Archive for the ‘Dog-Speak”’ Category

Hey Central Ohio Nosework fans!!! It’s FINALLY HERE!!!! See the registration below for the Introductory 2 hour workshop to Nosework at the ARF facility!!! This will demonstrate the upcoming 6 week class beginning February/March 2014!! The workshop is open to all, but the actual class will be limited to only 10 (ten) Handler/Dog teams, so if you are interested BE AT THE WORKSHOP!!!!
Part of this workshop will be for the purpose of forming a Nosework Club here in central Ohio for Fun, Training, and Competition!
Introduction to Nose Work Workshop Saturday, February 8, 2014 Presented by Robert Vaughan Administrator, K-9 Detection Sports Association         Workshop Fee:  $10.00 Would you like to find out more about the dog sport of Nose Work – an uninterrupted performance in scent-detection by a dog and a handler? … Agility and Rally for Fun is pleased to welcome Robert Vaughan to the ARF Dog Training Center on Saturday, February 8, 2014 to present an Introduction to Nose Work workshop from 3:00PM-5:00PM.  ARF is located at 1000 Morrison Road, Suite I, Gahanna, OH  43230.  Robert has been involved in scent work for nearly 7 years and in competitive Nose Work for another 5 years.  The exciting dog-sport of Nose Work is coming to ARF and Central Ohio.  You and your dog can take part in this game, which is both mental and physical, no matter age or mobility limitations.  Professional K9 handler Robert Vaughan will help you gain the foundation of Nose Work, and show you a new way to build the relationship between you and your dog.  All Breeds are welcome and capable.
To register for the workshop please complete the following and mail to:  Susie Thomas, Agility and Rally for Fun, 8609 North Spring Court NW, Pickerington, OH  43147.  Please include a check made payable to ARF for $10.00. Name:______________________________________________________________________________ Street:______________________________________________________________________________ City, State, Zip:_______________________________________________________________________ E-mail :______________________________________________________________________________ In consideration of my participation in this workshop sponsored by Agility and Rally for Fun, I agree to indemnify and hold harmless Agility and Rally for Fun LLC, the owner of the training center at 1000 Morrison Road, and all other persons connected or associated with this workshop from any claim or loss or injury to myself, my dog or my possessions which may be alleged to have been caused directly or indirectly by any of the above mentioned while on this property. I personally assume all responsibility and liability for any claims regarding theft, accident, injury, and death or otherwise alleged to be caused by negligence of the above mentioned. SIGNATURE:____________________________________________  DATE SUBMITTED:_______________________
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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…

It’s July in Ohio.  It’s hot, it’s humid, and the air hangs like a mouldy blanket left at a Boy Scout Jamboree 2 weeks hence.  Walking, exercising, and training with the dogs during the day becomes uncomfortable if not dangerous.  Personally, as someone that prefers the climate of the northern Great Lakes, this place is only 2 steps from climatic perdition…That’s why our activities have taken place very early in the day for the last month or so…when it’s only 85 degree’s outside.  Sorry Ohio, I dislike your climate even more than I dislike your college football team.  (That which shall not be named here.  LOL)  But I digress into humor when my actual point is quite serious.

A pre-dawn walk is a riot of peacefulness.  Birds swooping over the lawns searching  for breakfast, a whitetail deer crossing the golf course with her two late spring fawns, a pattering of a light rain shower on the leaves,  the river running with the recent overflow of water.  A mother raccoon and her kits are busily eating my neighbors sweet corn crop in his fenced backyard. I can hear the babies cooing with delight at each juicy morsel they inhale.  Momma raccoon purrs with satisfaction, knowing that her babies will soon leave the nest and move on to their own devices, freeing her from the burden.  It’s noisy, but it’s natural.  By my side are the two German Shepherds that my wife and I share our lives with, both looking up at me wondering, “Where to today, Dad? Huh? The river? Chase the geese? Huh? Huh?”

