Going to the Light

Polly fall colors 9-12

Much of my time in the past few weeks has been in a pretty dark place; learning things I wish I didn't know about some hunting practices that occur in northern Wisconsin. (Not to mention reading death threats directed toward me and colleagues.) I'm not opposed to hunting, but I am very much opposed to some of the practices I've learned about recently while researching the use of dogs to hunt wolves. I'm not going to be more specific; I don't want to take you there for your own sake, and I need to take a break from it. (If you want to know more, you can start by googling wolves, dogs and wisconsin, or hound hunting of coyotes, bear and bobcat). Tonight I get to shift focus in a wonderful way: doing a fund raising speech for the Fox Valley Humane Association in Appleton,  Wisconsin. If Read More

Happiness in Animals?

Callie & Jenny

Of course! It seems like a simple question, but as is often the case, our big, complicated brains allow us to add nuance to the answer. I've gone on record as arguing that yes indeed, mammals like dogs and horses can be happy, how could they not be? Feeling good is a way for the body to tell the brain (as if they were separate, forgive me for this simplistic duality) that it is in an environment that is safe and healthy. The neuro-hormones associated with happiness, like dopamine and oxytocin are shared by all mammals, and expressive mammals like dogs have the same facial expressions as we do when we are happy ourselves. I write about this in the book For the Love of a Dog and show examples in the DVD of the same name. However, I was reminded that the question has more depth than "can a Read More

Hunting Wolves with Dogs in Wisconsin


Ignorance can be bliss. But it can also let bad things happen, and it grieves me to say that bad things might happen soon in my home state. In its wisdom, the legislature of the state of Wisconsin signed into law Act 169, which directs that dogs can be used to hunt wolves in our state. The wolf population in Wisconsin, having recovered naturally (no wolves were re-introduced) to over 800 individuals, were removed from the endangered species list in Wisconsin in January of 2012, and the legislature mandated that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) establish rules and regulations for the hunt itself. These rules were developed under "emergency" rule-making process, that began in May and will allow the wolf hunt to begin in October of this year. The hunt brings up many issues, from Read More

Willie and Tongue Flicks and What it All Means

As if any of us REALLY knows "what it all means," right? But thank you for your interesting and thoughtful comments about the previous post's video of Willie and the "Get Back" signal. They were great. I'll cut to the chase about my own interpretation. Here's the data: Willie tongue flicks when I ask him to back away from somewhere or something he wants to go toward: the outside of the house, into the car, or toward the toy. All of these have been taught using lots and lots of reinforcement with food and play and "life rewards," like going outside after I say "Get Back" or getting the toy as soon as he backs up (But  I don't reinforce every single response every single time once he has a cue down pat. That would be unnecessary in my opinion, not to mention completely impractical.) But Read More

Video Analysis: What’s Up with Willie?

Will and me at clinic 10-07

Here's an interesting video for you to analyze. Katie and I were taping one of my favorite signals, "Get Back." I use it in a variety of contexts, and can't imagine life without it. You can see some of the ways I use the cue on the video below, and I'll talk more later, if you'd like, about why I love the cue so very much. After we taped, Katie and I were watching the video and I said "Oh wow, did you see how he [---] right after [---] happens? (Fill in the blanks!) And so, that's your assignment (should you decide to accept it Agent 99): Watch this video and tell us what we might have found interesting in it. I'm giving no more instructions than that... Who knows then what you might find that we didn't! I'll jump in early next week (and will answer comments sooner) about what we Read More