Archive for the ‘At Home with dogs.’ Category

This will be my 200th post of “German Shepherd Adventures.”  A bit more than 4 years worth of reporting, editorializing, opining, teaching, learning, screwing up, eating crow, declaring victory, and growing.  The blog has changed as I’ve learned and changed, and it’s dug in its heels where I have lead it.  I’ve enjoyed it all.  I’ve hated some of it.  Its grown beyond my wildest expectations, and I hope to welcome member # 100,000 this Spring.  There are 168 different countries in the subscriber list, including someone from McMurdo Sound, an Antarctic Research Station!  (That thrills me to no end!)

The Good has far outweighed the Bad parts by a long shot.  I’ve been fortunate to make friends with, and make mentors of a few very talented writers, trainers, and others.  Imagine how thrilling it was for me to exchange thoughts with Mr. Ray Bradbury before his death in 2012…I was a fan of his from boyhood, and when I learned that he had read “GSA” and enjoyed a particular post enough to contact me, I almost fainted. Exactly how he found “German Shepherd Adventures” has never been clearly explained.  He said only that he was,” researching something”, for a short story, and Google spit me out.  I hold no claim to being a “Bradbury” level writer, but he was genuine and encouraging and enthusiastic.  We shared similar views on learning, laughing, and life, and I treasure our brief friendship…Among other notables, I count Carol Lea Benjamin, author, Dog-Trainer, and all around good egg.  Her training methods were at the bedrock of what works best, and she explains it clearly and without ego.  She has a touch of whimsy and laughter about her, and her cartoons rival James Thurber any day of the week.  Carol Lea also managed to get me interested in the Mystery genre.  Her fiction is a “potato chip” type of fare.  You will always look for, “just one more”.

Another luminary among writer/trainers that I’ve been privileged with knowing is Lee Charles Kelley, as well as his mentor Kevin Behan of “Natural Dog Training” fame.  Kevin has developed this way of helping many understand dogs “flow”, but nobody explains it better than Lee Charles Kelley.  Many thanks to both of you and the Natural Dog community.

Among the wonderful trainers, I simply must thank people like Wade and Lori Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Andrew Ramsey, Michael Burkey, Becky MacGregor, Angie Ballman-Winters, Brett McKnight, Kevin and Cheryl Goede, and the group at Balanced Trainers from Dan Audet down the line.

I suppose that I could publish a list of “Low-lites” and “Low-Lifes” as well, but why bother?  They are a much smaller group, and below my notice.

Finally, I must thank Rhonda Sellers, and the Omorrow Pack.  I started “German Shepherd Adventures” with this group of people as my focus, and they have formed a wonderful core of friends.  I had no idea that the blog would eventually grow beyond those confines, and I didn’t care.  Being part of this family of crazy German Shepherd people was enough for me, and I thank each and every Omorrow friend for coming along on the journey so far.  Rhonda, you are a mentor and friend in the truest possible way, and I will always be indebted to you, and as grateful as I can be…

As for the parts of writing this blog that I’ve hated?  Well, most of them involved the cowardice and self-serving interests of people that enjoy hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard.  Dealing with the darker corners of opinion and political-correctness, has been tiring and wearisome.  The rantings and raving of such people are a huge waste of time.  Those who practice militancy are a sad and confused lot, and doing more harm to the dogs and the dog community than is warranted.  I will continue to reveal their ignorance as much as possible.  On the positive side of these people, is the fact that they have often caused my readership to blossom into the eyes of new dog people and those looking for the best way to work with dogs.  I will continue to refer them to trainers that I know will help them determine “Best Practices” in dog training.

This is my way of thanking everyone that takes the time to read “German Shepherd Adventures”.  I hope that you will continue to visit with me here, and I will do my best to keep making it worth your time…

Above all…I want to thank my dearest friends, CarolAnn, Hans, Holly, and Sammy.

Hans, there has never been a better friend than you have been.  No more loyal partner, fellow worker, or goofy buddy.  I promise you a long and happy life.

Holly, my golden girl, you have become much more than what I thought was possible.  Above any other dog, you have taught me the most about Training, and How dogs Think.  You have challenged me, taught me, and given me the opportunity to learn from the masters.

Sammy, my newest buddy, you are something I never expected.  Your loyalty and manner have taught me what dogs are capable of when it comes to nurturing, helping others, and having insight into the human spirit.  You read people like no other living soul I have encountered, and you teach me without hesitation.

Finally, Thank you to my dear wife, CarolAnn.  You put up with this silly collection, and make it your own.  You must be out of your mind, but it seems to work…

Okay, everybody, Go  Take Your dog out and do something!!!

writingmonkey1

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Do you know what happens to books that I wish I’d written?  I cut off their spines and punch holes in them.

That’s right…it makes ring-binding them possible.  And that has become my new shortcut to knowing which books I use as constant reference material or just find enjoyable to read.  Once ring bound, books can be kept open while studying them, or  left open flat for ease of reading.  I use them a lot, and I want their words easily accessible.

“Think Like Your Dog, and Enjoy The Rewards” by the Daughter/Father team of Dianna Young and her co-author Robert Mottram is truly one of those books.  And I know you’ll find it just as valuable.

