Friday, November 30, 2012

Archie being good

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Hand targetting is a great behaviour for all kinds of issues. A dog with a strong hand target can get through difficult, scary or arousing situations by following the owner's lead. Reiker's hand target is very strong and enthusiastic.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I happened to 'Like' a page when it was at 399 likes, which made me the 400th "Like". This meant I won a Hurley from Look What I Can Do!
I was initially skeptical of the toy, but it has a one-time guarantee, so if Reiker decided he could shred it up, I'd be able to return it.

I handed it to him to play with while we walked around my sister's place one night, so he'd have something non-rolly on the pavement.

Then I borrowed it for my sister's Labradoodle while I was there for a few days. She loved it.

Finally, Reiker got it back. It's a big hit, doesn't roll out into the road or under things it shouldn't, and he chews on it mightily with no detrimental effects!

From Maligator

I'm super impressed, and Reiker loves it. We'll be watching for more WestPaw products for sure. Thanks to cTLC, WestPaw and Look What I Can Do for this great product!

Just in case you're coming here from somewhere else and don't know Reiker, he is a very powerful, destructive dog. He has chewed black Kong rubber into bits, destroys heavy Nylabone rubber toys, and even gets through steel crate doors on a regular basis. Will this toy stand up to his chewing forever? Maybe not, but it's done a heck of a job so far!

Sit... Staaay...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barn practices

Reiker, Archie and I have been attending morning barn practices with Mary and Jill. I've got some video to post, but here's Reiker watching the horses (notice the.. stillness?) before practice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another trainer's perspective on the CM show

This is a long response, just to warn you. If you don't want to read a book, just read the next paragraph, then skip down to the end. :)

I have to agree with Anonymous and Denise -- there was almost no content in CM's presentation whatsoever. Certainly, there was little to learn from it, even if one wanted to practice the sort of "training" that he does.

CM had lots of jokes of questionable taste. He also was not clear in his explanations, and some of the diagrams he used were confusing at best. Okay, on to the play by play.

To start, I would like to just say that I find that people are more receptive to what I have to say about CM when I begin my remarks with something like "I think he's quite charismatic and I agree with X and Y." Then I say "But I don't agree with A, B, and C, and here's why." People
seem much more willing to entertain the points I disagree about once I've done the conciliatory thing. Starting out a conversation with "He's abusive and I can't stand him" usually means that people close their ears to everything else that follows.

Having said that, I went to the presentation with the goal of finding something to agree with, something to start my conversation with. In the past, I have been saying that I agree that dogs need exercise, boundaries and leadership, and affection. But I don't agree with what CM says about any of them, so I've found it problematic -- my definitions of reasonable exercise and leadership, for instance, are not the same as his.

I agree that to effectively train or rehabilitate a dog, one should be calm and confident (his new word for assertive). Dogs do pick up on our emotions, and if we are upset, or anxious, or hyper, I think that emotion can transfer down the leash. Confident is something I think of in terms of not being afraid -- being afraid of a dog is not going to be helpful, I don't think.

One of CM's little anecdotes ending with the dog telling CM, "Tell my people that (dog training) is not about me." I agree with that, mostly dog training is about training the people. What I want to teach them though, is different from what he would teach.

He also said that to prevent problems from developing, training needs to start in puppyhood. I agree. However, my methods of prevention differ greatly from his.

He pointed out that when meeting a new (stranger) dog, one should respect the dog's space and give the dog distance. I agree.

He also mentioned that it is not as effective to use verbal communication. I agree; often, dogs are responding to our body language and not our words.

One of his points was that the mealtime ritual can represent excitement to the dog if we set it up that way by riling up the dog and creating a situation where we ramp up their excitement. I think we can do this inadvertently.

Dogs need rules, boundaries, limitations. I agree.

CM also talked about the biggest challenge being to help clients not focus on the past or the future. (I took this to mean, if the dog always barks and lunges when he sees another dog, we tend to "live in the past" and then "anticipate" and "project into the future" (my restatements of what I got, not exactly what he said). Therefore, we are tense and anxious, and that translates to the dog. Agreed.

Dogs live in the present. Probably true, up to a point. But don't tell me that my dog doesn't remember what happens when the nail clippers come out, or that he doesn't remember that a dog lives in the house on the corner. And don't try to tell me that he doesn't remember bad or stressful experiences -- I think we've all seen that our dogs do have memories of the past.

Emotion leads to energy/pheromones, which leads to changes in body language, which leads to changes in behaviour. Okay, I can buy that, too. When I get tense and tighten up on the lead (emotion and body language), this leads to a change in my dog's behaviour. He senses my tension and goes on alert.

