Archive for the ‘Kathy Sdao’ Category

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…



I’m never going to get rich from dog-training.  It would be wonderful if I was able to develop a bullet-pointed, annotated, technique rich, program that I could take on the road as a way to make a living.  Karen Pryor has her Clicker Expo.  Cesar Millan has a road-tour.  Michael Ellis has well attended seminars all over the country.  Roger Abrantes is known globally for his speaking engagements.  And there are lots more…

"I already know how to learn!  Now it's YOUR turn!"

“I already know how to learn! Now it’s YOUR turn!”

If  I developed such a speaking tour, each date would probably last less than 15 minutes, and my audience, (If they showed up at all) would feel as though I owed them more time for their investment.  I can give you the foundation of the Communicative Approach in just about 5 minutes, with 10 minutes left over for audience questions and a friendly meet-and-greet.  Write an entire book on the subject?  Five or six total pages does not a book make…The reason for this anti-marketing of myself and the Communicative Approach is simply this:  YOU alone are responsible to define, develop, and practice your communication with your dog.  The steps leading to that goal are straightforward, self-revealing, and they come from within YOU…Not a long-winded seminar, not a book, and not a DVD.  Not that I’m criticizing those talented trainers out there with something concrete that enables them to produce an actual “Program”, or  “Training System”.  They are certainly out there.  I recently reviewed Angie Winters new “3 Dog Days” dvd and it was wonderful…I love the Michael Ellis DVD’s produced thru the groundbreaking Leerburg company…and there are others.

But the Communicative Approach to Training Theory (C.A.T.T.)  does not make that approach possible.  The Heart cannot be fully instructed externally.  Your heart could NOT sit in a classroom and be taught to love,  develop relationships, or empathize with other living things in a meaningful way.  That comes from within you…That’s why this post carries the title above and this warning:

“Do Not Attempt This Technique Without Consulting Your Motives and Commitment. “

Many people “own” dogs.  Some because it’s a status symbol to have a cute little dog in your shoulder bag. (Think Paris Hilton)  Others because the dog is used as a tool to achieve some dubious and highly questionable honor or personal glory. (Think Michael Vick)  A few don’t think having a dog thru with any understanding. (“Hey…A cute little puppy!  That would be a great Christmas present for the kids!  What breed is it??”)  Others have the wrong motive entirely.  (I want me a dawg that’ll attack anybody that comes around my house or property!)Granted, perhaps Paris Hilton takes good care of her pup.  Or pays someone to do it for her.  I’m seeking evidence that her Chinese Crested is more than just another Helsburg Diamond to her.

But there also those owners/trainers that do pursue good training for the dog, and for themselves.  Yet something it missing.  I’ve seen them at schutzhund, agility, and formal dog shows.  The dog is incapable of socializing properly with people and other dogs, so they spend the balance of their time in a crate,often covered with a blanket to keep the dogs world insular.  The dog’s life is simply to perform when commanded.  They are trained as little robots…Thankfully, these types are not common.  Most Dog people at least try to develop a relationship that fulfills their dog.

So now I’m going to give you the only bullet-pointed list that goes with the Communicative Approach to Training Theory.  I will expand upon each of them in upcoming posts, but I hope you can think about each of them, and come to your own conclusions.  They work with  formal training methods, not replacing them.  You still need to learn about training.  But go beyond them, and embrace these attitudes, and you will  find success beyond your expectations!  (Note: These are NOT in order of importance.  That order can change and be adjusted every day)

* Love Your Dog

*Live With Your Dog

*Listen To Your Dog

*Learn With Your Dog

*Learn About Your Dog

*Learn Your  Chosen  Method Well

* Prioritize Play With Your Dog

There you go…The foundation of the Communicative Approach.  Next up, I’ll expand on each of these.  I believe that if we all practice these attitudes, our dogs will be better, our training will be better, and you just might learn something about yourself…Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to FOLLOW us!!!