Chapter 1 is entitled, “A Fundamental Truth.” and it’s a truth that way too many in the dog world would call a myth.  To quote:  “In every Dog/Handler Team, without exception, There is a Leader, and there is a follower.”  In the current atmosphere of “ignore bad behavior…” training methods, this is practically heresy, BUT SOMEBODY NEEDS TO SAY IT, TEACH IT, AND EXPLAIN IT.  “Think Like Your Dog” does just so simply, and with conviction.  The explanation of “Rank” and “Leadership” are among the best I’ve seen in writing, and are sure to raise eyebrows within those that need to read this book the most.  If you don’t believe that dogs crave a social hierarchy, then you’ll miss the very best parts out of “politically-correct” bigotry.  My advice is to read this book, and use your power of reason.  That is the true strength of this book.  It uses Reason too explain the truth, and that is all to uncommon.

Dianna and Robert  had a clear aim with their book.  They never mention or criticize other methods of training, or particular Trainers.  They don’t need too, as they are trying to assist dog owners, rather than professionals.  Although any professional has as much to gain from the book as any first-time pet owner.  The tone of the book is warm, inviting, and yet pointed.  The authors are obviously talented, capable trainers, but their strength comes from an ability to teach others with empathy, and foresight into how dogs react.  You never are made to feel that you are being spoken “down to” from a pedestal, and that to is rare.

Chapter 4 is a treatise on Canine Temperament.  Too many dogs are given the description of “unsound” by the failed methods of some, and many of those dogs are euthanized.  “Think Like A Dog” establishes ways to change behaviors that cause these tragedies, and throws the “neo-positive” failures a loop in their doctrine.  What Dianna and Robert write here will save lives of troubled dogs.  Or even better, it will start your family pet, or prospective working dog, onto the best practiced way to raise, train, and live with your dog.

A very balanced discussion of training methods is taken up in the book as well.  No sides are taken in the training method maelstrom, so no one need fear that they are reading in a hostile atmosphere.  In fact, the reader is invited to choose whatever works for them, after due consideration of the differing choices.  The foundational statement of the book is found throughout, often worded differently.  This quote from page 96 embodies that ideology.  “The idea is to structure a relationship of trust and mutual respect between handler and dog, teach the handler how to assume the leadership position in that relationship, and then demonstrate to the dog what the handler-Its Leader-desires from it.”   

Without further guilding this lily, I’ll invite you to add this book to your library.  Have it bound so that you can use it.  There’s a lot more here that will offer a new line of thinking on some old topics like equipment, Obedience, and performance.

One final suggestion:   Chapter 20 is entitled “Going Forward.”    Read it carefully and thoughtfully.  Read it again and highlight key phrases that touch you.  Keep it open there and refer to it often.  It is the catalyst that will make you Use the previous 19 chapters with purpose, intent, and joy for you and your dog…   http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_19/184-6455469-4164567?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=think+like+your+dog+and+enjoy+the+rewards&sprefix=Think+like+your+dog%2Cstripbooks%2C218

thinklikeyourdog

Here we go again, another hot button issue on the periphery of our friend, the dog.  If it’s not training methods, then it’s breed standards, or standards of a particular breeder.  Those are the evergreens.  We might also include the differences between rescuers as opposed to buying from breeders.  Vaccinations against more holistic methods.  Raw feeders v Kibble feeders…The arguing goes on no matter the subject.  It is my belief that, as dog people we will soon be completely unable to stop outside factions from taking control of our interests, because we can’t agree on anything that really matters.  When I posted a challenge to my readers to find something that we ALL do agree on, I was disappointed in the answers.  Most were based on emotion.  And while I agree with the sentiment, “We all want what’s best for our dogs.”  it doesn’t really protect us from the onslaught of rules and legislation that some would impose on dog-owners everywhere.  So I’m going to wade into the latest attempt to prevent good people from practicing what they love most, and are most skilled at doing.  Much of the problem comes from those with “Certification”, “Title” or “Degree”, but little experience.  Education, but little instinct for the art.  Desire for control, but scant leadership ability.

  Should “Dog-Training” require higher education and Licensing from a Controlling Organization in order to protect consumers and ensure that Positive Methods of Training are observed?

This is the latest skirmish among those of us in the canine professions, and there is at least a small group that would love to make it a subject of Governmental legislation.   Not to put too fine a point on the subject, but most of the sturm und drang, encouraging more control and necessitating expensive licensing, is coming from those that follow the Purely Positive philosophies.  Many of them have an alphabet soup of degree’s that they love to place after their names wherever they can find space for them.  They complain against, and harbor real hatred for individuals such as Cesar Millan, who has no degree hanging from his wall.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not entirely in Millans camp either, but he may be the foremost authority on being demonized and hated by fellows in the industry.   Anyone that can rightfully say that they practice anything similar are also demonized by the “Other Side.”  And truly, Cesar Millan is only the tip of an iceberg that would have crushed the Titanic, as opposed to the minor, but effective damage that  hunk of frozen water caused.