Normally, I walk each dog individually, giving them ample time to do as each wants.  Those walks are often distracted by training or exercising some skill or behavior.  When I walk them together, I’m searching for something else.  Inspiration.  Clarity.  Prayer.  Or maybe something I can’t describe.  At any rate, it’s not about physical exercise…and the dogs are with me to be observed for whatever they can teach me…

My recent writing about the “Bond” that we all want to develop with our dogs has been on my mind like an icicle growing on the eaves of the house.  Dripping, growing slowly, drip, drip, drip.  There’s much more to be written and pondered, and this current walk together has been a catalyst of thoughts.  Now if I can only manage to get them on the screen with some sort of clarity…

When you sit in a forest in the anthracite black of night, or walk  in the twilight of the approaching dawn, and you really focus, it becomes obvious that all living things are interconnected.   All things living are symbiotic in some way…True, humans are closer to the animals than we are to the trees, but we are all part of, and dependant on each other to varying degrees.  How could we not be?  We all come from the same Creator.  He alone understands the full measure of the bond between all living things. ( Okay, if you don’t accept that there is a God, a Creator…then what I say here probably won’t be your cup of tea.  Just give me a listen anyway.)  That’s your loss…those that believe that this all came about by chance, by evolving are missing something wonderful.  Namely this:  All Things Have A Purpose.  The belief that all of this came about by chance takes away all meaning in life.  There would be no reason for it, and it would eschew responsibility for anything.  Nothing to look forward to…Be born, live a while, and die.  That’s a sad way of life, and I fear that more people live it than we realize.

Faith tells me that not only are all living things dependant on each other, but some of those living things were meant to have special and fulfilling relationships.  Like Humans and dogs…humans and horses…humans and fresh strawberry pie.  (Sorry, strawberry pie isn’t a living thing, but I do feel a very deep relationship with it.  Digressing again)     That’s what I was thinking as I walked with the dogs this morning.  I realized that as we have been overtaken by technology, science, and the human insistence on making work easier, we have abandoned this bond between all living things.  The Clan of All Living Things has been fragmented at best, and shunned at worst.  Horses were working partners, as were dogs.  They lived to serve their keepers, and their Keepers cared for them as cherished work mates.  There are still people who treat their animals this way, and you’ll find that they have the best ” Bond” that can be had.  Training methods are NOT the key to the Bond,  and such people prove this everyday.  Sensing the emotional output/input of the dog is the key.   Allowing the  energy between master and canine to flow unimpeded…What I mean by that is simple.  “Training Time” is time to train.  “Bonding” time is time to observe, listen, and understand.  Yes, training does aid in creating bond, but it’s only part of the equation to that end.  I’ve been reading the book, “Rin Tin Tin, the life and the legend”  by Susan Orlean,(http://www.amazon.com/Rin-Tin-Legend-Edition-Hardcover/dp/B00BR5G9M0/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and I was surprised to learn about the “method” (or lack thereof) that Lee Duncan used with his beloved dog.  Duncan describes it as their “Wanting to please each other, and see the other happy.”   Okay, that quote screams of esoterica understood only by the quotee, but something about it rings true.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin were together constantly.  They communicated on the dog’s level, in language and behavior that the dog understood.  Duncan never made Rinty a small human in a fur coat.  They had, “The Bond”…(A reading of this interesting book gives a bit more insight, but it is ultimately a very sad story.)

What I take from the story is that their relationship was not “Built” by any training method.  “Built” has a connotation of forcing or shaping  something into existence. Often with resistance from the subject.  Duncan gave credit to the deep bond they shared for Rinty’s huge bag of talents.  He states that they never learned “Tricks”.  Certainly there had to be some form of training, but they mention little of it.