You already know that my obsession in training is to focus on making things simple, and understandable to anyone that reads my little tomes.  You also know that people and disciplines, (Scientists and Dog-Trainers especially), that enjoy clouding their methods in big words, catch-phrases, and so-called “scientific”  jargon are a special annoyance of mine.  We’re training dogs here folks, not building a starship to Alpha Centauri.   Knowledge should be usable to everyone that has a dog, not just people who have a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior.  These people conduct what I call, “Subjection by Obfuscation.”  As a Canine-Handler from rural Michigan, I call it, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with Bull…”

(With acknowledgement and Thanks to Stephen R. Lindsay, Author of Applied Dog Behavior and Training)

The difficulty that I now have before me is this:  I find myself in a position that necessitates I write a post using big words,  scientific protocols, linear-reasoning, and the mind of a trained Scientist.  But I promise you this, anyone that reads this will understand what I’m postulating, (Don’t start with the big words) I am going to make this simple, direct, and user-friendly.  I want, more than anything else, for my method to be useful.  I want it to be worthy of someone saying, “That’s just common sense!”    Here we go

The Communicative Approach to Training Theory that I’ve been developing and writing about here for several months, is a mind-set that can be used with any method of training.  It is merely approaching the whole thing with the attitude of wanting to develop a deeper relationship with your dog.  The approach finds what motivates and enables your dog to truly enjoy training, playing, working, and living with you.  It is an evolutionary step forward for Operant Conditioning, Clicker-Training, or any other method.  It recognizes that every dog, troubled or not, is a unique individual, and needs individualized teaching methods.  It takes time to develop the approach, as it is as specialized to you and your dog.

At times, I have felt that I was working in a vacuum.  I’ve found several Trainers that agree with what I’ve written, and they have all been practicing it without knowing it.  That’s been encouragement enough to keep working at it…Outside support from professionals in the field.  People that I respect…That’s a nice feeling, and I’m grateful.

What I have been calling the “Communicative Approach” to dog training, actually has a scientifically established name!  While digging obsessively thru several research volumes and books in the Ohio State University Veterinary Sciences Library recently, I stumbled over a word that persisted in arising.  That word is  “CYNOPRAXIS”…

The word itself is of Greek origin, “Cyno” meaning “dog” and “Praxis” meaning “To Do”.   What’s interesting about the word praxis is the root meaning.  It refers to using a specific theoretical knowledge to accomplish a goal.  Praxis does not have a preference how that goal is accomplished, but is instead referring to the attitude of the practitioner of said method.   Simply put, I quote myself :  “I don’t care what type of training method you use with your dog, as long as it fulfills the dogs need for a relationship with you.”

Cynopraxic behavior is best nurtured within a close family arrangement, i.e  a “Pack”.  (Don’t run away Pack behavior deniers, please! There’s more!!)  The most important goal of Cynopraxis is to create a nurturing atmosphere that enhances good behavior, fulfills your dogs emotional needs, and builds the relationship between the two of you.  It thereby enhances your dogs desire to bond with you, and also improves the dogs quality of life. While based on sound scientific findings and observation, Cynopraxis also emphasizes something that many methods of contemporary dog-training seem loth to embrace…That is, the individuality  and uniqueness of each dog!  Again, simply put, “What works for one dog, doesn’t necessarily work for another.  Therefore, try something else! It’s alright to stray from a militant allegiance to one method!”

Cynopraxic practice, although used within a close-knit group or Pack, emphasizes The Individual uniqueness, and those needs specifically.  Each and every dog will be evaluated by association, and protocols will be used.  Every dog will receive personal attention, playtime, training time, discipline, and even nutritional help. 

A favorite quote that comes from my research is from the book “Myths of the Dog-Man” (1991) by David G. White.-

“Ultimately, the Dog, with its ambiguous roles and cultural values, its constant presence in human experience coupled with its nearness to the feral world, is the alter-ego of man himself, a reflection of both human culture and human savagery.  Symbolically, the dog is the animal pivot of the human universe, lurking at the threshold between wildness and domestication…There is much of Man in his dogs, much of the dog in us, and behind this much of the wolf in both the dog and man.”

I will be writing much more on Cynopraxic Training in the coming weeks, as I have voluminous notes and half-written posts.  You may find that I will intersperse the Communicative Approach title in place of “Cynoplaxic” increasingly, as they are indeed one- in- the- same.

