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  • 07 Sep 2018 9:33 AM | Skip Daiger (Administrator)

    To Muzzle or Not to Muzzle: That Is the Question

    Weighing the pros and cons of wearing basket muzzles for dogs who may bite. A Facebook post  from Psychology Today, Posted Sep 06, 2017. Written by Emily Levine. DACVB

    I hear it every day in my practice. Dog owners are hesitant to train their dogs to wear basket muzzles. I get it. I really do. And in a perfect world, with perfect people and perfect dogs, we wouldn't even need to broach this topic. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world. So let’s talk about of the pros and cons of having our feisty Fidos wear basket muzzles.

    People don't want other people to think they have a mean dog. People who have dogs who bite really wish others could see the wonderful side of their dogs that they get to see everyday. They want people to see the friendly, playful, cuddly side of their dogs and well, a muzzle isn't exactly a hallmark card sending those sentiments. People do not want others to see their dog in a muzzle and think that their dog is mean, dangerous, or untrained. The reality however, is that many dogs do not cope well being around strangers and are not going to show their “best” selves to them and trust me, no one is having fond thoughts about a lunging, barking, growling dog simply because they are not wearing a muzzle. No one thinks aggressive behavior is cute and endearing and will have warmer thoughts about your dog because the dog is not wearing a muzzle.

    Another concern people have about their dog wearing a muzzle is that of it being cruel for the dog. Can it be cruel to have a dog wear a muzzle? Yes it can. It can be cruel if the wrong muzzle is used (it does not allow the dog to pant for example), it does not fit properly, the dog isn't acclimated to wearing the muzzle, or, in some cases, if only a muzzle is used without addressing the underlying issues that require its use in the first place. Muzzles do nothing to change or modify or treat the underlying behavior issue. They are simply a safety tool that prevents bites and, in many cases, facilitates a behavior modification program. Yep, you read that correctly. Muzzles can, in certain situations, actually help dogs to learn what we want them to learn. We will come back to this idea later.

    When muzzles are fit properly, the dogs are acclimated to wearing one, and they allow the dog to pant easily, eat treats through them, and drink water through them, they are just another piece of equipment like a collar, harness, and leash. Oh..and most people that I see in my practice say their dog will never wear a muzzle because their dogs hate them. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is because they have not used the correct muzzle and/or have not acclimated the dog to wearing a muzzle correctly. Click here to see a clip of a dog wearing a muzzle after proper sizing and training.

    Let’s get back to how a muzzle can actually help facilitate a behavior modification plan as opposed to simply just being a safety tool. Let’s think of those dogs who do “okay” until a person insists on approaching and interacting with your dog. Everyday, people with reactive, stressed, anxious dogs who ask people not to approach because their dog is shy, fearful, not friendly, etc...are told ”it’s okay, I’m a dog person. Dogs love me!” Then, when they get close, bam! A bite is attempted or occurs. Then, that oh so friendly “dog person,” likely having their pride hurt, is not so friendly anymore and at the end of the day, you, as the dog owner, are responsible for your dog biting someone, legally and ethically. I never really hear of people insisting on approaching a dog when a dog is wearing a muzzle. Let the muzzle speak for itself in terms of letting people know, your dog does not care to have close interactions with strangers. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Not all dogs are social beings who enjoy interacting with strangers and that is OK. This is a concept that dog owners of dogs who need muzzles should embrace! As a side note, muzzles can be such a great deterrent to people approaching dogs when we are trying to teach them to trust strangers, that I sometimes recommend it for dogs who are very fearful/shy without any aggressive tendencies if those clients live in a place where people are constantly trying to interact with their dog. It is your job as a dog guardian to keep your dog safe. Muzzles can help you with that, on several levels.

    Let’s talk about the layers of safety that a muzzle can provide. The obvious is that the risk of a bite decreases significantly. With a decreased risk of biting, there is less risk of a lawsuit, less risk of losing your home owner’s insurance, and depending on the severity of bites or number of bites in your dog’s past, it can prevent a reportable incident that may result in you losing control over what happens to your dog. Also, you want to be a good citizen and make sure the people in public who are walking, jogging, cycling, etc., aren't bitten. People should be able to be in public without the risk of being bitten. Too many times in practice I have seen friends, family, and neighbors in feuds and lawsuits over bites that could have been prevented.