The largest impetus behind this legislation of “Certification”, seems to be, ubiquitously, filthy lucre.  Money.  With a dash of  “do it MY way, or don’t do it at all.”  Check out the websites of the various “professional” organizations that claim to represent “Dog Trainers/Training” as an industry.  None of what they offer is inexpensive, although some of the programs may have benefits.  Pay the charge, and you may be allowed to train with one of several big names in the industry.  Pay more and you’ll be given credentials, some without ever having to meet the individual responsible for teaching you.  Assembly line “certification”.  But under the proposals of an elite cadre of individuals, those payers would still be able to hang out a shingle “legally.”  And make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly instructed, indoctrinated, and walking lock-step with the Purely Positive mind-set coven.  Their intent is too force everyone to lose the use of certain tools, techniques, and methods that stand out from Purely Positive.  Don’t believe this can happen?  Then why are German Trainers forced to hide and deny use of training collars or various types?

Keen observation of this situation fascinates me.  I get to see  dog-training from several divergent perspectives.  First, The Law Enforcement K9 trainers.  Second, The IPO/  schutzhund/PSA  perspective.  Third, The Service/Therapy dog perspective, and finally, The Pet Dog/Rescue/Boarding facility perspective.  They couldn’t be more different.

In the Schutzhund/IPO/Law enforcement world, Performance Is The Proof of a good, solid, trainer.  There’s no obsession over who holds what degree, what Trainer Organization pay homage (and cash) too.  What matters, is what the dog has learned under your guidance.  Word of mouth is the best advertising, and the weak and unskilled, or ego-driven can’t survive.  And they don’t.  Yes, there are plenty who claim great skill in training protection/sport/LE dogs, but they soon fall victim to their own failures.  Performance is the primary judge in this arena.

The Therapy/Service dog arena has hitherto been a world of people wanting sincerely to help.  Good people more concerned with capable, skilled, dogs than who trained the dog.  But I see disturbing trends in this system.   over certification, outside interests controlling what types of training are mandated, outside interests trying to change where Service dogs are welcome, businesses restricting access to PTSD/Emotional support dogs, and more.  Alongside those problems, there are people selling credentials to anybody that wants to walk an untrained dog anywhere they please, whenever they please.  The Service Dog problems are two-headed and complex.  I don’t know where the balance will come from, but there’s a real battle ahead.  This area needs discussion and balanced administration.  I hope that those involved have the wisdom to find ways to continuing to provide these valuable working dogs to people that desperately need them.

Finally, the Pet Dog industry.

You’d find more rules/laws in Port Royal, Jamaica circa 1655.  Anybody can hang out a sign and print business cards and call themselves a “Dog Trainer”.  But don’t get me wrong, I support that right.  Success or failure should come from the hand of the consumer.  If a dog trainer doesn’t produce successfully trained dogs/owners, the market and word of mouth will eliminate them.  Trainers of ALL methods.  Trainers with an alphabet soup of degrees after their names, and trainers with nothing more than skill and experience to bolster them.  This then is where the ugliness rears it’s head.

A small but loud group of individuals, coupled with others that smell money in the water, see a fur-covered gold-mine in them thar’ hills.  These people want very specific laws and standards to be mandated upon everybody, with subsequent denial of licences or certification as support.  Most of those in this group are from the Purely Positive training cabal.  Only their way is the right and proper way.  Most of them seem to care more about controlling how others train than actually training themselves.  If they had to prove that their methods are totally successful, by producing results of lasting effectiveness, then the open market would soon eliminate them.

The blogs, FB pages, and books that are published by this crowd seeth with contempt toward anyone that dares question “Science”, and the modus operandi of the Purely Positive Crowd.  Anyone without the “required” titles given by the “professional” dog trainers associations is considered unfit for the public to seek help from.  This attitude has become so vitriolic that certain trainers are even adopting an outward appearance of supporting the militant minority of PP.

Does anyone prove their skill, talent, or instincts with a display of which seminars they’ve attended or which Dog Training Organization they mollify with lucre, or how many acronyms follow their name on a business card?  Like the politics of our time, it seems the Least qualified keep getting elected because they have the media on their side, or the money to overwhelm any opposition.  And the least qualified become the voice of Canine Behavior because our society is impressed with academic achievement and the fallacy that education is the end-all-be- all of our profession.  It’s time for proof.  Go out and Prove you are a skilled dog trainer.  Train people, train dogs, and do so in a way that stands the test of time and professionalism.  Work in such a way that doesn’t rely on bashing other trainers and their methods or philosophy of dog behavior.  If you feel the need to challenge someones opinion or methods or lack of qualifications to train dogs, let YOUR ABILITIES prove it, not your word processor, or even worse, words spoken loudly from the relative anonymity of the internet.  That being said, be happy to know that there ARE schools for dog trainers that are quite good, and worth their cost.  But only because they teach you to decide what works best for you, not a militant curriculum of their own.

My personal solution to these arguments is to do what I do regardless of anyone else’s “opinion” of what I “should” be doing.  My success will speak to my clients, not my influences.  We need more legislation like we need new holes drilled in our skulls.

Our 2013 Autumn Canine Tour has been over for two weeks now, and I am WAY behind in writing about it…There’s a lot going on  the GSA corporate campus, including a major move of the operation, so bear with me!