One thing that he repeated several times is that he drew parallels between leadership of dogs and his leadership to his son. I find that this is a bit contrary to his also repeated opinion that we should not treat dogs like children, so I was a bit confused. I often liken leadership to the
parental role, but it wasn't clear to me what CM was saying, because he seemed to say yes and no at different times.

Dogs today don't have jobs. Mostly true. Dogs with jobs, even if it's just scavenging food from a tricky treat ball, are generally better off than dogs that don't have anything to do. That's why we say to do a bit of training every day, to give your dog mental exercise and "a job" to do.

Dogs learn by steps. Agreed -- we have to break things into small pieces to teach them to the dog, just like we have to do when we're teaching another person.

Communication creates partnership. Yep, I agree with this, too. I just communicate differently, and I suggest that his type of communication doesn't create partnership, but rather fear and intimidation.

Dogs communicate all the time, we just don't listen. I've said much the same thing to my puppy classes. Dogs have to shout when humans don't pay attention -- very true. That's why dogs escalate to bites, because people don't see their communications prior to the bite (or have punished out those communications).

Use your tools before a dog's behaviour problem escalates / work at a 2 and not a 10. I would suggest that working at an even lower level than a 2 is more effective -- working under threshold is MUCH more effective than working at threshold or over.

So there were points I agreed with, at least sort of. Again, I agree with the principles, but not what he does about them in most cases.

There were also many disturbing things said and done. The demo dogs were all stressed out. Some of that is no doubt due to the crowd, the noise, the lights, etc. But as CM interacted with them, the calming signals were flying like crazy, and one dog almost hyperventilated, he was so stressed. Every single dog with the possible exception of the two puppies was clearly stressed out, if you know what you're looking at when you see a dog licking it's lips, panting, yawning, licking, blinking, scratching, putting ears back, and repeating them all over and over again.

He talked about the dog needing to learn the rules of the pack, and that a dog's first responsibility is to the pack before itself. Dogs DO need to learn the rules of the family/household, but I think most dogs aren't thinking about the collective before themselves. I think they're thinking about what they want and how to get it.

He had a strange segment about separation anxiety -- my notes are that dogs need to learn detachment. I'm not quite sure what he means by that.

There was a "wolf hybrid" on stage, and CM and the owner kept marvelling about how "calm" the dog was. Only to the uneducated eye - the calming signals were clearly communicating that the dog was NOT calm.

He used the slip lead around the top of the dog's throat, like Anonymous mentioned. I noted that each time he used it on a demo dog, there was almost constant tension on the lead (so that the dog would be fully aware that they were in jeopardy of the "corrections" or the jerks on the leash), and then he did some subtle jerks and kicks. Like Anonymous said, he's so good at them, it's hard to notice unless you're watching for them. Most of the audience was not watching and did not see it.

With the dog that came on stage pulling his owner around the stage, my note is "the dog is still pulling, it's just that the collar is pressing on the sensitive spot", and then CM did his jerks and kicks and the dog started to suppress behaviour to try to avoid the jerks and the kicks. Everyone around us clapped and commented about how wonderful it was that CM could do
that so fast. I could do the same thing with a handful of treats, and not risk hurting the dog or damaging my relationship with him. And I'd have focus, rather than the almost desperate "please don't notice me" that the dog was projecting.

There was also a dog that was scared of clapping. So the audience clapped repeatedly. That poor dog. And when she showed her fear, the audience laughed. It was alarming and appalling. He kept getting the audience to clap, and the poor dog started to shut down.

My note here is "the reason it works so fast is that it uses suppression of behaviour and aversives". Truth. Not because the dog is learning what TO do, but because the dog is learning that doing X is dangerous.

He worked with a dog with toy drive -- sure, it needed an off switch, but he continued to "correct" her every time she noticed or moved toward the ball. So the dog started ignoring the ball -- a quick learner for sure. His comment was that she was in a relaxed state. Her body language showed anything but that -- panting, lip licking, ears back -- my note is "totally
stressed dog".

At one point, he talked about why he kicks the dogs instead of doing the "sssssttt" and poking it in the neck. He said he does it because the dog's neck is numb. I don't think I need to say why I find that disturbing.

He also said he wants dogs to surrender. I would rather have my dog eager to learn, wanting to play the game, rather than shutting down.

He talked about how he's only ever seen a few dogs he would call truly aggressive. One of them is Holly, a yellow lab. You may have seen the video -- he gets bitten. He commented that "he didn't see it coming" -- the video he showed was nicely edited, so that all the warning signs weren't shown. If you've seen the video, you could see that the dog was indeed shouting -- the fact that he "didn't see it coming" is a true reflection of his knowledge.

