Confrontational Techniques Elicit Aggression

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Remember the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray wakes up every morning to repeat the same day, over and over? That is a bit of what it feels like to write about the value of benevolence in dog training, and the problems associated with aggressive, confrontational techniques. And yet, I just can't stop, because there is still a flood of advice about using force and confrontation to correct a dog for ..... (fill in the blanks).... because 1) misbehavior is a sign your dog is attempting to dominate you and 2) you can only counter it by using force. Sigh. Those of us arguing that we should be teaching our dogs, rather than forcing and threatening them, have an excellent study by Veterinary Behaviorists to support our perspective. Meghan Herron, DVM, DACVB, Frances Shofer, DVM and Read More

New Seminar in August, Chicago, Illinois

Oh boy, what fun. As many of you know, I'm not doing many more full day seminars anymore, but I couldn't resist pairing up with the Steve White for a two-day seminar outside of Chicago, Illinois on August 10th and 11th of this year. Thanks to a Facebook reader who jumped in with dozens of others with ideas for a title, we are calling the seminar Sense(s) and Sensibility. Thank you Mairi and kisses to your lovely dog, Layla! On Saturday, I'll be doing an updated and expanded version of  "Lost in Translation," or How Dogs use Sight, Sound, Smell and Touch to Communicate. As usual, I'll take a comparative approach, looking at the way our sensory systems (notice the focus on vision?!) affect the behavior of the animals at both ends of the leash. The day will be full of slides, videos and Read More

How Do You Play with Your Dog?

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Surely our mutual love of play is one of the reasons that dogs and people get along so well. As Karen London and I write in Play Together, Stay Together, "Play is powerful stuff. It influences so many things, including development, motivation, emotions, physiology, communication and behavior. Wow! That's an impressive list." After years working as Applied Behaviorists, it was clear to Karen and I that play has the power to strengthen one's relationship with a dog, or alternatively, to destroy it. You can use play to teach self control and good manners, or to inadvertently teach a lack of frustration tolerance and a lot of rude behavior that ends up getting a dog into trouble. You can use play to allow a dog to release tension, to learn a behavior incompatible with a problematic one, or Read More

Safe Off Leash?

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Last weekend Jim, Willie, Tootsie and I stayed in a lovely log cabin owned by friends in the woods in eastern Wisconsin. I mention that because for the first time in her nine years of life, Tootsie got to run off leash in an unfenced area off the farm. Wooo Hooo! Some people might not understand what a huge step that was for a little puppy mill dog, but I'm guessing that many of you get it completely. I was over the moon with happiness that I could unsnap the lead, and trust that she would stop when told, come when called, and as importantly, get to sniff and explore with more freedom than she's ever had in her nine years of life. The decision I made got me thinking about the issue in general: When IS it safe to let a dog off leash? What do you need to know to evaluate the risk and Read More

Favorite “Non-Traditional Cues,” Part II

Polly in Tree 10-12

Wow. You all are amazing. So far there have been 165 answers to the question posed two weeks ago, "What's Your Favorite Non-Traditional Cue?" I've read through every one of them with great interest (and often amusement). My plan was to go through all the comments, list every cue mentioned with it definition (some people included as many as 7 or 8), and see if I could  find some patterns. Several hours later, and less than a fifth through all the cues mentioned, I suspected that a smart person might want to modify the plan. So that's what I've done, whether either out of laziness or wisdom, I couldn't tell you. I'm using the list I've generated so far as a sample, and have re-read all the rest of the comments that have been so thoughtfully provided. Here's what I'm seeing so far: Read More