    When you think of all the pros and cons of a properly fitted and sized muzzle and you still find it hard to get over any feeling of public shame, try to take the attitude that Suzy Arrington, CPDT-KA, offers: “Own it like you would if you were wearing a big hat!” In other words, wear it with confidence!

    Next time you see someone walking a dog in a muzzle, offer them a smile. They are being responsible dog owners who are trying to help their dogs and keep everyone safe.

    A great site that goes over valuable information about muzzles is www.muzzleupproject.com Emily Levine DACVB

    Animal Behavior Clinic of New Jersey

    www.animalerc.com

    https://www.facebook.com/FetchTheFacts/


  • 20 Aug 2018 9:22 AM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

    Shock Collars Work: So Does Jumping Out a WIndow to Get to the Ground

    Jumping out of the window is one option to get to the ground level.  It seems like the most direct way.  Just because something works doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done…the side-effects can be deadly.

    Shock collars are one option to accomplish behavior change.  It seems like the most direct way.  Just because something works doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done…the side-effects can be deadly.

    Let’s face it, punishment works.  It does change behavior.  Shock collars hurt.  When something hurts, an animal will work to avoid that pain.  But is this the smart way of accomplishing our training goals?  Is this the humane way of accomplishing our training goals?  Are their consequences for using this method of training?

    Why are people so quick to use punishers?  Is it that the use of such a tool makes a person feel powerful?  Maybe they get a rush out of feeling like they are in control—the all-powerful human!  Or is it that they don’t know any better?  Frustration and anger with a behavior can lead many of us to extreme measures.  People feel helpless.  They want a fix to their problem.  Shock collars seem so easy, and isn’t easy a good thing?

    Is easy a good thing?  It sure takes a whole lot less effort to jump off a high-rise than it does to walk down multiple flights of stairs.  Easy is not always a good thing.  There are severe consequences to choosing the ‘easy’ way to fix a dog’s behavior with shock collar.

    This reminds me of a joke:  A guy jumps out the window of a high rise.  As he passes a window on the way down someone yells out, “How’s it going?” and the guy responds, “So far, so good!”

    Ramifications of using a Shock Collar:

    It is a poor communicator.

    A shock collar is horrible at telling a dog what to do.  My favorite example of this is one I’ve heard many different trainers use, so I don’t know who to give credit to. 

    A person climbs into a taxi and says to the driver, “Don’t take me to Chicago.”  The driver turns to the person with a look of confusion.  The person gets angry and says, “Don’t take me to Detroit!”  The driver is getting frustrated.  The person starts hitting the driver and yells, “Don’t take me to Milwaukee!” The driver is confused, stressed, maybe a little fearful about this crazy person that has entered his car. 

    This is the feeling a dog has that is being trained using a shock collar.  There are a whole lot of “don’t” statements, but where are the instructions about what we want the taxi driver to do?  A dog should be instructed what TO DO, instead of punishing them for guessing wrong.

    Using a shock collar might feel good to the user.

    There is no doubt that some dog behaviors can create frustration and anger in their human.  In that moment, inflicting a shock on their beloved dog might be a way to release that frustration and anger. 

    Fear inhibits learning.

    The use of a shock collar permanently changes the dog’s brain.  The point of the shock collar is to make a dog fearful of doing something.  Fear is damaging.  Anticipating pain causes stress.  Fear and stress affect the amygdala and inhibit the brain from working on higher level functions, like learning.  Ummm, isn’t that opposite of what we want?  We want our dogs to learn.  Using a shock collar places a dog in a state of being that inhibits learning. 

    Dogs learn by association.