Again, I’m not offering any strident method to building a bond with your dog.  My suggestion is only this:  Put aside the training and the discipline for a few minutes a day, and just be with your dog.  Observe (don’t sit there trying to interpret body language) Talk to the dog, (No, he won’t speak back), but he’ll become accustomed to knowing that he has your undivided attention aside from everything else.  Turn off the science and try to feel the flow that moves your dog…My suggestion for practicing this is to sit out in the dark some night this summer and just Listen…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed.  The same thing goes for the dog…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed while you were busy working at having a dog, instead of enjoying the dog just being with you…

As a final thought, I want to state that I now believe that this “Bond” cannot be built, as though from a blueprint.  Rather, like most natural, created things, it “develops” in a time and manner uniquely to itself.  Allow yourself to watch it develop, and stop trying to force it…That doesn’t mean I’m foregoing “Training” and “Working”, not by a long shot!  But there should certainly be time to just watch the passage of time,  the learning process, and your own growth as a dog trainer.  Treat yourself and your dog to this simple pleasure…

 

I am an admirer of the contemporary essayist and writer, Edward Hoaglund. (If you’re interested, here’s more info.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montaigne)    Chances are, you’ve never heard of him, but thats’ why I’m writing this post.  Mr. Hoaglund was born in New York, New York in 1932.  During his early twenties, he took a job at the Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus  tending to the large cats that took part in the circus acts.  Pretty exciting stuff for a young man looking to find a voice in the world…Thats a side note regarding my admiration for him, as young Edward had a speech impediment, a severe stammer.  He is quoted as saying, regarding this problem,  “‘Words are spoken at considerable cost to me, so a great value is placed on each one. That has had some effect on me as a writer. As a child, since I couldn’t talk to people, I became close to animals. I became an observer, and in all my books, even the novels, witnessing things is what counts.”

You see, he and I share a speech impediment.  His,  a stammer making speech unintelligible at times.  My own is a strangulated vocal chord sometimes making my voice too weak to be heard, or hard consonants impossible to form.  So we’ve both bonded with the written word, in order to bring to life what we observe, feel, and need to express.  We also share a great love of canis familiaris, and we sate our love for them by writing about them.  I was ruminating over my recent post on “The Bond” we all seek to form with our dogs, and it occurred to me that Edward had written something quite profound in the same vein.  I frantically tried to remember where I had read it, but couldn’t find it for Part 1…Well, I finally found it in my journal, where I recorded it, and it will be central to the rest of this post.  Here’s the quote:

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human.  The Point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog!” – E. Hoaglund.

Pretty profound if you’re asking my opinion.  And yet, it’s almost a completely ignored concept in the world of dog training today.  An examination of specific modals of contemporary “training”  show a heavy and misguided reliance on  pure “Science”, which ignores that dogs are bound, or even freed, by the emotional capacity that they have.  Science and Behavioral Theory ignore the true source of the bond that human and dog can achieve together, namely a flow of energy that produces positive action between the two living souls.  Heavy reliance on clickers and food treats(and the crazy idea of ever increasingly, “high value”  treats)  to achieve obedience, or tricks, or whatever actually blocks the ideal flow of energy thru the dog, by interruption.  Therefore such methods are more like bandages on sucking chest wounds, unable to stop bleeding because of inadequacy.  Training our dogs should more properly focus on the personal trust and bond that we build with our dog from day one together.

The $100,000,000,000.00 question is this:  How do I develop my own “dogness”, a state of empathy (as opposed to sympathy) with my dog?  And can we achieve that state?  Truth be told, I don’t know…but I’m trying anyway.