I want it known right up front that the business I’m about to write about has in no way compensated me for this story, and I’m writing about them only because I’ve rarely come across such a unique combination of talented people, forward thinking in dog activities, and a world-class facility! http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

I know dog care facilities with great People but less than adequate facilities.  I know of great facilities with people who should be flipping burgers elsewhere.  I know of good people with nice facilities that don’t involve themselves in the local dog community.  It’s just a business opportunity.  But the owner of Paws & Claws Boarding and Bath, Becky MacGregor,  has created something special in the north woods.  If this facility was located in a major city, it would quickly need to expand.  Quickly.

Owner, Becky MacGregor and Pal.

Owner, Becky MacGregor and Pal.

Located on 50 wooded acres in near the northern Michigan resort town of Harbor Springs, Paws &Claws (http://harborpawsandclaws.com/) is the contemporary culmination of a dream that started small, and finally grew into something special.  To me, the crown jewel of the facility is the huge 6000 sq ft Arena wing.  Custom made for Agility, Scentwork, IPO practices, or most other canine fun, it could also handle a good size crowd for seminars.  If any of the Trainers that spend a lot of time on the road teaching want a place to teach, and a wonderful vacation spot at the same time, you need to give Becky a call!  Once word gets out, I believe that Paws & Claws is going to be on a lot of radar screens .

exteriorpawsandclaws

The arena has a unique rubberized floor that is quite kind on the dogs feet, and comfortable for the owners as well.  The facility is heated quite nicely, owing to the family plumbing business.  Becky’s father was a major name in plumbing and heating in the area and he overbuilt the facility needs.  It even features geo-thermal energy, so the place is about as “green” as it can get.  Air Conditioning?  This is Northern blessed Michigan!  Open the large vertical door and let the prevailing winds off nearby Lake Michigan cool down the summer for you.  http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

Outside suites.

Outside suites.

Plumbing continues to make Paws & Claws special.  The floors in the boarding suites are all heated, making any dogs stay pleasant and comfortable in even the coldest winter. Air Movement throughout the buildings was masterfully designed to keep everything fresh.  Every kennel owner should have a Master Plumber for a family member!!!  The Boarding Suites are also a jumping off point for something else special.  The People that work for Becky.

I have never walked into such a busy kennel that smelled so NICE.  Not just Clean, but pleasant.  Not like a clean KENNEL, which can reek of bleach, but like a pleasant home.  With a total of 26 suites, that means that the working staff is hard at work, cares about the dogs, and takes great pride in being there.  During our visit, which was completely unannounced,  everyone was proud for us to see their place of work.  Hats off to everyone that works there…You really help define what a Dog Daycare/Boarding facility SHOULD BE!!! http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

Becky also took great effort in designing and laying out Movement for the dogs from inside to outside.  Many facilities are forced to move dogs thru a maze of confusion, because of poor design.  Not Paws & Claws…Everything seems to work in a circular manner that makes congestion or risk of unhappy encounters with reactive dogs, a non-issue.  Outdoor arenas have real GROWING grass!  (I can’t even keep grass in my 30′ by 50′ backyard with two drivey German Shepherds.  Even the human element has well defined areas for work and break time, and it all flows together.  Becky and her staff have a good system of communication as well when it comes to the needs of each boarder, and other important information.  The walls are lined with whiteboards that are easily seen, and generally apply to the area where each hangs.  Info regarding medical/drug needs, or special feeding details are easy to see.  This takes the worry away from mistakes being made by poor communication.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN, and more CLEAN!!!

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN, and more CLEAN!!!

The Grooming and Bathing suite is also quite nice, well-lit by natural light, and large enough to move about freely.  One very smart innovation was made here, using metal siding on the walls instead of wallboard.  Walls come clean very easily, and will continue to gleam pearly white for a long time to come, with minimal effort.  http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

I have to mention a feature that I think is unique to Paws & Claws…A Dog Mass Transit shuttle to the facility from neighboring Harbor Springs.  From a partnering Pet Supply shop in town, called Pet Pantry, customers are able to drop off their furkids and they are then transported in comfort to the daycare facility!  A regular schedule is operated and the convenience is outstanding!  Not to mention a really great graphics job on the van!

pet-taxi

Paws & Claws gets the coveted 5 Paws rating from German Shepherd Adventures!  The entire facility was well thought out from the very beginning, the employees are well-chosen and then trained, and I can’t say this enough, CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN and SPARKLING!!!  Yes, it’s located in a small town in Northern Michigan, and most of you will never get to visit, but I hope that many other operators of Dog Day Care/Boarding facilities can look at the website, and see the way this type of operation should be run!!!  Congratulations Becky and Staff!!!  GSA can hardly wait to visit again!!  http://harborpawsandclaws.com/

I am not a person that adopts  dogs  from a shelter.  My dogs are acquired from a responsible, knowledgable Breeder.  In some places that confession is comparable to confessing to any number of  heinous crimes involving livestock, Meth labs, or eating kittens.  Don’t know what else to tell you about that…But that doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the industry, OR the animals.  I DO volunteer time to keeping the homeward looking dogs happy and exercised.  I’ve worked with behavior problems successfully, and if I do say so myself, made a couple of them adoptable.  It can be satisfying, and fulfilling work, watching a formerly “Reactive” dog walking out with his new family on a loose leash right past 40 people without so much as a sneeze.  But that’s all behind me as of today, until such time that the dog shelter organizations put political correctness and the cult of personality behind it. (Uh Oh…He sounds TICKED!)