“German Shepherd Adventures” was first published on the ubiquitous Facebook.  As my posts became longer, and more photo-centric, I moved into the wonderful world of WordPress.  I love my online home here, and I am ever so thankful that this well-run, and easy to use site exists.  WordPress you are THE BEST!!!

Recently, as Facebook has become more of a mind to make as much cash as possible, or gather as much  information about its users as possible, they are making it more and more difficult to publicize and share my blog there.  At times, I have received messages from FB stating that I am writing SPAM, and will be prevented from posting for as much as 15 days at a time.  I do NOT sell anything on “German Shepherd Adventures”, I do not espouse political or religious views, but rather, I write a very positive blog that most dog lovers seem to enjoy.  Why “German Shepherd Adventures” has suddenly been branded  as SPAM by the FB people is beyond my understanding.  I can no longer depend on them as a conduit to spread information that helps people and their dogs.  It’s apparently okay to spread other “unsavory” sites featuring puking, drunkenness, violence, and foul language, but not stories and information about German Shepherds.  So be it.

That’s why I’d like to invite as many of you as would like to Subscribe to “German Shepherd Adventures” by hitting the “Follow” button at the top of the page.  If you don’t like my posts, you don’t have to do anything.  I suspect that perhaps someone on FB has labeled “GSA” as Spam enough times to make some computer somewhere take this action.  If you don’t want to read something you disagree with, I’ve never forced you to do so.  I’ve survived other attacks on FB over training methods, and perhaps one of those knuckle-draggers has something to do with this.  I don’t know…

So, please, if you enjoy my blog, come on over and subscribe.  I promise you it will be free, and I’ll continue to do my best to entertain, enthuse, inspire, and help you out with every post!   Thanks for your support!!   Robert Vaughan


When the nice lady Muse that helps me write descends, she’s normally very friendly and quite amiable.  To just about everybody…But ocassionally, she’ll have a raging migraine, PMS, or her bunions will be bothering her.  Then, she provides me with ideas that rarely see the PUBLISH button activated here.  Mostly because I pass these pre-posts pass my designated Voice Of Reason, or VOR .  My VOR’s name is Kimberly, and while possessed of a sharp and subtle wit, she seems convicted to keep me out of trouble with certain corners of society.  Like the idea I developed about re-writing the Wizard of Oz using dog people that I know as the characters.  The Wicked Witch of the West was played by a certain famous Clicker Trainer (who shall remain nameless), and the Winged Monkeys were played by a bevy of the drones that follow her ideas with militancy.  It wasn’t meant to be mean, but it was wickedly funny, and I enjoyed writing it.  Kimberly would have burned my house down if I had published it.  She’s good for that…

But the following piece came together so quickly and fluidly, that it had to be written.  The situation reminded me of scene #5 from the classic Monty Python film, “The Holy Grail”.  Therein, Sir Bedemere has been approached rather boisterously by a gaggle of medievel villagers.  They have detained a young woman that they have accused of being a Witch.  (A fairly acceptable occurrance in those times.)

The Militant Witch Hunters…

Bedemeres first question to the haranguing mob is, “How Do You Know She’s a Witch?”

The response is both simple and profoundly revealing.  “She LOOKS like one!!”

The accused woman then pipes up and says, “I’m Not a Witch! I’m Not a Witch!” to which Bedemere responds,

“But You LOOK like a Witch…”

“THEY dressed me up like this!”  And the mob had indeed given her a pointed hat, and a long carrot as a nose, which was attached by a string around her head.  The script continues:

WITCH:  And this isn’t my nose, it’s a false one.
VILLAGER #1:  Well, we did do the nose.
 BEDEMERE:  The nose?
VILLAGER #1:  And the hat — but she is a witch!
CROWD:  Burn her!  Witch!  Witch!  Burn her!
 BEDEMERE:  Did you dress her up like this?
CROWD:  No, no… no … yes.  Yes, yes, a bit, a bit.
VILLAGER #1:  She has got a wart.
 BEDEMERE:  What makes you think she is a witch?
VILLAGER #3:  Well, she turned me into a newt.
 BEDEMERE:  A newt?
VILLAGER #3:  I got better.
VILLAGER #2:  Burn her anyway!
CROWD:  Burn!  Burn her!
 BEDEMERE:  Quiet, quiet.  Quiet!  There are ways of telling whether
she is a witch.
CROWD:  Are there?  What are they?
 BEDEMERE:  Tell me, what do you do with witches?
VILLAGER #2:  Burn!
CROWD:  Burn, burn them up!
 BEDEMERE:  And what do you burn apart from witches?
VILLAGER #1:  More witches!
VILLAGER #2:  Wood!
 BEDEMERE:  So, why do witches burn?
VILLAGER #3:  B–… ’cause they’re made of wood…?
CROWD:  Oh yeah, yeah…
 BEDEMERE:  So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood?
VILLAGER #1:  Build a bridge out of her.
 BEDEMERE:  Aah, but can you not also build bridges out of stone?
VILLAGER #2:  Oh, yeah.
 BEDEMERE:  Does wood sink in water?
VILLAGER #1:  No, no.
VILLAGER #2:  It floats!  It floats!
VILLAGER #1:  Throw her into the pond!
CROWD:  The pond!
 BEDEMERE:  What also floats in water?
VILLAGER #1:  Bread!
VILLAGER #2:  Apples!
VILLAGER #3:  Very small rocks!
VILLAGER #1:  Cider!
VILLAGER #2:  Great gravy!
VILLAGER #1:  Cherries!
VILLAGER #2:  Mud!
VILLAGER #3:  Churches — churches!
VILLAGER #2:  Lead — lead!
 ARTHUR:  A duck.
 CROWD:  Oooh.
 BEDEMERE:  Exactly!  So, logically…,
VILLAGER #1:  If… she.. weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood.
 BEDEMERE:  And therefore–?
VILLAGER #1:  A witch!
CROWD:  A witch!

“How Do You Know She’ a Wich?”

As silly and seriously funny as I find this interchange, and grand example of Circular Reasoning run amuck, it reminded me of a post I read by a Professional Clicker-Trainer not long ago…It was written by a young lady at the website, Dogington Post.  The article is no doubt the result of a fairly new and inexperienced trainer, that has been swept into the mob of Positive Trainers, and thoroughly drank the Kool-Aid that convinces them that “If you don’t Click, You make me Sick!”

Okay, the point is this. In the movie, the accused woman is a Witch, because the small but loud mob SAYS she’s a Witch.  They even go out of their way to put on garments and accessories that demonstrate she’s a witch.  This is what Positive/Operant Conditioning/Clicker trainers have done to EVERYBODY ELSE that doesn’t practice Pryorology.  We are BAD, and Old-Fashioned, or even cruel and brutal, because THEY say so!!  I’m going to list several quotes from the article below, as well as the link to the site, that demonstrates the attitude I’m pointing out.  “Your WRONG because WE say so!!”

“Why should old-fashioned trainers come to the positive side? Because positive training works!” –  Apparently NOTHING ELSE DOES…

“… it won’t deteriorate the human animal bond, it will not cause negative stress or physical pain to your dog through the use of force or pain, and it’s totally supported by science and the laws of learning just to add a few reasons.” – I’m weary of being told that I’m causing my dog pain or stress when we train using Relationship Training.  And, I’ll put our Human/Canine bond up against ANYTHING you can demonstrate!

This next quote demonstrates the addled thinking of the writer.  She’s actually making my point for me…and she doesn’t even know it. – “There’s always more than one way to reach the top of the mountain. Being closed-minded and adamant about what they don’t understand can create dogs that lose their homes and family and possibly their lives. Shouldn’t the goal be to help in any way possible that will aid the dog in its understanding of what the owner is looking for from that dog?

The next quote is more of the same…- “Is it not our role as the allegedly intelligent species to understand our dogs and find a way that works for them rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all mold. (You mean like Militant Clicker Training?) When you’re forced to do something, do you enjoy it? Of course not, so why should dogs enjoy being pushed into downs and manipulated into sits, jerked by the neck in the name of training? ( You assume that non-clicker users hurt their dog to achieve obedience!  And you are WRONG.) 

“How Do You Know He’s Cruel and Mean to his Dog??”

“Because we say so, and the Laws of Learning and Science prove it!”

