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Remembering War Dogs - Memorial Day 2015

  05/23/15 08:12, by guy k., Categories: Other Topics

I hope all of you have a restful holiday weekend. Please remember what Memorial Day is all about, as well as the dogs who have served (and serve) our country. This weekend is a good time to share some words from an unknown author.....

Guardians of the Night
Author Unknown

Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade.
I will protect you with my last breath.
When all others have left you
And the loneliness of the night closes in,
I will be at your side.

Together we will conquer all obstacles
And search out those who might wish harm to others.
All I ask of you is compassion,
The caring touch of your hands.
It is for you that I will selflessly give my life
And spend my nights unrested.

Although our days together
May be marked by the passing of the seasons.
Know that each day at your side is my reward.
My days are measured by
The coming and going of your footsteps.
I anticipate them at the opening of the door.
You are the voice of caring when I am ill.
The voice of authority over me when I’ve done wrong.
Do not chastise me unduly
For I am your right arm,
The sword at your side.

I attempt to do only what you bid of me.
I seek only to please you and remain in your favor.
Together you and I shall experience
A bond only others like you will understand.
When outsiders see us together
Their envy will be measured by their disdain.
I will quietly listen to you
And pass no judgement.
Nor will your spoken words be repeated.
I will remain ever silent,
Ever vigilant, ever loyal.

And when our time together is done
And you move on in the world,
Remember me with kind thoughts and tales.
For a time we were unbeatable,
Nothing passed among us undetected.
If we should ever meet again on another field
I will gladly take up your fight.
I am a Police Working Dog and together
We are GUARDIANS of the NIGHT.

Even Bad Dogs Have Good Qualities

  05/15/15 08:29, by guy k., Categories: Dog Behavior, Obedience Training

When I began my business I watched a very well presented video from a dog bite law specialist (attorney) who advised "mean dogs have to go". Being involved for years with litigation regarding dog bites, he saw a clear line between friendly dogs and those that are not friendly. As a trainer with some years of experience, I concur. I would offer, however, that mean dogs can have friendly and engaging moments. Because of this, owners often become attached quickly to these sketchy dogs. There are news stories every day of dogs that have attacked people, other dogs, or even their owners. Sometimes the owners defend the pet, and some even garner mass support through social media. Remarkable.

The problem is, these dogs DO have a mean streak, and that behavior has no place in a home, community, or pet in my opinion. I read accounts from other trainers almost weekly where huge amounts of time, effort, and resources are being poured into dogs that will never be reliable around people or other pets. The vast majority of dogs will never bite, and more will only do so if severely provoked, Dogs with short or unpredictable fuses, or those that actually use their teeth to control their environment, are in my observation a statistical anomaly,

The point of writing today is to offer some points for consideration...

1) Many problem behaviors start early. While I believe most severely problematic dogs have a genetic component driving their behavior, there are MANY "bratty" teen dogs that are learning a variety of poor social skills. In these cases, early intervention by a trainer who offers effective methods which gets these dogs on track is paramount, Ignoring or redirecting problem behaviors (biting, jumping, reactivity, etc.) is not an effective solution or path to success!

2) Shelters and rescues need to do a good job screening their dogs, and not allow emotion to over-rule common sense, I understand rescues have a tremendously difficult job, one that never ends and can seem overwhelming. Still, spending time and resources on those dogs that will be good pets should be a top priority. There are more and more rescues popping up every year, and it's clear from news reports that some believe every dog is an angel. This thinking requires a reality check. Even if poor human interactions are at fault for producing a problem dog, it doesn't negate the reality that the dog is now a problem.

3) Breeders need to develop litters that excel in temperament and health. Breeding, when done properly, is time consuming and hard work. Good breeders will be proud of their litters, want any dogs that aren't fitting well into a home back, and produce limited numbers of pups annually. I've seen some really problem pedigree dogs where mom or dad had clear behavioral issues. Those dogs should never have been bred. Problem offspring should be no surprise when profits, not love of the breed, are driving breeding practices.

4) To those trainers willing to take on extremely dangerous dogs, I'd like to see some concrete numbers on overall success rates, and exactly what you consider a success. And while I do believe that almost any dog can be made better, I'm a realist. When you're starting with a severe problem or bad genetics, "better" isn't enough. As a trainer, I don't expect any client to live with a dog I would not live with. As a client, I would want a trainer who can be objective and professional about a dog, not emotional and telling an owner things they want to hear. Living life with a dog you don't trust is no way to spend 10 or more years of your life.

Enjoying life with a dog is one of the best parts of life. Bad dogs can have some good qualities, and good dogs can have some problems. Objectively weighing and assessing those points is needed on an individual bases, as every dog is unique. The sooner problems are addressed, the greater the likelihood things can be put back on track. But denial, or lack of objectivity, can lead to some very bad places when living with dogs.

The Three "C"s of Communication

  05/01/15 08:46, by guy k., Categories: Dog Behavior, Obedience Training

Last time I was discussing training as a trans-species communication. Today I'd like to discuss the 3 elements which make up this communication - clarity, consistency, and calm.

If communication with our canine companions is not CLEAR, at best we won't be teaching effectively, and at worst may be causing confusion and stress. Too often, training approaches are based on human-centric theories and thinking vs practical observations. For example, it's common for many to believe removing attention from a dog (turning their back on a jumper), or redirecting a dog (giving a toy when a dog is chewing on the owner), will improve these behaviors. While this may seem entirely logical, in practice I see these tactics fail miserably every week. The few dogs that do improve, do so after many months, not days. Why? Because doing these things is not really clear (and therefore not significant) information to a dog.