Actually, I’m more Saddened than angry…I like helping dogs.  But the cult of the Positive Only trainers has managed to usurp the Shelter industry.  And they mean to make everyone submit to a method that damages dogs more than they will ever admit…

Arriving at my voluntary time for exercising the dogs today at a local county shelter, a sign was posted saying to all that walked in,  “Dogs within this facility are handled in Positive, Reward based Methods Exclusively.  Our clients and volunteers are obliged to follow these methods before, during, and after adoption,  Training is available for anyone interested.”

In the immortal words of one Scooby Doo,  “Ahh-Roooo??  Ruht Roh, Raggy”…  Under my breath I asked  ,” When have I ever been anything but positive with any dog?  Even the crazy mutt that tried to eat my face?”  A week later I walked that dog around the campus here…Others would have killed that dog…

Later in morning, a small meeting was held with the volunteers, conducted by the Director of the facility.  A nice, well meaning lady in her ’50’s, and an enthusiastic dog-lover, she began with the greeting of someone recently indoctrinated into a cult.  “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you volunteers here that work with our dogs!  I want you all to know that we have something special for you all that we want you to embrace!  We have invited a wonderful professional Dog Behaviorist here to give you all training that you NEED!”  Her name is **************, and she’s an expert on Clicker-Training and Non Aversive Training.  All of us will be better able to help our resident dogs prepare well for their going home…”  (I’m not giving her name, as this is not meant to personally bash anyone. ( You’d know of her.)

“I was privileged to hear her speak and teach for 2 full days recently, and I must say, never having any formal dog training education myself, I was very impressed!!  She’s so kind to the dogs, and there’s never any punishment of any type to the dogs.  When they misbehave, you simply IGNORE the behavior until they stop.  When they do something right, they get a nice treat!  By the way, I’ve brought back a nice gift for all of you…She produced a shopping bag filled with small, belt worn treat bags.  She passed them out, sliding one under my lower jaw which was pressed firmly against the table top, resting in a puddle of drool and disappointment.

“Each of us will be trained to help our adopters use this method as well.  I think you will all find this very exciting, as it is the latest in behavioral science…Most all of the better, most qualified facilities around the country will be getting this program over time.  I think that you volunteers with dog-training experience will especially benefit from this new training.   We’ll have no more hanging dogs from a leash here again…You’ll find it unnecessary going forward.”

One of the volunteers raised her hand slowly…When did someone here hang a dog from a leash?” she sounded almost conspiratorial.

The Director answered in a slow, rehearsed voice.  “Well, never to my knowledge, but she showed us a compilation of punishments that different trainers have used.   It was awful….and we won’t have it here in any way shape or form.  The seminar will be next Saturday from 1 until 5 pm.  This is a mandatory meeting.”

As the meeting ended,  most of the volunteers filed out, thinking that something great had just happened.  I, and one other volunteer stayed seated.  The Director looked at us confused, “Is there something more?” she asked, genuinely interested.  That’s her greatest strength by the way.  Wholly Dedicated, but with little knowledge of dogs.

“Well, I guess there is a question or two…” I began. ” Has there been a problem with the way that we’ve been working with the dogs?  Has there been a complaint or a dog that went crazy on somebody?”

“Oh No, No!!!  You’ve both been great with the dogs!  Even ones that we thought were headed for euth services…But this is the future of dog training, the latest science. (She had zero knowledge of how long OC has been around)  I thought you’d jump at the chance to learn from ***************.  She’s written books and made DVD’s…apparently she’s quite well-known.”

“Oh we know about her…and her method.  But we’ve also tried the method, and found that it just doesn’t solve the needs of the dogs.  It’s an incomplete way of training, and doesn’t do anything to solve behavior problems in any dog.  Clickers have a small place in a trainers bag of tricks, but there are also other ways.  You know yourself that every dog is unique and has different needs…What ********** does just doesn’t cover them all.  A more Balanced Approach is the what helps the dogs…not plastic toys.  And the other consideration is this in regard to Clicker training…It can’t be taught over the course of two days!  Once ********** leaves here, you’ll have an entire volunteer group doing it wrong anyway. Confusion will reign, as you have bad science being used by poor performers.  Most of the dogs that pass thru here either arrive with issues, or develop them while here.  Non-Aversive training will only create more issues that will create behavior problems.  You, more than all of us, must know how many shelter dogs are euthanized each year because someone “In the Know” says, ” that dog can’t be helped, so killing it is the only safe option .”

She looked at us like she knew a secret kept from us.  “Well, I think this is the right thing to do for the shelter…Are you aware that in Europe, Wales I think she said, and in a couple of states here in the US, there is already legislation to ban certain training tools and regulate the dog training industry based on training methods?  This is coming, whether anybody likes it or not…You have to keep up with the science.”