I’ve noticed a recent proliferation on the internet of sites that focus on “Observation” of canine behavior.  Body language and physical reactions that reveal what’s going on between those fuzzy ears.  Facebook has a page that shows photo’s of dogs and page members post their interpretation of different “signals”.  I believe that careful observation is an important part of developing “dogness”, but from reading the various posts, it seems to me that “Human Psychological”science is encroaching  on the discussion.  Some of the observations turn the dogs into furry humans with human reactions to various situations.  It becomes so complicated, burdened with way too much  minutiae, that the salient points are shrouded in “What does that mean?”  But I do believe that some of it is on track.  Most especially those observations that are simple.  Those that allow dogs to be dogs.  Those that understand that dogs are really very simple, uncomplicated, creatures.  It is only human science that turns the mind of a dog into a convoluted labyrinth of difficult to understand behaviors.  Becoming aware of your own “dogness” may well be a result of your own willingness to be simple and straightforward in your own thinking.   Again, this is a major obstacle to most people who call themselves “Trainers”, or  “Behaviorists”.  They want canine behavior to be complicated, understood only by people with degrees and formal education.  Many want to put dog training into the stratosphere of professions so that those who have only experience are cast aside as “wannabees”.  But I’m telling you, dogs are much happier as simple thinking souls.  That’s not to say that dogs are stupid, or mindless.  They do have intelligence, that much is rock-solid.  But when we understand their inherent simpleness, we can approach what Hoaglund was speaking about… becoming partially “dog”.

The first thing that I’ve attempted in gaining this bond, is to simplify my own approach to training.  I took every book on training and understanding dogs that I own, the notes from every seminar I’ve attended, and tried to distill them into one, simple truth.  I began with the concept of “Drives”.  There are behaviorists and trainers that will assign a different “drive” to every behavior.  In my thinking, they all can be refined into a single motivator, a single “drive”.  It’s called “Prey Drive”.   The drive to hunt, search, eat, and play for one essential reason.  Your dog is a “hunter”.  Operating off this conclusion has allowed me to ask simpler questions of why my dog does what he does.  “Why would a born-hunter react in this way?”  “What would a simple hunter do in this situation?”  That’s my approach…Not everybody subscribes to what I do, and that’s fine.  You find your way…Ask yourself this:  How can I see the world in the same way as my dog?  How do I suspend the human tendency to judge and analyze everything that comes before me, and react like a dog would?  How does my dog communicate with me?  Am I trying to see things from his viewpoint, or am I forcing him/her into some wayward, human paradigm like Operant Conditioning or pure Pack Behavior?  Have I ever tried to duplicate my dog’s way of communicating?  For instance, have I ever tried to duplicate a “play-bow” to my dog?  What was the reaction?  Try not speaking to your dog, and communicate thru body language…or facial expression.  Closely observe how your dog reacts to your mood…If I get frustrated or even angry about something, what does my dog do?  Hide?  Growl at me?  Suspend your adulthood for a few minutes, and pretend to be a dog!  Sniff at things, roll over on your back…whatever a dog does during it’s time.  (I’d not recommend that you  go around humping things like some dogs are wont to do, as this could lead to legal and ethical, not to mention social complications)  Find a way to Be Dog.  It will open up a whole new understanding of your canine friend!

(P.S.-  I’d also not recommend allowing someone to lead you around on a leather collar and leash in public.  More complications that you don’t want.  I’m just sayin’…)

 

First off, I want to say that my experience with Autism is limited.  If I don’t know the lingo behind the condition, forgive me.  And correct me if you know…There’s a world of misunderstanding that surrounds what is known as Autism, and while I’m learning about it, maybe others will too.  I see that as a win/win.

My wife and I have made several observations lately on how dogs react, and pro-act, with people who are autistic.  It  intrigues us as we watch the dogs behavior change, as well as the change that comes over a child, or even an adult, that has autism. ( I’m having a difficult time writing the sentence, “…suffers from Autism.”  My untrained and neophytic observations of those with autism, don’t reveal any suffering in the classic sense…Frustration at times, even anger…But most of the children and young adults I’ve met are actually fairly happy people, with the provision of understanding and compassion from others.) 

We’ve watched autistic children, that would seem to not have social skills of any sort, suddenly become calm and controlled around dogs that pay attention to them.  We’ve  watched “high energy” dogs suddenly become sedate and supportive, even instructive, to these children…helping them cope with the outside world.  What the heck is going on in their minds?     Do dogs think in the same way as the Autistic?  Do those with autism think like canines?  Is there some symbiotic relationship possible there?  These are the questions that prompted me to start researching this intriguing research.

