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iSpeak Dog Week

Dog body language is important.  Dog body language illiteracy is partly why his well-meaning fans haven't driven Cesar Millan off television.  It's why countless dogs' suffering is ignored or re-branded as power plays or manipulation.  It's why good people laugh at "guilty dog" memes rather than expressing outrage that a terrified animal is passing for entertainment.  It's why people aren't sure whether their dogs' play is safe or not.  It's why people miss warning signs and are bitten.  And on.  And on.  

iSpeakDog is the brainchild of Academy student and writer Tracy Krulik.  Its aim is to up our body language literacy.  This week is iSpeakDog Week and The Academy is thrilled to be partnering with Tracy to help to spread the word about accurately interpreting dog body language.    

There's a ton of content in the site, including this nifty image generator.    

 

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Dog Trainer Life

 

 

Appeal to Nature

Red Herring Fallacy

 

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Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot, Not a Stick

This piece was originally published in a local newspaper in 2006.  I updated it and think it's relevant to re-run given that the state of New York is currently considering licensing dog trainers.  They'd be the first state to do so.


Dog training is a divided profession. We are not like plumbers, orthodontists or termite exterminators who, if you put six in a room, will pretty much agree on how to do their jobs. Dog training camps are more like Republicans and Democrats, all agreeing that the job needs to be done but wildly differing on how to do it.

The big watershed in dog training is whether or not to include pain and fear as means of motivation. In the last twenty years the pendulum swing has been toward methods that use minimal pain, fear or intimidation – or none at all.

The force-free movement has been partly driven by improved communication from the top. Applied behaviorists, those with advanced degrees in behavior, and veterinary behaviorists, veterinarians who have completed residencies specializing in behavior problems are in greater abundance than in previous decades, and there is much more collaboration between these fields and trainers on the front lines. These two professions are quite unified on the point that the use of physical punishment or confrontation is unnecessary, often detrimental and, importantly, unsafe.  And in 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association came out with detailed behavior management guidelines that unequivocally caution owners to employ only trainers that use force-free methods. 

On a more grassroots level, trainers have found more benign and sophisticated tools by boning up on applied behavior science themselves. But dog training is currently an unregulated profession in the US: there are no laws governing practices. Prosecutions under general anti-cruelty statutes are occasionally successful but greatly hampered by the absence of legal standards pertaining specifically to training practices. Provided it’s in the name of training, someone with no formal education or certification can strangle your dog quite literally to death and conceivably get off scot-free.  

It’s not a complete wilderness: There is now the Pet Professional Guild, which specifies its member trainers must employ modern, force-free methods.  The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Mission Statement, Delta Society and American Humane Association (AHA) trainer guidelines all state that less invasive (i.e. without pain or force) techniques must be competently tried and exhausted before more invasive techniques attempted. Such guidelines are not law, but they’re a start. 

The current professional climate is one laden with some remaining fierce debate. There’s an ever-expanding group of trainers that train force-free (ad literature will be some variation on the theme of “dog-friendly” or “pain-free”), trainers that still train primarily with force (ad literature: “no-nonsense” or “common sense”) and trainers that employ liberal use of both force and rewards (ad literature: “balanced” or “eclectic”). From a consumer’s standpoint, the choice in methods is wide. You can hire a professional to train your dog pretty much any way that suits your fancy and it’s all legal in the US.  (More and more European countries are cracking down on the most harmful force tools and methods.)

The force-free movement gains momentum every year and a sure sign of this is that many trainers in the other camps resort to murkier and murkier euphemisms to disguise their more violent practices and retain their market share. Stressed dogs aren’t “shut down,” they’re “calm.” It’s not strangling, it’s “leading.” As a committed devotee of the dog-friendly camp, I am therefore agog at the continued presence in pop culture of “The Dog Whisperer”. This is pretty ferocious stuff by anybody’s standards. The National Geographic Channel even runs a disclaimer banner at the bottom of the screen admonishing people to “not try this at home,” a warning notably absent on home improvement shows or “Nanny 911″. I like to think people don't get dogs so that they can hurt and scare them, so I'm left wondering whether the cloaking of corporal punishment and hazing in mystical language, promise of instant results, high octane telegenicity of Cesar Millan and lucky connections with Los Angeles celebrity clients are sufficient explanation for the Dog Whisperer phenomenon. I don't know.  We need psychologists deconstructing what drives people to elect scary, painful practices.

I am willing to bet that, in what’s been termed the “post-factual universe," we’ll be battling a while longer.

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The Post-Factual World

Dog Trainer Life November 2016 Edition

 

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A Tired False Dichotomy

Dog trainer life.