The rest of that conversation was short and concise, ending with myself and one other talented dog trainer resigning from volunteering at the Rescue.  Political Correctness has come home to roost in Ohio.  And it’s probably headed for your home as well, under the guidance of the local  political correctness squad.   Over something that “correctness” doesn’t begin to fathom….Our ability to train our dogs in the best methods for them…Balanced, kind, and uniquely suited to each dog, has been, and will be, under fire by these groups until we, as balanced trainers/handlers begin to defend what’s right.

This is why  I’ve begun looking for other trainers/handlers and Dog Writers that truly understand dog learning and training.  balanced trainers that become experts at understanding which method(s) works best for the dog.  Not Non-stop treat dispensers,  like some sort of Human Pez Dispenser filled with kibble. Not brutal in any way, but capable of understanding and utilizing  the power of aversion.  Or before you go there, punishment of a proper degree.  I’m happy to see a few of them out there now beginning to stir the pot and educate about Balanced, natural training.  People like Wade Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Kevin Kinker, Kevin and Cheryl Goedes, and others I’ll mention in another post.  I don’t mean to leave any other talented trainers off this list, but know that I see and support you on this blog as best I can, and will continue to do…It’s time to stand up and take back the dog training world before legislation DOES suddenly oozes into our local government.  We need to work together against a small but media savvy machine that’s been operating for several years while we were busy training, competing, and correcting bad behaviors,  thinking that we were not in danger from the sources of self-proclaimed experts.  If you train in a balanced way, if you can write or make video of balanced training, get your stuff out there.  Make kind, instructive, comments on Facebook and the chat rooms.  Explain why Natural, Balanced training is the best way in calm, Professional tones and terms.  We have a lot to lose if we don’t get serious and SOON…If it takes a few minutes away from working in the field with the dogs, use your communication time to teach the dogs a good long “Stay”.  YOUR help is needed, along with your skills, talents, and determination to train well!

Other components of the Dog World are also being threatened by similar groups and individuals.  One of them is legislation aimed ostensibly at Puppy Mills.  Don’t get me wrong, puppy mills need to be gotten rid of NOW.  They are a cancer on the dog profession.  But the way current legislation is being written by HSUS, PETA and other groups threatens the Purebred Dogs that are needed to support survival of the breeds in their pure form.  There’s much more detail that needs to be written about regarding this assault, but I’ll save it for another post.  But there’s already a lot of information available out there.  Try Googleing the phrase “Dog Breeders Legislation Pending” and see what “The Devil Is In the Details” really means.  These groups are crafty, and yes, sneaky.  They work behind the scenes until they are full-blown READY to strike, and then they do.  Stay Alert and spread the information that you discover, it can help us save our rights, our livelihood, and ultimately the future of dogs…

footnote*  I will continue to help working dogs that need whatever they need.  I can handle that on my small kennel property, and I won’t lose the good that can be done…

I’d given up writing about training methods, good, bad, and silly.  It seemed that the Non-Aversive loving, Operant-Conditioning Zombies had been winning the heart of the politically correct society we live in, and it just wasn’t worth the flaming stupidity that happened when you dared argue with the Clicker Sorority.  (Yeah, it’s mostly a female movement.)  I no longer cared what these people did in their training, as long as I was free to train in the method that I know works best.  Click your brains out ladies, and hope you don’t need to correct any behavior problems with that thing…And I left it at that.  What a relief…

But something has happened, and a new uprising is stirring in the dog training world.  Balanced Trainers, like myself, are beginning to rise up on blogs, chat rooms, and other canine based internet sites.  They are writing and making video’s, and finally pushing back on the tidal wave of Skinnerites, and Pryor Zombies.  They are exposing the failures of Non -Aversive training, they are pointing out the harm that a militant stand for any SINGLE method causes dogs.  When a Clicker trainer admits that they have behavior problems with their own dog, or a clients, the Balanced Trainers are finally jumping on it and providing guidance where none has existed before.  What happened?

Well, it seems that the “politically correct” (as a collective) , always seeking complete control, went to far too fast.  Amongst other actions, they have succeeded in legislating a complete “Ban” on certain training collars in the country of Wales.  They are aiming at the rest of the U.K., but Balanced Trainers are rising up in defense of methods that are not only successful, but completely harmless to dogs.  The methods of Balance succeed where non-aversive devotee’s regularly fail.   The Balanced Trainers have risen up.  It’s about freaking time!!!