It wasn’t long before the name Temple Grandin popped up in my search.  The research monkeys were immediately shuttled over to the public library, to begin reading everything this earnest and brilliant woman has written.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, believe me, she’s a prolific writer.  Everything from multiple books on multiple subjects, to scholarly peer-reviewed scientific papers.  Figuring out where to start was problematic, because everything I picked up had snippets of wonderful insight.  Unlike my usual approach to research, I didn’t try to focus on any single subject.  I allowed myself the luxury of letting Dr. Grandin introduce herself from the many sides of her work.  There were several, what I’ll call “dichotomies”, to begin with.  She is a staunch advocate for the proper treatment of animals, (Not necessarily an “Animal Rights” nut.)  Yet her career has been as a designer of equipment that is now widely used in processing cattle into that beautiful steak on your grill.  She simple loves animals of all sorts, but realizes that certain species serve mankind as protein.  If they are to be processed, (go ahead, say it…) If they are to be killed, then do it as humanely as can be.  Some reading this will balk at what she does, but it’s life in Reality-ville, and Doctor Grandin holds no contempt for non-meat consumers.  She thinks of the cattle with respect and dignity.

The woman who has a penchant for hand-sewn Western-style shirts, (Picture Marty McFly in Back to the Future 3.)   also has a gift for interacting with other animals.  Her book “Animals Make Us Human”, discusses livestock both domestic and completely wild.  Most important to this writer, she discusses canines at great length.  I could go into more detail on this, and I may in another post, but don’t forget the real point of this post.  Dr. Temple Grandin is Autistic.  This fact would fade into nothing if you allowed it too.  But her autism is the catalyst for much of her writing, and it serves her well.  She seems to have a different wavelength in her mind when she deals with dogs, cats, cows, or chickens.  She admittedly, and quite candidly, writes about her life long struggle to understand people nearly as well as she does the animals.  We mystify her with our human behavior…

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, my purpose in taking on this subject is not to offer advice, counsel, or direction.  I have none to give in my experience with Autism.  I’m searching for knowledge from those who know it first hand…But there’s something of value to be found here, I know, and if I can drag a few of my readers along for the ride, I will be happy and satisfied.  I’m not even sure how the “Autism community” feels about Grandin’s work, and I’m looking for other perspectives to round out the knowledge.  Help me out!

This much I have observed, and know.  Dog’s and autistic children interact in a very unique and special way that fulfills something for both.  How can dog owners with willingness to become involved?  What is there to learn from the interaction of these two very different species?  What can it teach us about the workings of the human brain and psyche?  How can it help find a cure for Autism?  What do we learn about the canine mind?  I’m looking for these answers, and insight from as many as possible…

For more on Temple Grandin:   http://templegrandin.com/

If you work with, or just walk a large, black, German Shepherd around in public places, you will eventually be asked, “Does your dog bite?”  I guess that’s to be expected.  Owners of Pit Bulls, Malinois, and several other breeds suffer just the same line of questioning.  Time was, I would assure the questioner that my dog was definitely not a Biter, and yes, they could pet him.  Well, hindsight is 20/20, and I may have done my dogs a disservice.  Education has lead me to another path, and my answer to that question is far different today.  Not because Hans nailed some poor unfortunate, thank goodness, but because I’m more tuned into the true nature of the dog.  And you may not like what I’m about to expound on here, but facts are facts, and it will serve us all if we take responsibility for the predator on the “other end of the leash”.

The next time I speak to a group about dogs, or dog bites, or whatever, the response will go exactly this way, especially if it’s a group of children:

“Mr. Vaughan, does your dog bite?”

“Thank you for that excellent question!  Let me answer it this way.  How many of you have a dog at home?”  The audiences always have  more dogs than not.  “My answer is this:  Yes… undeniably, unequivocally, absolutely, and honestly, my dog bites.  And whats more, so does the dog you have at home that licks your face when you get home, and sleeps on your bed.  All dogs can and will bite!”