#HarnessTheLove

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Naked Emperor

Naked Emperor

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Lettre ouverte aux propriétaires qui pensent que des gâteries corrompront leur chien

Je comprends. Vous préférez ne pas utiliser de gâteries pour entraîner votre chien, parce qu’il devrait apprendre les bonnes manières sans recevoir quelque chose en retour. Vous pensez que si vous lui donnez des friandises, vous atténuerez la valeur des récompenses bien plus importantes, comme votre approbation. Vous vous dites qu’il ne saura jamais discerner le bien du mal et que jamais il ne vous respectera. Vous pensez aussi qu’il deviendra dépendant des gâteries et que sans elles, il ne fera plus ce qu’il a appris.

Je comprends. Vraiment.

Mais je dois vous avouer quelque chose. Vous avez tort. D’abord, votre réflexion est inexacte, parce que vous projetez des concepts de psychologie morale applicables aux humains capables d’échanges sociaux sur votre chien, alors qu’il ne sera pourtant jamais considéré comme un membre à part entière de la société. Ensuite, malgré toutes vos bonnes intentions, vous avez tort sur le plan moral, car vous opterez inévitablement pour des méthodes d’entraînement ayant recours à la douleur et à la peur. La science et les organismes professionnels réputés se rallient tous derrière un fort consensus : la douleur et la peur causées délibérément sont néfastes et inhumaines et n’inculquent pas chez le chien une capacité de discernement moral. Tout ce qu’elles permettent d’accomplir, c’est de traumatiser un chien au point où il fera tout ce que vous voulez.

Peut-être fermez-vous les yeux devant tant de preuves et de bonnes raisons parce que vous n’êtes pas intéressé à connaître la perspective scientifique ou encore trouvez-vous émotionnellement insupportable de motiver votre chien avec des morceaux de poulet. Si c’est votre cas, alors je ne peux rien faire pour vous. Cette approche d’entraînement où vous traumatisez consciemment et délibérément votre chien, je ne la comprendrai jamais. Éventuellement, la loi fléchira sous le poids de la science et vous interdira d’étrangler, de frapper, d’électrocuter ou d’effrayer votre chien. Entretemps, malheureusement, il semble que vous puissiez faire comme bon vous semble. 

Si toutefois les preuves vous ont ouvert les yeux et qu’en plus vous ne retirez aucun plaisir à voir votre chien se recroqueviller de peur ni ne voyez cette méthode comme triste, mais nécessaire, alors la suite vous intéressera. Voici la réalité : vous faites du mal à votre chien sans même améliorer son intelligence morale, ce que vous visiez au départ. C’est une illusion. Ne pensez surtout pas que votre chien vous en remerciera un jour. Il ne fera jamais la bonne chose parce que c’est la bonne chose à faire. Il fera ce que vous lui dites de faire pour que vous arrêtiez de lui faire peur. 

Sur Google, vous trouverez une panacée de recherches exhaustives transculturelles sur l’« évolution du désir de punir les transgresseurs sociaux », qui traitent de notre motivation profonde de veiller à la droiture morale chez les autres membres de la société. Cela touche un vaste éventail de choses, des systèmes juridiques à l’éducation des enfants. Cependant, un chien n’est pas un humain. Il n’a pas la capacité de discerner le bien du mal que nous aimerions tant lui apprendre. Par contre, comme il peut distinguer ce qui est sécuritaire de ce qui est dangereux, nous concluons que nous avons réussi à améliorer sa boussole morale en l’empêchant de faire ce qui nous embête grâce à l’intimidation que nous lui infligeons, et non pas des gâteries. Mais ne soyez pas dupe. Ce n’est pas la droiture morale ni votre approbation qui motive votre chien. Ce sont les cris, les coups, les coups de pied, les colliers étrangleurs, à pics et électriques qui lui font faire ce que vous lui demandez. Si vous voyiez un gardien de zoo s’en prendre ainsi à un animal, vous appelleriez la police. 

Les entraîneurs canins louches savent que voulez que votre chien soit moralement docile. Ils exploiteront ce désir et vous feront croire que ces méthodes ne lui font aucun mal ni ne lui font peur. Selon eux, la peur, c’est le respect. Ils vous diront que les gâteries corrompront votre chien. Si vous y croyez aveuglément, vous finirez par accorder plus d’importance à la soi-disant amélioration morale de votre chien qu’à votre chien lui-même. 

L’erreur de confondre l’éducation des enfants à celle des chiens est très compréhensible. Notre chien fait partie de la famille, alors nous sommes très tentés de suivre notre instinct moral. Je cède maintenant la place à deux de mes collègues qui ont partagé avec moi leurs points de vue quant à ce phénomène lors d’une récente discussion.

