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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.

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

Face Time with Your Dog

  03/20/15 08:00, by guy k., Categories: Other Topics, Canine Health, Obedience Training

As a human, I use technology every day - phone, tablet, computer, etc. As a trainer, I use Ecollars often for training of dogs. In short, I embrace the ways technology can assist and make our lives easier. The video below discusses several new tech devices for dogs. I know this is a burgeoning industry, but I wonder sometimes about the usefulness of such devices. Many are used for tracking or monitoring your dog, but there's really no substitute for quality "face time" with a pet.

Regarding the device for tracking a dog, I can see these being useful in working situations for police and rescue. For pets, however, if you're dog's running off and getting lost, perhaps a better solution would be some training! Teaching a dog not to bolt out of open doors, or to come back to you (reliably) when called, can go a long way to preventing a dog from becoming lost in the first place. Even if you can track a lost dog, prevention can do more to save it's life than recovering a dog that gets injured or worse.

As far as the fitness devices for dogs, they're interesting, but are they really helpful? Calorie and exercise requirements vary tremendously from dog to dog. Size, age, breed, health, etc. all will be factors in deciding how much activity and how many calories a dog requires. Regular exercise based on your dog's specific needs, and ongoing monitoring of weight, can all be done more efficiently by simply spending time with your pet and making regular observations.

So while I like technology, I believe there's no substitute for spending quality time interacting with a dog. That's the most important ingredient for a healthy life. Dogs need interaction, teaching, and mental challenges. They also need exercise, and they rely on us to give them healthy and proper amounts of nutrition. No app or tracking device will ever be a substitute for an interacting owner.

Human Emotion and Dog Training

  03/06/15 07:35, by guy k., Categories: Other Topics, Dog Behavior

I've been a firefighter for over 30 years, and am drawing close to retirement for that career. Over the past many years I have enjoyed a second career in dog training, and often draw comparisons between my two professions. One area that I find very interesting is the effect of human emotion on outcomes.

In the fire service, we are called to make routine decisions that have life and death implications. We are often faced with challenging situations, limited information, and rapidly changing incidents. It's been my observation that those getting flustered, anxious, or bringing a lot of emotional energy to these challenges don't generally help themselves or those around them. Having a clear and calm thought process can save your life. That's hard to do when things are difficult. But I have found many people rise to the challenge, and believe it is a skill set that can be learned in many cases.

When it comes to helping a dog be better behaved or more obedient, human emotions also play a critical role. As human beings, we have a very strong emotional component to our make up. To our dogs, however, these emotions generally translate to energy. Dogs are masters at reading us (humans), and sensing changes in our emotions. An owner that is anxious, worried, angry, frustrated, or even too excited around their dog, can be causing unintended consequences. When dogs are around emotionally charged humans, they typically become a lighting rod for that energy. Hyper dogs get more hyper, nervous dogs get more anxious, and pushy dogs push harder.

Training and behavioral goals need to focus on teaching, and teaching involves sharing information. Teaching shouldn't involve telegraphing unsettled energy on a dog. Dogs that are being made more hyper, anxious, or pushy are not as capable of thinking clearly - so training's going to suffer. A good trainer can help owners become more aware of their own energy, and manage it in ways to help things improve. This takes a lot of coaching of interactions, and working toward calm, consistent, feedback for their dog. When information is being presented in a clear, consistent, and calm manner, dogs are going to be most receptive to learning.

Many calls to trainers are for dogs with serious behavioral issues, and often owners are very frustrated, anxious, or even afraid (of their dog or for their dog). Providing help often requires we detach ourselves from those human emotions. This can be a challenge for many people, but it's a skill that can generally be learned.

Cold Weather and Dogs

  02/20/15 08:55, by guy k., Categories: Canine Health

We're having some cycles of very cold weather currently. Besides the obvious need to be watching any dogs that are outdoors for brief periods, I also want to remind all owners that ice in Central Ohio is never safe - NEVER. Falling through ice and being immersed in frigid water pulls any human's or dog's body temperature down rapidly. Once body temp falls just a few degrees, living things lose muscle control and will quickly drown or perish.

I'm seeing daily news stories related to pet rescues off of icy bodies of water, the ones below from just today. Keep yourself and your pets safe!

http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2015/02/18/23611743/

http://www.wcvb.com/news/man-2-dogs-rescued-from-icy-waters-in-revere/31360154

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