There was also a demo dog that was an explosive detection dog. It was rewarded by a toy, and the handler even said, "it's all about the toy" for this dog. Obviously this dog was trained using positive reinforcement! It was rather misleading, since that dog was clearly not trained using his methods.

In short, I found that his performance reinforced my beliefs about his methods and his lack of education and knowledge about dog behaviour, when it wasn't full of tasteless jokes and incomprehensible "explanations". Although it looks like I found plenty to agree with, I have to say again that although I might agree with the principles of what he says, I definitely do NOT agree with what he does about them.

Even if a person was a CM fan, I think it would have been a waste of money. I am glad I went, because when people ask me about it, I can now speak knowledgeably about his show and my opinion about what he says. It wasn't a pleasant experience, by any stretch, but it could also have been much worse.

All in all, for the average pet owner, I think that the show was just that -- a performance by CM and a commercial for his new show and his son's new show (God help us, Puppy Whisperer). There was very little content, and what there was to see just reinforced how abusive his methods are. Most of the people there didn't even see the things that the dogs were saying, and just accepted at face value that CM is "magical". Only to the uneducated eye, is what I have to say.

Rant over. Thanks for reading, if anyone did! :)

A trainer's perspective on the CM show

Hi all,

Here are my thoughts on Cesar's show I attended Friday night.

First, I have to say that I've been to MANY, MANY talks, seminars, conferences and seen MANY, MANY presenters (dozens and dozens). Regardless of whether I like their message or not, the speakers I consider good at their jobs always present their points in a clear and concise way, followed by a the body of the presentation that might include facts, research, opinion, videos, demos; and finally ending with me (the listener) having an understanding of what their point was and maybe how to implement it.

On the above point, for me, Cesar's show was among the worse I've seen. Many of the points he was making left me thinking "HUH?" I honestly did not "get" the point. Now I understand there was an ESL issue, but he could have gotten around that with good videos, etc.

For example, in the first segment he was talking about leadership and especially in the first 180 days of a dog's life. (For some reason, he feels 180 days is a very important date. In my experience, it's pretty hard to tell people exactly when "puppy" behaviors will end). Anyway, he did mention 180 days a few times. Then the first 2 dogs came out, a cattle dog pup and a young lab. I assumed they were both under "180 days" but it wasn't exactly explained. Anyway, the 2 puppies greeted each other rather nicely, then proceeded to investigate the stage. Cesar was talking to the audience and as he was talking, he sidled over to the lab, who completely ignored him, not surprisingly. Cesar said, "see, I am not interesting to this puppy". Then a helper brought out a bowl of food and handed it to Cesar who went over to the lab pup. With Cesar holding the food bowl, the puppy followed him around the stage. He gave the food to the lab the. The helper brought out another bowl of food and it was repeated with the cattle dog puppy. He asked the audience if they understood his point, people clapped, the puppies were taken away and I thought "HUH?" I really can't tell you what his point was. Maybe the others who attended could enlighten me.

For the most part, the 6 or 7 dogs who went on stage were not mistreated. Exception being a pitty/lab cross who was brought on stage by his dad to demonstrate what a bad dog he was, pulling dad all over the place (which he did perfectly). Cesar went on and on about how the owner must be "calm" in order to have a "calm" dog. He then proceeded to use a thin leather leash as a slip choke collar (noose style). Cesar placed it very high on the dog's neck, just under the jawline and, allowing only about 1 foot of leash, proceeded to walk around the stage with the dog at his side. Miraculously, the dog did not pull at all (pretty hard when there's no leash to pull). There were 2 large screens and I was watching Cesar's leash hand closely. In the 2 or 3 minutes Cesar had the dog, the dog received approx 20 chokes, and 2 kicks. Cesar is so expert at doing this without it looking like anything. His leash hand just subtly quickly opened and closed, and each time it closed, the dog got a correction. The dog did not leave his side. He asked the owner, "So, why is your dog so good with me?" and after a few prompts, the man said "because you are calm?". Audience claps, Cesar hands the dog back to owner and they leave.

My feelings on this - well, he achieved his objective of having the dog not pull and maybe if the owner only has to do this one or two times, it might be worth it. But Cesar supplied no insight as to how to implement this method or how long it'll take to fix the problem. (Maybe one has to buy his book to find out). Sadly, I saw a dog that came out rather out of control, but very happy and confident. When he left, his respiratory rate was through the ceiling (truly hyperventilating) and he was not a happy puppy. The saddest thing of all though, was that the vast majority of attendants only saw a dog who was brought under control by Cesar's calmness.