L’experte en entraînement Ann-Marie Brady Levine résume bien cette erreur : (traduction libre)

« Dans le cas d’un enfant, nous lui apprenons les comportements appropriés pour notre espèce. Toutefois, dans le cas d’un chien, nous exigeons souvent de lui qu’il n’adopte pas les comportements pourtant appropriés pour son espèce. Nous lui demandons d’exécuter quelque chose qui ne correspond pas à son comportement programmé naturellement. Et pour qu’il y arrive, il nous faut souvent le récompenser. Tout comme vous le feriez si vous demandiez à votre tout-petit de marcher sur les mains au lieu des pieds. Les mots encouragement ne vaudraient pas grand-chose, surtout sur une route de gravier. »

La vétérinaire Dawn Crandell explique comment les objectifs des chiens et des humains diffèrent : (traduction libre)

« La récompense d’un enfant qui se comporte bien socialement est sociale : il se fait des amis, les gens sont gentils avec lui et le tiennent en haute estime. N’importe quel humain comprend et valorise cela. Cependant, les chiens ne saisissent pas toutes les subtilités des interactions sociales humaines et le fait de penser ou de suggérer que c’est le cas, c’est tout simplement faire preuve d’anthropomorphisme. »

 

   Translation by Academy grad, Claudine Prud'homme, of The Learned Dog

 

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Dog Trainers' Dilemma

Dog Trainers' Dilemma
Dog Trainers' Dilemma
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An Open Letter to Owners Who Think Treats are Bribery

I understand.  You don’t want to use treats to train your dog because he should learn appropriate behavior without having to be bribed.  If you reward him with treats, it degrades more important rewards such as your approval.  He’ll never learn right and wrong.  You want him to respect you.  He’ll also become dependent on treats and won’t perform when not bribed.

I get it.  I do. 

But the thing is this.  You’re wrong.  And you’re wrong in both senses of that word.  You’re inaccurate, because you’re firing moral psychological software, evolved for social interchange in humans, at a dog, who will never be molded into an upstanding member of society.   And in spite of your good intentions, you’re morally wrong because you will inevitably end up employing pain and fear to motivate him.  The science is in and the consensus of every reputable professional organization has converged on its findings: pain and fear are detrimental and inhumane, and don’t instill moral goodness in your dog.  They just terrorize him into doing more of what you want.     

It could be you’re not interested in the science, that you’re too far down the path of finding it emotionally unbearable to motivate your dog with chicken that no amount of reason or evidence will sway you.  If that’s you, I can’t help you.   You have a tolerance – or perhaps an appetite - for dogs cowering that I will never understand.  Eventually the law will catch up with the science and you’ll be prohibited from strangling, hitting, shocking and scaring your dog, but until then you’ll be able to indulge that need. 

If, however, you are amenable to evidence, and you don’t get a little charge out of seeing him cower, or see it as a sad but somehow necessary evil, read on.  Consider that you are causing a dog to suffer without any attendant upgrading of his moral being (your objective) because of this choice.  It’s an illusion.  He won't thank you one day.  He’ll never do what’s right because it’s right.  He’ll just keep wishing you’d stop scaring him. 

Google “evolution of the desire to punish social transgressors” and you’ll get a large, cross-cultural, robust body of research on the urge we have to morally police other members of society.  It affects everything from justice systems to child-rearing.  But dogs aren’t people.  They don’t have the complementary software to learn the right and wrong we feel compelled to teach.  They can, however, learn safe and dangerous, and so we fool ourselves that this is proof that we’ve morally improved them when we eschew treats and instead intimidate, and they then do less of what bugs us.  Because, make no mistake, righteousness or your approval isn’t driving him.  It’s the yelling, hitting, poking, kicking, strangling, digging pins into his neck, and electric shock that’s making him act closer to the way you want.  If you saw a keeper do any of this to a meerkat at the zoo, you’d call the cops. 

Sleazy trainers know you wish to create this moral being and will prey on you, telling you that these things don’t actually hurt or scare him.  They’ll label fear “respect.”  They’ll tell you that treats corrupt.  If you want to believe it badly enough, your cowering dog won’t matter as much as his fictitious moral improvement does. 

It’s an understandable error, conflating dogs and children.  Dogs are in that role in our families, and our morality instincts make it all feel very compelling.  I’d like to give the last word to two colleagues who gave me terrific insight in a recent discussion among trainers about this phenomenon.