I think this latest turn-around, and subsequent surge of Reason, came at the guiding hand of Ivan Balabanov, World Champion competitor and Trainer.  Oh yeah, he’s also a breeder of the Belgian Malinois, something else that ticks off the HSUS,  ASPCA, PETA and the other alphabet soup of busy bodies that think they know best for the dog world.  Ivan has probably been to busy traveling the world training dogs and winning everything to keep abreast of this nonsense.  He has really turned his attention to helping train new handlers, study canine learning, and inspiring a new era in dog training.  He’s written some fantastic new things, and I suspect and hope that he is working on a new book discussing the topic of “Aversives” in training.  Beware Non-Aversive types…such a book could cause serious brain hemorrhaging to many of your militant types…Here’s a link to some of Ivans stuff.  http://malinois.com/site-training-tips/positive-training-or-reliable-training/    Ivan knows his way around a training facility, the mind of the dog, and oh yeah…The top of the Winners platform.  But he also trains peoples pet’s.  The dogs enjoy being with him, and their families enjoy learning from him.  I’m writing a separate post about this remarkable Dog Man, so I’ll move on to some other very fine posts and opinions that have recently jumped into the public domain.  Maybe Common Sense is making a much needed resurgence…

Stop number 2 on our tour of Balanced Trainers is to Mr. Roger Hild of http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/  Check out his methodology on the main page as you scroll down.  The  Tsuro Method…Balanced, effective, and well described.  Also visit his interesting articles link http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/articles_of_interest.htm      Remember, my purpose in highlighting these trainers and their sites is to encourage you to pursue BALANCED Training, rather than a militant stand for any single method.  Every dog needs a unique combination of things to successfully  take to training.  NO SINGLE method alone can help a dog with behavior problems…One article that he writes on is here…http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/_articles/real_training.html     Another is titled, http://www.tsurodogtraining.com/plan_b.htm

Our next stop on the balanced trainers trail is Mr. Dale McCluskeys video heavy website…http://k9pack.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/dog-psychology-corner-physical-response-and-relational-disconnect-2/   Very strong on relationship training, Dale has lots of great balanced training while also going after the damage of an unbalanced view with a vengeance…Dale tells it like it is, but his experience makes the truth pop off the screen!

And then there’s The TerrierMan!  http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/02/calm-and-assertive-clicker-training.html   His is a wide open blog site with so many interesting things that you’ll search this site for hours!!  The link above is especially interesting if you want to belive that Clicker training is a superior method!

Finally, I have enjoyed Mr, Tyler Muto found here…(And on Facebook!) http://connectwithyourk9.com/    and the blog, full of great reading is found here:  http://connectwithyourk9.com/category/blog/.    So balanced, and wide ranging, that you really must explore it yourself…some of my favorite articles are: http://connectwithyourk9.com/humane-dog-training-a-different-perspective/   and  http://connectwithyourk9.com/the-relativity-of-pressure/   see also:http://connectwithyourk9.com/a/  and its follow up article  http://connectwithyourk9.com/now-that-i-have-your-attention/.

Sometimes it has felt that Balanced, omnivorous trainers have been shut into small prison cells and joyously shouted down by the cult of OC and Aversive Training deniers.  I am thrilled to be able to start hearing from and seeing the Balanced Methods finally get their word out and slowly eroding into the monopoly that a relative small group of VERY LOUD and media savvy +R trainer militants have held.  All I ask of you, my reader, is to investigate everything that is out there for your dog!!!

I have the opportunity to observe a large variety of people with their dogs everyday.  At work, at play, or just hanging out.  In fact, much of what I write about the communicative approach to dog-training was born of these sessions, by simply watching both human and dog interact.  No matter which method of training you choose to discipline your dog in, you must, must, must, be able to Communicate effectively.  Not just Trainer to Dog, but also in the reverse, Dog to Trainer.  I suppose that it should have been an early lesson in the Communicative Approach, but these things often arise only in retrospect, or hindsight.  And so it is with Self-Control…And by that, I mean your Self-Control as a trainer, handler, or human being.  But what is Self-Control?

Let me start at ground zero for the definition as it is intended in this context.

Do you find yourself yelling at your dog??  Do you yell at the dog(s) you work with?  Do you believe that yelling at dogs is in anyway helpful?  If so, you lack self-control.

Observing kennel workers on a regular basis, I see more dependance on the high volume human voice than any other method.  Closely followed by such silliness as spray bottles, and “Time Out” in a crate.  All three of those methods show that “self-control” has degraded into eliminating what annoys the human involved.  The dog learns nothing except that the human doesn’t understand the first thing about dogs or their training.  Will yelling at a dog (or a pack of dogs) quiet them for any meaningful length of time?  No, simply put.  In fact, it probably has the opposite effect.  If you try to prevent unwanted barking by yelling at the dog, the dog thinks that you are taking part in the barking, and will amp it up accordingly.  If you are trying to eliminate an unwanted behavior in your dog, will yelling stop the behavior?  No, and it may even raise the dogs anxiety level.  “Fluffy!!! DON’T YOU PEE ON THAT RUG!!!  DON’T DON’T DON’T!!!!”   Well, not only does the dog not understand your words, but your volume only confuses his ability to read your body language.

The only humans that really need to yell, are military drill sergeants.  But they have a different goal, and a very different individual in front of their steely gaze.  That may be why some dog trainers confuse yelling with a useful tool.  It works with people that are being conditioned to obey commands in the stress of battle.  For the most part, your dog is just NOT under the same demand.  Nor is the dog as intelligent as a human, that can understand the “why” of such conditioning.  All a dog knows is the Energy or Emotion that your yelling produces.

Some of the most self-controlled dog trainers that I’ve watched, have been the Decoys in top level bitework.  They understand how to raise a dogs level of excitement to a given point, and just as efficiently lower it back to what I’ll call “Petting the dog is now possible” level.  They use their own body language and energy to slow the dog, often without using the voice at all…Yet they use their voice to Raise the dogs level to the attack level.