There are many other examples but this email would end up being 20 pages long so I'll spare you.

I ran into a lady who attended my friend's classes a couple of years ago with her goldendoodle. Her husband is a police K9 handler. She said they were very underwhelmed by the whole thing.

I look forward to input from others as well.


A Vet Tech's point of view

I agree, he really didn't say anything of any substance…i felt it was a very "safe" performance (and I mean performance as it was not a seminar!), at some points he seems nervous. The "tour" seems like it is about promoting the new shows…..unfortunately we have 2nd generation Cesar coming to NatGeo this fall…..aargh!
All in all, I was pleased that he didn't say much, although those that love him, probably still will as he was, at least, funny. There is a lot more educating to do…just need to figure out the best way…
Denise H, RAHT

From Retnab Photography Oct 21 (Reiker, Archie, Gypsy, Ben)

Cesar’s Way, or the Art of Intimidation

Cesar’s Way, or the Art of Intimidation

by Heather Harris

I attended a seminar by Cesar Millan a few days ago. Wait a minute. I think it
was a seminar. No. Let me think. I attended a lecture... No, that won’t do
either. I attended a performance by Cesar Millan a few days ago. Yes, I think
I’m getting somewhere now. Maybe not.
Let’s start again. I bought a ticket and went to a public venue where I
listened to a rather inarticulate man narrate anecdotes about his upbringing
and current family life while folks around me swilled beer and grunted. There
were pictures. Video clips too. And some amusing props. And some very
unfortunate props. They were dogs.

If my introduction seems disjointed, it is merely a reflection of the event I’m
attempting to describe. I sat through two hours of what was supposed to be an event designed to impart “valuable lessons and insights” into the human/canine relationship, but what was in fact part of a thinly disguised public relations tour to promote upcoming television programs and refute recent criticisms of Cesar’s methods. There was, for example, a very obvious attempt to deal with any bad publicity surrounding the video clip of Cesar’s work with the yellow lab that bit him.

Millan’s message can be summed up fairly easily. He is the product of an “instinctual” society in which man and animals live in harmony. Americans, on the other hand, are out of touch with their instincts as a result of the hectic, stressful lives they lead and are therefore unable to interact with dogs appropriately. The pictures he paints are so full of flaws that it would take a lengthy essay to analyze them properly. But I don’t want to bore you to pieces. Suffice it to say, folks, that all you need to do to gain dominion over your canines, is to achieve a state of supreme calm and stand up straight. (Of course, you will also need a nice slip leash with which to choke your dog until its tongue hangs out and its sides heave from stress and oxygen deprivation. And you will need to practice a rapid backward kick to the dog’s flank to get its attention. )

There were a few specific lessons about canine behaviour which I must share. First, if you want to get a puppy’s attention, carry around a bowl of fragrant food. It never fails. Second, if you have a dog that self-soothes in the face of excitement and stress by playing with a toy, you must deny the dog access to
the toy even if the dog’s tail does go between its legs. Under no circumstances
should you use this fascination with toys for training purposes. Third, separation anxiety can be resolved by telling your dog to relax on a doggie bed while you go about your business before you leave the house. Everyone knows that dogs naturally laze about on pillows for long stretches of time and there is no need to worry about training this behaviour. Fourth, if your dog pulls on leash, put a slip collar on the dog, hold the leash no more than 12 inches from the dog’s head, choke the dog every few seconds and occasionally kick the dog’s flank until it is no longer capable of pulling. And don’t worry about what happens when you’re not choking the dog into submission. It will most likely have another lie down on that doggie bed and contemplate life.

I could go on, but I really must pull myself together and take Kiwi out for some
training. I think that for the slip collar, I’ll substitute some leftover steak. And I think I’ll practice some dance steps rather than the flank kick. Oh, and every now and then, I’ll whip out a toy and play like a fiend. It’s a hopeless situation. I’ll never have a well-adjusted, well-trained dog.

Cesar Millan came to Kamloops..

I didn't get to attend, but a few of my friends and colleagues did. They've kindly offered to let me share their thoughts on my blog, as a series of guest posts. Some have asked that I not share their names, while others are signed. Please enjoy!

From Retnab Photography Oct 21 (Reiker, Archie, Gypsy, Ben)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Its been too long... Aldergrove Vet

Reiker hurt himself somehow, so we headed to The Spaw to get some Xrays and an opinion...

From Maligator

After the first dose of sedation

From Maligator

Spying on the techs while they get xrays

From Maligator

Practicing down stay? no.. just drugged.

Anyway, Reiker's no worse for wear, and preliminary reports suggest his cruciate ligaments are intact. Rest, ice, and time!