I also believe dogs can do math. If you are effectively communicating displeasure with an undesired behavior, the next priority is CONSISTENCY. If a dog is doing something you don't like, and he/she gets away with the behavior (without clear owner feedback) 50% of the time, you're not likely to see a lot of improvement either. Getting away with a desired behavior half the time will seem like pretty good odds to a dog, and most will continue the behavior. Consistently dealing with problems at a level of 90% or more will make all the difference to a dog.

And finally, being CALM goes a long way toward teaching your dog you're confident and in control. I discussed previously how emotional energy plays a huge role in how a dog sees its owners. "Calm and confident" inspires dogs to be attentive and want to please. Chaotic and energetic interactions, generally cause more excitement and bring further issues and chaos.

So while training is a great inter-species language, it MUST be effective language in the eyes (ears?) of your dog to produce desired results. How do you know if your training and language is effective? Well, good communication and teaching will bring results quickly (days to a couple weeks). If you keep facing the same problems for months on end, or if obedience isn't improving (including around distractions), may I suggest you re-examine your communication skills or approaches. I'm always happy to help if you feel you could use some help.

Do You Speak Dog Language?

  04/17/15 08:21, by guy k., Categories: Dog Behavior, Canine Health, Obedience Training

I was reading an article from another trainer recently, discussing his "quest" to truly understand dogs. The article was very well written and thoughtful,. He lamented that some days he felt his understanding of dogs was good, and other days less so, Well, I suppose that's the nature of life and being human. Complete understanding for humans is simply not possible IMO.

Many owners seek trainers for behavioral issues, and seem to understand training helps. But I often wonder whether owners think about WHY training helps. To me, it's because training establishes communication with a dog. And communication is the first step toward understanding. Understanding builds trust, and establishes strong bonds with any dog.

To my peer who is seeking perfect understanding of dogs, I commend his journey. While I find no journey is ever complete or perfect (part of our human condition), building strong "training language" will always be the most basic of tools in learning about, and better understanding dogs.

To scientists who are just beginning to analyze, measure, and study dogs - I applaud your efforts and enjoy your research. However, much to date is far from groundbreaking. In fact, most has been simple confirmation of things those already communicating with dogs already understand.

To owners, training helps you communicate with your pet! What better starting point to build a strong, respectful, and happy relationship? Training helps dogs understand an owner's wishes, and therefore helps them live well in our human world, This helps dogs enjoy a more privileged life. Dogs and owners that work together at training, will share quality time and build stronger bonds, Training is a trans-species language that helps dogs be their best, and owners better understand their pets.

Trained dogs may not be perfect, but they're always better than if not trained. Train together and you'll both reach understandings you would never have reached alone! Enjoy that journey...

Dogs and Anti Vaccination Advocates

  04/03/15 08:32, by guy k., Categories: Other Topics, Canine Health

I routinely watch and participate on several online, professional, trainer groups. One growing trend over the years has been more people seeming to question the wisdom of recommended vaccination schedules for dogs. While I'm not a scientist or a Veterinarian, I do have a strong science background. I have also worked for over 30 years as a firefighter where I had to make daily "risk vs benefit" decisions. There are a growing number of people who seem to think vaccinations pose more risk than benefit. In my observation, these opinions are often based on anecdotal stories of adverse reactions to vaccinations AND the slight risk to an individual of actually contracting the disease for which the vaccine offers protection.

First, let's consider the risks involved with vaccinations. While many compelling arguments and opinions can be found online, there have been many studies over the past decades that clearly demonstrate the risks associated with vaccines is infinitesimally small. Yes, there can be occassional local or systemic reactions to some vaccines. But the picture painted by most "anit-vaxxers", suggesting they pose significant health risks, have simply not been substantiated. In fact, they've been entirely dispelled in the scientific and medical communities, based on studies, statistics, and ongoing monitoring.

The only historically significant problem with vaccines over the past 70 years occurred in 1955. Cutter Labs released 140,000 doses of human polio vaccine containing some live virus. 40,000 people became infected rather than protected. This was a laboratory mistake, and the worst problem ever documented with vaccines. Modern vaccines have an impeccable safety record!

So what about benefits? The single most important evidence I can provide is this consistent truth - where vaccination rates rise, disease rates decrease. Conversely, when vaccination rates drop off, disease and outbreaks begin rising. And here follows an important consideration. For those believing vaccines are not necessary, well IF that's true, it's only because of all the other people who do embrace the benefits of vaccinations. Complacency, or false fears driving vaccination rates downward, consistently create upticks in community disease rates. So choosing against vaccinations can put more than your or your family at risk, it degrades disease resistance for the community. Over 160 people die daily from Rabies acquired from dogs - almost all these deaths are in areas that don't vaccinate dogs.

The best resource for detailed information regarding vaccinations for your pet is your Veterinarian. He/she will know your pet, it's health, risks it may encounter in your environment, current safety and effectiveness of any vaccine(s) being considered, AND what is required by law in your area. Talk to your Veterinarian if you have questions!

While this is "dog blog", the science of immunology is similar for all mammals. Rather than going on and on, I would encourage anyone with doubts about the safety or effectiveness of vaccines to do some research on your own. Research means finding scientific studies that are controlled, reproducible, and unbiased. To that end, you may wish to review the following link on wikipedia related to human vaccine controversies:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_controversies

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