Another great place to observe Self-control with dog training is Agility.  The best competitors never yell at their dog, mistakes are corrected by hand signals usually, but also with contact of an instructive nature.  NOT Striking, but guiding.  Yes, I know that yelling can be heard at any of these events at some point, but not everybody is thinking properly.

Want to observe “Lack of Self-Control” in its native habitat?  Try a dog park on a Saturday.  Lots of dogs, lots of distractions, lots of dog owners struggling to keep their dog under control.  You can always observe somebody chasing a dog across the field yelling at the top of their lungs to “Get back here you stupid dog!!!!” 

Communication that truly helps is always given in a calm manner.  Yes, the intensity level (Not the Volume) can be properly raised by the human, should the lesson require it.  I use as an example the “down-stay”.  Which is actually a misnomer.  The dog should be taught that “Down” means STAY.  The release from Down is always another command, whether verbal or visual.  But that energy level comes from the Trainers physical demeanor.  Anger, which almost always begets yelling, has no place on the training field or while working with your dog anywhere.  Your dog reads Anger in only a negative sense, never as a response to the knowledge of how important a lesson may be. Dogs don’t think things thru that prism.  They sense your emotion as raw, intimidating, fearful.  Not Protective, which may very well be your intended purpose.  The dog cannot delineate between anger and importance, because the concept is beyond his cognition.  Yelling at a human child to “Stay Out of The Road!” might work because the child can be taught to think of the   inherent danger of such actions.  Not so your dog.  And, truth be told, yelling at your child or any other human being is generally counterproductive as well.  Learning to calmly discipline and instruct will make all of us better at life’s varying situations.  There will always be that one boss, parent, trainer, or other human that feels that a Loud Voice is the most effective tool.  They are usually the most avoided and lonely people.  We simply don’t enjoy being pushed around by aggressiveness, and we usually respond badly to such treatment.  Put yourself in an empathetic mode with your dog, and develop self-control, or risk living in a state of constant non-compliance with dogs.

Occasionally, you will see a human lose their cool  at a competition, practice, or training session.  They might call the dog names, throw a leash, or kick an object because of some perceived failure of the dog.  Or the stark realization that the failure was purely on themselves.  This is not as common at competitions, but it does happen in practices with others at a class, and it definitely happens in the privacy of our own sessions.  Maybe you’ve had a rough day at work, on the crowded roads, or with a friend or family member.  It happens to ALL OF US.  Sometimes Life just happens that way.  Pop Culture Psycho-Babble would advise “letting off steam”, maybe even busting things up and relieving the stress of anger.  Fortunately, we’ve moved beyond that sort of craziness…Our Emotions flow thru our dogs, and once you’ve lit that spark, it’s gotta burn.  The Book of Proverbs, 14:30 in the revised standard version Bible says it clearly:  “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.    Way too many people think of Anger as Passion.  Overflowing Enthusiasm.  But it’s not.  Anger is just frustration that blocks even flow of energy.  It has a place, but not in dog training.  If you find yourself angry, put your dog up in a calm place, walk away, and find Tranquility.  Sometimes it’s hard, but you’ll find its a better way.

You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about anything like hitting or kicking a dog.  I shouldn’t have too really.  You know better.  And if you don’t, leave dogs alone and start a tree farm in North Dakota.  I’m talking about violently taking your anger out on a dog, not physical corrections that involve correcting a dog.  A small tap on the ribs is NOT out of line, though some might believe it is so.  Punching with the fist, kicking hard enough to move the dog, or pinching an ear are what I’m referring too.  If you are a Cesar Hater, don’t bother me with your complaints, because that’s way below the level of what humans are capable of doing.  I’ve yet to see the man harm a dog out of anger, in spite of what you might want to convince others that he’s doing.  I may not entirely agree with him, but I recognize that he’s been attacked more because of political correctness than his methodology.

I write predominantly about Working Dogs, not Aunt Mitzi’s fluffy, white, cockapoo.  Large, driven dogs correct one another with far worse physical correction than we should, so small physical contact is not described as losing one’s self-control…

I have observed what I’m discussing here first hand.  Outsiders will observe bite work for instance, and believe that mean human being. they see a wild, out-of-control, angry beast, attacking an equally angry human being. They always miss the subtle scritch between the ears that the handler will give to the dog when commanded out to a sit position.  The dog is NOT out-of-control at all.   And the same applies to the Handler.  The phrase “Controlled Chaos” is often used in K9 circles, and a well-respected family of trainers even use that as a name for their business enterprise.  Their dogs live in their home with their daughters very successfully.  My feeling is that the family has mastered Calmness of Heart and Self-Control with their dogs.  And those dogs are at the top of their game. That style probably permeates their home, including raising their children.

I’ve talked to my own dogs about Self-Control.  I’ve asked them, “How do I train you in the best way?” They’ve shown me by behavior, which mind-set produces success in training, and working.  The answer is always the same.  “Keep your Cool Dad.  I understand you, and if you listen calmly, I’m communicating with you in return…listen closely!

SerenityNow