I’ll allow you the chance to read the rest of Ms. Sarasin’ post.  It goes off on a directionless path that merely mirrors what certain Trainers TELL her is true.  There is no accounting for the uniqueness of each dog.  No opportunity to learn about the individual mind in that single dog, and shaping a training program suited ideally to that dog.

Thankfully, many of us are seeing beyond Positive Training/Clicker Training zeitgeist, and incorporating them into something even better.  Aiming at developing a Relationship within the Canine/Human team.  Yes, We ARE positive trainers, we do NOT hurt our dogs, we do not stress them.  That’s only been the rumor because They have said it’s true.  Look beyond the methods and build something WITH your dog that fulfills his needs as a dog.  He doesn’t care about the science.



Just as a sailboat needs wind to drive it forward, your dog needs motivation.  Much discussion of Drives takes place across the spectrum of canine training about what motivates a dog to certain behavior.  I am convinced that “Emotion”, from a canine point of view, is very powerful.  In relationship training, it is foundational.

If I intone the phrase “Calm and Assertive”, a certain group of people will abandon this post like it suddenly burst into flames. That would be singularly foolish on your part.   I promise not to use the phrase here at all. Besides, Cesar OWNS that phrase.   If you just put your “Cesar-bias” aside for a few moments, I know that we will find a common ground here.  I promise not to mock or condescend to Clickers at all.  I will, in fact, encourage you to continue using those methods, while improving your Doggish.  Remember, The Communicative Approach Theory & Training ,  is NOT a training method, but rather, a better way to implement your training method.  Okay?  Here goes…

I myself have struggled with  a calm manner.  I’m a pretty high energy person with a desire to make things happen as soon as I can. Very little patience for anything that happens slowly.  I have always prided myself on being “Highly Mobile” on a moments notice, and when that doesn’t happen…Well, I can be sort of…Crabby!  As I’ve worked with dogs, I’ve found that I’m similar to a very young, working, German Shepherd!

Humans are emotional beings.  We would be incomplete if we weren’t.  Without emotion, there would be no poetry, music, or art.  Granted, there would probably be no War, broken marriages/ families,  or other assorted poor decisions either.  But that just shows that there are emotions both pleasant and poisonous.

Part of the research on this post caused me to ask the questions, Can you be calm, when you are emotional?  Can you be emotional and calm at the same time??  Are calm and emotion mutually exclusive?  Some would even ask, “do dogs display emotion at all?”    Let’s begin there…

I have no doubt that dogs do exhibit and “feel” emotions.  Not, perhaps, in the same manner as humans though.  When I watch my two German Shepherds chasing each other around the training field with wild, reckless, abandon, I feel their “happiness”.   I make special effort to “Share” their emotion, by taking part in their celebration, offering them behavior that allows them to continue their games.  Positive “Energy” if you will.  I work at observing “emotional response” in the dogs, and then reciprocate that back to them.  It affects their sense of well-being, and helps us communicate with each other.  I’m telling them, in effect, “I understand what you are telling me, and I’m sharing it.”   The dogs are better behaved when we connect on an emotional level…

This is a daily exercise, and requires that you see thru your dogs eyes sympathetically.  And I know…it’s impossible to do that perfectly.  But you can learn to identify your dogs state of mind!  It’s similar to becoming engaged and eventually marrying another person.  You do everything in your power to learn about, and understand another person.  You learn what makes that person happy, sad, angry…the entire gamut of emotional feedback.  How do you do that?  Observation, conversation, and seeing them as themselves.  But it’s also quite defensible to say that our dogs are “aware” of our desires much of the time, even if they don’t necessarily try to fulfill them.  And I know that some of you will bolt away from this next statement, but as far as Pack Behavior is concerned, each and every member of a pack is sensitive to the current tide of emotion within said Pack.  That includes both two and four-legged members.  Don’t believe this to be true?  Find a place where  several dogs are together peacefully, and then introduce an unbalanced, or otherwise unsteady dog.  The reaction is immediate and undeniable.  Like it or not, you can see this easily if you watch an episode of “The Dog Whisperer” with Cesar Millan.  The Power of the Pack is something only the most biased individual can deny…(I know, you’re out there.  And no, the Earth is still NOT flat!)

