14, our dear old girl Bee headed out for her evening walk with John, feeling happy & good, her daughter, son and granddaughter dashing through the snow with her. Just a few minutes later, she collapsed, and died in the car on the way to vet just a couple of miles from the farm.
Not too long ago, I was asked about a specific bit of training. The questioner posed in very jargonistic terms, "So what you're saying is that you are free shaping that behavior?".
I was taken aback, and had to pause a bit to explain my instant response of "No, that's not what I mean at all!" I had to examine why I find such jargon so off-putting and, most importantly, inaccurate.
Life is not steady state. It is a series of variations and variables. Sometimes, life seems like a variety show.
I was moved to laugh, smile, and cry at this flash mob performance at a Spanish unemployment office. The Beatle's classic, "Here Comes the Sun" is an anthem to reassurance, optimism, and the shared difficulty of being a human performer in this variety show of life.
When Mila threw up her entire breakfast, I was concerned. I checked her over carefully. No painful abdomen, no fever, normal heartrate & respirations, ideal capillary refill. She was bright, alert, playful. Her usual self, but missing a meal.
Few things can make my skin crawl quite like ticks.
When we lived in New Jersey, ticks were everywhere. When you watched TV at our house, you also were checking dogs for ticks. Settle down to watch a movie? Grab a baby food jar full of alcohol in which to drown your finds. Ick, ick, ick.
In my travels, I am often driven around by very nice people who wouldn't dream of being rude to me but think nothing of answering their cell phones, texting or even using their GPS while driving me. It is frightening, dangerous, and ultimately deeply selfish behavior -- no call or text or input to a machine matters more than the lives of others around you, even if you're willing to risk your own life and that of your passengers.
I realize that in some groups, there is a current taboo on saying NO to a dog. This has led me to consider briefly the idea of naming a dog Noh after the Japanese theatre form. But recently I made a crack about the famed artist Christy Brown and his drinking escapades in a wheelbarrow (look it up! even I can't make this stuff up). Another trainer standing nearby looked absolutely shocked at my comment.
When he arrived a few years ago, he was barely 9 ounces but already close to 6 weeks old. Every rib was visible, and where rib met veterbrae was frighteningly obvious. He had ticks, fleas, ear mites. Dehydrated, starving, but still, looking me right in the eyes.
Our vet tried to be clear with me. This kitten was starving, or more accurately past starving and in serious trouble. "Kittens like this sometimes just can't make it. He's in pretty bad shape, Suzanne." I nodded my understandin ...
KEEPING IT SAFE: In mid-February, I made a trip that reminded me for the millionth time that feeling safe is important. It was supposed to be a pleasant 3 hour drive, with 2 nice ladies and a Great Dane for company. My driver was a professional driver (literally), and she drove with evident skill and care. Food, shelter, water -- all were in place. My belly was full. I had a hot coffee in my hands. I was warm and comfortable. But... I wasn't feeling safe, and that ...
Lately, I've spent a lot of time gazing into eyes. Specifically, puppy eyes. The 9 pups of Georgia's litter are in that lovely 4+ week old stage where they can and do make direct, unflinching, clear, steady eye contact. No prompts necessary. No training or treats -- just show up, be there, and these puppies seek out the contact.
Most of us don't have to go too far in our family trees to find someone who grew up on a farm. But since 1960, there has been a huge shift in our society to a more urbanized life that does not include a daily working knowledge of animals and nature. This is not to say that simply living in a rural environment somehow confers an understanding of dogs or any animals.
At 50, I've put in 30 years now as a professional, and in every one of those years, I've managed to make unique mistakes that I hadn't made before. I'm working hard on natural horsemanship trainer Pat Parelli's theory that to be a real trainer, you have to make at least 3000 mistakes. Each one of them different. And then, maybe, just maybe, you know enough to call yourself a trainer.
In a household that already contains 11 dogs, a kitten, 3 tortoises, 2 parrots, a pair of parakeets and a tank of fish, you'd think adding just one more living creature couldn't make that much of a difference.
Math was never one of my favorite subjects. Not particularly interested in the relative speeds of trains traveling east or west or even upside down, I discovered more joy in math later in life when it gave me the answers I sought in trying to work out proper dosages or feed rations or how many board feet a stall wall would require. In other words, as soon as math involved animals, it had value for my life.
Neil Gaiman is a brilliant writer whose work has moved me in many ways for many years.
In this piece posted Jan 12, Gaiman writes about the death of Cabal, his first dog ever. In reading his stunned grieving account, I recognize all too sadly those feelings that go with the first dog's death.
The door slams, over and over as John rushes in and out, trying to make our world a better place. In each slam, I hear the energy he pours - seemingly without end - into this farm. He makes lists, tries to meet the needs of so many creatures (both two and four legged), and sighs when I add something else to his never ending list of chores and tasks.
Veterinary medicine often parallels but lags behind human medicine. In the field of treating emotional and mental disorders ranging from anxiety to OCD to depression, veterinary medicine has begun to recognize that emotional distress needs to be treated, just as physical distress would be.
"All dogs start out as perfectly normal puppies,ready and eager to learn, as malleable as clay."
~ Dr. Ian Dunbar
Sigh... this came across my desk today, as the tagline for the Dog Star Daily Woof from Dr. Dunbar and staff. As a breeder working on her 7th generation of German Shepherds, it made me roll my eyes, as it is a typical statement from non-breeders who seem to have a very skewed and unrealistic ...
The FDA has updated its list of adverse drug reactions for pets . Adverse reactions can range from mild and transitory to extremely serious or even potentially fatal. Knowing what might happen when your pet is on a certain medication can help you stay alert to possible problems.
Here' s a chance to provide some positive reinforcement to a reporter who dared to question whether the Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan is really the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Joel Moreno at KOMO in Seattle did a Problem Solvers piece that asked, respectfully and with intelligence, whether these training methods really get the results or maybe are creating ticking time bombs.
Apparently, CM's fans didn't take kindly to any questioning of their hero, and the emails flooded in ...
A friend alerted me today to a disturbing video on YouTube. It's been there for a while, though I was happily unaware of it until now. With one click, I stepped into a new definition of abuse: a well known "positive" trainer displaying her female dog's new trick - humping her leg on command.
Anyone can see abuse in an animal that is beaten, starved, mutilated, hung or killed. The Michael Vicks case still looms large as he tries to put his life back together post-prison. That kind of ab ...
JD Salinger died today. The author of The Catcher in the Rye, he was once acclaimed as an "important writer." All sorts of fame and fortune awaited him. But Salinger turned his back on all that, retreating to live a private, quiet life in Cornish NH. He wrote The Catcher In the Rye in 1951, and published his last work in 1965.
He fought hard for his privacy, and the price he paid for this was the label of "reclusive" or, as the NY Daily News labeled him, a "fugitive from fame." ...
Spring has truly sprung here. The resident woodcocks are back, winging their way around the farm in relentless circling flights, making the noise that long ago led me to dub the male Curly, as he sounds just like Curly from the 3 Stooges (wah, wah, wah, wah, wah...) The frogs & toads are singing their hearts out every night, a glorious chorus that blankets the marsh areas with a thrill of sounds.
A sadly reliable part of my work are the scared ones, dogs brought to me because they were afraid, sometimes of specifics like tall men or loud noises, and sometimes just afraid in general. They are afraid for many reasons. Some are traumatized, some have limited capacity to cope, some simply do not understand the world. My goal is to find a way to help these dogs as best I can. Being afraid is not a good way to live.