There will be gasps from the front row, and from school administrators worried about liability of such a beast loose in their school.  First, because Hans will probably be sitting nearby, off-leash, with that German Shepherd look on his face.  Secondly, because very few people believe that their Cocker Spaniel has any notion of biting anyone or anything.

The response I’ll give has a two-fold purpose.  First, I don’t want any child, or any adult to suffer a dog bite.  They are singularly unpleasant, and tend toward scarring and infection.  Please be careful when you approach any strange dog that you don’t know.

Secondarily, but far more interesting and perhaps more controversial, Your Dog Bites Because It’s a Predatory animal, and it enjoys Biting.  It’s the end result of his Predatory Drive.  Chase a ball, bite it.  Chase a rabbit, bite it.  Find a bowl full of kibble, bite it.  Wave little hands in front of a puppies face?  Probably gonna bite it.  And therein lies the problem.

The question before you as your dogs leader is this? ” How do I allow my dog the natural outlet of biting, without the biting being inappropriate at best, and tragic at worst?”

We struggled with this when we first had our German Shepherd, Hans.  He is a working dog and has the instinct to chase and bite.  The interesting thing was this:  Hans never bit me.  Not once.  However, my poor wife carried some bruises and bite marks that would horrify a coroner.  The bites were never delivered in aggression, but always happened when she would attempt her version of play.  Run away from him with the ball,  throw the ball and chase him when he wouldn’t give up the ball.  When he did bite, she would grab the dogs snout and say, “NO!” gently but firmly.  Hans saw that as a challenge.  Our 6 month old German Shepherd got a reputation with my wife.  “Why doesn’t he bite you???” she would cry.

Well, we figured it out eventually and Carol has since become a very fine trainer, but she learned the hard way.  It had to do with how I played with, and responded to his instinctual behavior.  Our play involved allowing him to fulfill the ultimate release of his instinctive behavior to hunt, that is to bite something.  When he was under a year of age, I used a five foot long, flexible fiberglas rod with a string attached to it.  The business end has a chamois cloth tied to it.  We would flip that chamois around around like it was crazed, and Hans’ job was to catch it.  The game finished when Hans was told to release the prize.  When he did, the game could resume, drop the chamois produced another round of catch it.  He picked up the game and the “Out” command very quickly.  This game also built his prey drive into something that could be readily utilized into his training.  As he grew older, I used a 24-inch , two-handed ,leather tug toy.  The idea was to grab the tug, bite it hard, and take it away from me.  I always allowed Hans to win this game after a bit of wrestling, and he became confident, and he knew when and what he was allowed to bite.  As an aside, this game also taught me how not to get bitten during this exercise.  I learned his approach, the look in his eyes, and his timing.  We developed his “out” command during this play consistently.  He will drop anything he has in his teeth upon command, and I do mean anything.  We practice this “out” even with raw turkey drumsticks.  Did the play create an aggressive dog?  Absolutely not.  And we’ve found a way to do what comes naturally to a predatory canine.  Teaching not to bite by teaching when and what to bite.

 

After his first year of life, we moved into bite sleeves and decoy work.  He loves these exercises, and he has tremendous recall off an attack, because we allow him to do what comes naturally in the first place.

Many will give the advice, “When a puppy bites, grab his snout and prevent him.  In my observation, you are retarding his instinct by doing this, and he’ll become frustrated quickly, leading to continuing problems.  You are better off to do what his litter-mates did when they bit each other to hard, give out a blood-curdling “Yip!!” that says, :That’s too hard!! Stop!!!”  The dog will often step back from you, shocked.  This is how you speak dog…Dogs teach each other the limits of biting, very early.

The key to outliving your puppies “biting/nipping” habit, is to teach him that biting is only for certain toys, and certain times.  The way to control it is natural…Find an activity that allows him to use his teeth for the purpose that God gave them to him.  As always, the secret to most dog training, is too spend the time necessary to work with, and understand your dog.  Find help when you have questions.  It will allow your dog to be his best!