Emotion, then, is a key to developing a Communicative relationship with your dog.  Always approach training, or socializing with an even temperament of your own.  If you feel frustration develop, or heightened excitement, take a minute and chill out.  Each of us will need to explore and develop our own individual means of “Calming” our human selves.  But it is important…

Other evidence of this emotional bond can be observed between dogs playing together…If they are on the same emotional level, you will observe harmony that resembles a huge flock of birds flying together.  Rolling, twisting, and diving, they never seem to run into each other…How?  It’s God-given in my opinion.  But when my dogs work together, it’s a sublime example of “oneness of mind.”  When I’m involved in it with them, it’s even better…I hope you achieve this with your dogs!

My advice is quite simple: Share emotion with your dog.  If you observe him gnawing on a nice meaty bone, express the the emotion that he is…”Is that bone goood???  Ooooh yummmmy! Thats a Goood Boy!!!!!”  It’s okay, in fact, it’s beneficial to include yourself in his pleasure.  Celebrate the fun of playing ball together.  Not including your dog in your activities is a sure fire way to frustrate your friend, (just examine a dog that suffers from Separation Anxiety) and it affects your relationship.   Go ahead, encourage your dog often and eagerly with words and tone that make him feel good about himself!  I have been able to observe the power of this supposition recently in training for Agility.  The most successful trainers are ridiculously happy while training, even if the dog is less than perfect.  The least successful are those that emotionally punishtheir dog if they missed a tunnel or jump the wrong bar.  “Stupid Dog!” they’ll spit, as though the mistake were the dogs fault.

In fact, and this is something I admire in the sport, bad language and yelling at the dog can result in points lost, or even disqualification of the team.  This is where Positive Attitude is of the highest value.  Be in the moment with your dog, and make it uplifting in dog terms!  Your assignment today, and for the rest of your time together is this:  Watch for your dogs emotional output, and support it!  We have all seen our dog SMILE about something, (Don’t deny it!)  When you do, smile WITH him!!!

Smokey is a story that proves positive emotion can save a dog’s life!!!




Honestly, I’m weary of this debate over Training Methods.  But every time I write about it, readership of GSA spikes dramatically.  I’m obviously addressing something that strikes a chord.  I’ve only had a sprinkling of negative comments, and a boatload of positives.  People want to be allowed the freedom to choose training methods without militancy, I guess.  The reason I wrote this post, was because I recently published my conclusion that Positive Reinforcement/Operant Conditioning was an “Incomplete” method on it’s own.  Two readers took great exception to this conclusion, and practically demanded explanation/clarification/ or retraction.  So, for the sake of the few, here’s how I’ve come to my conclusions.

In 1637, a mathematician named Pierre de Fermat was working on a very specialized theory involving algebraic constructs.  In a leading study of mathematics called Arithmetica   Fermat stumbled across a formula that caught his eye.  It sparked something in his thinking, and he scrawled in the book his thoughts.  He wrote, “Remarkable Proof…”, and started over 300 years of controversy and obsessive study.  Proof of what??  Ever since, a continuing series of” long-haired, lab rats” has pursued the final answer to that obscure question. (It was finally solved in 1995, but that’s another story)

I recently had my own “Fermats” type experience.  I didn’t grasp the significance at the outset, but it has now become crystal clear.   It all began at the Public Library.  I was reading a well known book by “Clicker-Training” guru, Karen Pryor.  Here’s the paragraph that I was reading, with an emboldened highlight of the operative phrase.

A few weeks later I fly to Indiana. At Wolf Park, Erich Klinghammer is eager to have me go into the pens and meet some wolves personally, to “experience their boisterousness.” This I am not willing to do. Klinghammer is six feet four with a big Germanic bass voice. He walks through the gate into the main pack’s enclosure and booms, “Good morning, wolves!” The wolves gather around him, waving their tails and jumping up to greet him: “Good morning, Dr. Klinghammer!” For me, I think it would be “Good morning, breakfast.”

Besides, I don’t need to be close to a wolf to work the training magic; in fact, both of us are safer and will feel better with a fence between us. This wonderful technology does not depend on my being able to impress or dominate the wolf. Nor does it depend on making friends first, or on having a “good relationship.” That’s often a happy outcome, but it’s not a requirement: the laws of reinforcement will get the job done.”-Karen Pryor

The interesting part of this excerpt was a comment that a reader of the book had scrawled into the margin.  It read:   “This woman really misses the point of having a dog!  Sounds like she’s tuning a piano, or de-fragging a harddrive…”

Hmmmm….  As I continued to peruse this copy of the  book, (I’ve read the book multiple times, but never saw this particular copy) there were other passages underlined and commented on.