Trainer Ann-Marie Brady Levine summarizes the against-grain error we make:

“[In the case of children], it *is* what we're doing, teaching them species-appropriate behaviours. In dog training, however, we are often asking the dog *not* to engage in his species-appropriate behaviours.  We're asking him to do something at odds with his behavioural programming.  And for that to work, we have to make it worth his while.  Much as you would if you were asking your toddler to walk on her hands instead of her feet.  Praise wouldn't cut it, especially the first time you went for a stroll on a gravel road.”

Veterinarian Dawn Crandell further explains the divergent objectives of dogs and humans:

“The reward for kids behaving in a socially acceptable way is social - they make friends, people are nice to them, others think highly of them.  All this can be understood by a human brain and has value, to a human.  Dogs have no concept of all those subtle social human interactions and to suggest or think that they do is the ultimate in anthropomorphism.”

 

 

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Why Dog Trainers Are My Heroes

Dog Trainer Life 1

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Go Canada

Go Canada II








A fantastic movement is on in Canada to ban shock collars.

Here is the information site, including a link to the petition needed to get it considered by parliament.

 
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A Very Tired False Dichotomy

After video surfaced of trainer Jeffrey Schultz hitting and making a dog scream, Schultz defended his actions by saying that the context (the dog snapping at him) was omitted in the video.  In a follow-up story on CBS by Jeff Paul, a past client of Schultz, Gary (who did not want his last name used) suggested that such measures were the thin line protecting children from being bitten and dogs from euthanasia.  His reply when asked by the reporter if it’d be concerning if his own dog were so treated:

“Absolutely it’d bother me. But what would bother me more is if my dog bit some child at a park and then at some point it’s euthanized,” said Gary.

This logic has been completely debunked by all available research, such as herehereherehere and hereposition statements by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the American Animal Hospital Association behavior management guidelines, and the clinical experience of thousands of practitioners who treat the most serious cases and explicitly warn owners away from people such as Jeffrey Schultz.  Because what he does actually increases the likelihood of aggression in dogs.

There is no context, circumstance or back-story that makes this stuff appropriate.No Hitting

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Obedience is a Transaction, Not a Comment on Your Relationship

A superb blog post by Jess Miller that deconstructs the contention that “respect” can function as a motivator in dog training, along with why it’s appealing to people to wish for it to be so.

http://dogsandethics.blogspot.com/2013/12/exploring-problem-with-cookie-training.html

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User-Friendly and Fail-Safe

Housesoiling is always near the top of the list of behavior problems associated with relinquishment.  Dogs also take a fair amount of abuse in the name of pottying.  I have a current advanced student in Fort Lauderdale, Helen Verte, who is dazzling in many ways, but who has outdone everything I’ve ever seen on the topic of housetraining.  It’s a one-hour, twenty-buck webinar, with the two great virtues of dead-on accurate, field-tested, can’t-fail information and engaging, client-friendly language and examples.  Cherry on the sundae is it carries a CPDT CEU credit for trainers.  She’s making noises about making it available as a lunch & learn for vet practices locally and I so hope she does that.  Muah to her for this contribution.

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What Do Owners Want?

Buffy IX Flipped

MARKET RESEARCH ON PET DOG TRAINING

The Academy has enlisted the services of a marketing expert to find out what dog guardians want in pet dog trainers.

If you are a trainer, please share the survey link below with your clients.

If you are a dog owner, we would love if you could spare the time to get involved by completing the online survey. It should only take about 10 minutes. Your responses will be collated centrally and independently – they won’t be attributed to you personally. The link to the survey below – just click and you’re there.

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Can You Hear Me Now? You’re Freaking Me Out

 

 

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Flogging Children Used to be Cutting Edge ABA Too

Campaign 1

 

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Tired of Leading?

Pack is Crack 

If you’d like to participate, go to the Facebook group Out of the Goldfish Bowl and get ahold of the template to build your own (or your dogs’) to submit to Leonard.

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Neil Hits It Out of the Park (Again)

Even if you’re like me and not a football fan, you might find this podcast on the physics of football fascinating.

Roman Numerals

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The Continuum Generator

Proponents of the use of pain and avoidance in training like to place themselves in the middle ground, using words like “balanced” to describe themselves and “extremist” to describe trainers who get the job done without hurting dogs.  The most cursory examination of this framing, however, reveals that the underlying assumption – the reasonable, middle position is to employ pain and fear along with rewards – is faulty.

It’s basically a rhetorical trick.  For instance, the force free could claim the middle ground by saying,  “I’m a balanced trainer because I use a judicious blend of prompting, shaping via approximation, capturing and reward removal.  I used to be more of an extremist, using and defending the use of motivators such as pain, startle and fear, but started migrating in the 1980’s toward this more reasonable approach.”

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