Are You “All Positive?”

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Recently there have been some debates and discussions about whether it is possible to be a "100% positive" trainer. This has become an issue because some seminar hosts have policies that they will not hire anyone for a seminar unless they only use positive reinforcement and "never use punishment or aversives." Some people are being asked to sign pledges that they will never use punishment as a trainer. I'm curious what you think. Are you a "100% positive trainer?" Do you ever use "punishment?"  Do you use what some people call "aversives"? Ever? If so, what kind and when? I'll weigh in on this debate next week, (as you can guess I have a few opinions about the matter) but I'd love to hear what YOU think. MEANWHILE, back on the farm: The snow is melting! It's been well over freezing Read More

Chase This, Not That!

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A dog's love of a good chase is both a blessing and a curse. It makes playing with them extra fun; what a joy it is to play fetch and chase with some dogs! And it's got a dark side too--chasers love to chase cats, cars, joggers and bicyclists, and that doesn't tend to work out so well for all involved. In an earlier post I talked about teaching my new pup Hope not to chase Sushi the cat, and several readers asked how I am doing that. Here's a summary of both a generic plan and how it looks in detail in one home, with one dog, and one cat. Obviously, the details vary tremendously, but the basic plan is relatively universal. 1. MANAGE AND PREVENT: What could be more fun than chasing something if a dog is so inclined? Dogs are, after all, cursorial predators (meaning they run things Read More

“Ready?” Using meta-communication to help your dog

A short post today, but I hope a helpful one. It's inspired by the "mud luscious and puddle wonderful" nature of spring, and the need to wipe off Will's paws as we enter the house when it's wet outside. As I was drying Willie's paws a few days ago, I thought about how much easier it is now that I say "Ready?" right before I pick up each leg. Since I started communicating my intention ("now I am going to pick up this paw"), he is beginning, on occasion, to pick up a paw himself, but more often he will shift his weight so that it is less awkward for him. (Yep, I could train him to pick up each paw on cue... also a potential solution, but keep reading for some potential benefits of a more generalized cue.) Keep in mind that this is the dog who, as an adolescent, growled at me  when I picked Read More

Silo Sadness & Sister Happy

Good news and bad news: Best and wonderful news for me is that my sister, Dr. Wendy Barker, is coming to do a reading for her new book, Nothing Between Us, this Thursday night at UW. (Come one come all!) Her book has not a darn thing to do with dogs, but it's pure and simply brilliant and I can't wait for her reading. (For those of you who are interested in a novel in "prose/poetry" form about a multi-racial affair and life in the 60's in Berkeley, California, the talk is in Helen C. White, Room 66191, 7 pm, Thursday the 29th). Full disclosure: Yup, she is my sister and so my objectivity might be a tad, uh, challenged? But I'm not the only one raving about this book... everyone I know who has read it loves it... Sad news is about the farm. It might sound strange, but I have to have my Read More

Could Breeders and Shelters Work Together?

Thank you so much for all your insightful comments about overpopulated shelters and whether responsible breeders could help reduce the number of dogs who enter shelters in the first place. Here are a few, admittedly somewhat random, thoughts about the issue. One: Boy would I like to see more collaborative efforts between good breeders, shelters and rescue groups. I know that already occurs in some areas, and Here Here! to that, but I wish somehow we could more often use the energy and commitment of these groups to 1) publicize a universally understood definition of "responsible breeder" so that the public understands what that really means 2) create more, affordable support systems to help people when they need help with training and behavioral problems. (FYI, I too have heard a common Read More