… Now we have a new way of dealing with animals. Out of real science we’ve developed a training technology. It’s completely benign; punishment and force are never part of the learning system. And it produces real communication between two species.

Traditional animal training, the way it’s been practiced for millennia, relies largely on force, intimidation, and pain. While traditional trainers may also use praise and rewards, dominating the animal and obtaining control over its behavior are the main goals, and the main tools are fear and pain.-Karen Pryor

The superscription beside this paragraph, written in bold handwriting, said, “When Science is employed in it’s purest form, the sentient being,( in this case, “Dog”) is ignored wholesale.”

I agree.  I have called Positive Reinforcement/Operant Conditioning “Incomplete”  because it is thought of proudly as “Science”, THE only method that is proper. Many of  it’s practitioners preach the gospel of having degree’s and higher education.  Dog trainers/behaviorist without such educational assertions  in choo-choo train fashion behind their names, are scoffed at, and put aside as “Uneducated”.  When examined with a unjaundiced eye, you can find any number of “Science” projects that eliminated the “Sentient Being” from the equations entirely.  I wonder if Robert Oppenheimer ever came home at the end of a workday and said to his wife, “Hi Honey! I’m Home!  Today I created a terrible weapon that could be used to incinerate a 100,00o,000 at the same time!  How was your day?”  Probably not.  It was pure science.  Without consideration of the consequences to the people of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan.

Aristotle, one of our first pure “Scientists” postulated the Spontaneous Generation Theory which stated that life could spring forth from nothing.  That would certainly free mankind from any responsibility for his actions, wouldn’t it?  Pure Science.

One of the oldest and most controversial theories in psychology and  philosophy is the theory of the blank slate, or tabula rasa, which argues that  people are born with no built-in personality traits or proclivities.. The idea  found its  most famous expression in psychology in the ideas of Sigmund Freud,  whose  theories of the unconscious stressed that the elemental aspects of an  individual’s personality were constructed by their earliest childhood  experiences.

While there’s little doubt that a person’s experiences and learned behaviors  have a huge impact on their disposition, it is also now widely accepted that  genes and other family traits inherited from birth, along with certain innate  instincts, also play a crucial role. This was only proven after years of study  that covered the ways in which similar gestures like smiling and certain  features of language could be found throughout the world in radically different  cultures. Meanwhile, studies of adopted children and twins raised in separate  families have come to similar conclusions about the ways certain traits can  exist from birth.  Pure Science.  Again, completely wrong, but accepted as gospel by those with “Higher Education”.

When you reduce anything to “Pure Science”, you lose the wonderful chaos that is contained within all living, sentient creatures.  And I’m NOT anthropomorphizing our dogs either.  I have rejected the notion that dogs are little people in dog suits.  Dogs are dogs, and humans are humans.  They are different from one another.  But when a “Happy Dog” is, as Pryor words it, “Nor does it (Positive Reinforcement training. Italics minedepend on making friends first, or on having a “good relationship.” That’s often a happy outcome, but it’s not a requirement…”   Then, pure science has taken over, and will ultimately be found wanting.

The lost equation is this: Build a relationship with the sentient, intelligent, and loving being that your dog was created to be.  The science that supports Positive Reinforcement is a wonderful tool that belongs in a trainers bag of tools…Along with many other methods that fit a particular dog during its training.  Don’t be so impressed with any one human that espouses one method as “The end all, be all” method that stops learning, growing and expanding your own knowledge.  Glean from all methods.  Don’t waste your time bickering and whining because someone says something you don’t happen to agree with in the dog training arena.  And above all else…

Let me emphasize that properly…Above All Else, put your dogs happiness and well-being above your methodology.  Too many dogs become robots, stressed and unfulfilled by owners/trainers that force the dog into the currently accepted mold of an industry.  Be your dogs best buddy everyday, and he or she will reward you by being the best dog in the world.