    Dogs learn by association.  When a dog experiences something painful, he observes his surroundings and makes the association that this particular mix of stimuli results in a painful consequence.  Unless we put the dog into a vacuum of stimuli, we can’t control what associations are made in a dog’s mind.  Unintended associations are likely to happen. 

    For example, if a person shocks their dog because he is barking and lunging on leash when seeing another dog in the neighborhood, what is the dog potentially learning?  It is really hard to know, but maybe:  that other dog is dangerous to be around, this location on the walk is dangerous, my human can’t be trusted to keep me safe from pain, etc, etc…and maybe the dog learns that the action of barking and lunging will cause pain.

    Punishment can lead to aggression.

    Even if your dog has figured out that the painful shock occurs because of his behavior and reduces this particular behavior, if the behavior was based in fear (as many poor behaviors are) the problem is magnified.  Suppressing behavior does not change the emotion behind the behavior in the first place.  If the dog is behaving poorly due to fear, that fear is still present and surely strengthened because the presence of it causes the dog to be shocked.  The dog will only suppress his behavior until he reaches a point of just not caring that there might be a shock involved and he will explode, displaying behavior that is higher on the scale of aggression.  If this happens, there is a chance that dog will be euthanized for his aggression.  Using a shock collar can have deadly side-effects.

    There are so many more effective and efficient ways of training a dog without the horrible side effects caused by using pain in training.  Educating pet owners is a job we must do!  They are not the dog trainers…we are!  It is our job to present information to them, so they can make an informed decision.


  • 10 Aug 2018 9:15 AM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

    Shock collars work.  That’s the problem!  Trainers and dog owners who love dogs and have good intentions sometimes use collars that deliver an electric field or current. Those may include remote training collars, containment collars or anti-bark collars.  Dogs can’t talk so they can’t tell us it hurts.  We can only see their behavior.  If they stop the behavior we’re trying to eliminate voila, we think we’re successful.  The success is rewarding.  We want to do it again to achieve the same results.  And then we do it again…and again…and again.  And we increase the intensity if the behavior change is slower or we perceive stubbornness in our dog.  It’s seductive and we often don’t see the unintended consequences. We are so excited about the successful change in behavior that we don’t see that our dogs are also telling us through their body language that this training is unpleasant, stressful and painful.  If your dog stops jumping, do you also notice the lips flicks, compressed body posture, the lowered head and flattened ears.  Do you notice the difference in tail position and yawning?  Are you watching to see if your dog is enjoying your ‘success’? 

    The problem is that for any of these collars to work, the stimulus (electric stimulus) must be unpleasant or aversive enough to change behavior.  In other words, it must cause physical discomfort or pain.  So your success while using this method is only attainable through your dog’s discomfort.  Even if you don’t have to actually use the electronic ‘stimulus’ every time, the threat is what causes the continued change in behavior.  Who wants to live with a weapon pointed at them.  Not us and not our dogs.

    Problems with e-collars are:

    • They cause discomfort, otherwise they wouldn’t work.  This leads to stress and fear, two emotions that make learning difficult;
    • They keep your dog guessing at what you really want while zapping them for every wrong guess they make;
    • The ‘punishment’ (remember punishment means a stimulus that causes a reduction in behavior) seems random at first so your dog gets confused about what specifically is causing the shock (is it their behavior or the context surrounding them?); and sadly,
    • Causing physical discomfort or pain to a dog can create aggression where there wasn’t any before (wouldn’t you want to fight back if something kept hurting you?) 

    There is a way that is more effective and efficient and doesn’t purposefully inflict discomfort on our dogs.

    Positive reinforcement training encourages behavior….good behavior.  The bad behavior is eliminated by replacing it with a preferred behavior.  Dogs love it because they’re being rewarded rather than punished.  And you’ll love it because it’s effective and fun for both you and your dog.  It’s based on scientific principals rather than old school training methods that are the result of frustration and annoyance.  Train with your brain: Be smart about how you approach a behavior problem.  And then watch your dog – he’ll thank you for it.


  • 28 Jul 2018 10:13 AM | Skip Daiger (Administrator)

    Many of our members have been spending some time discussing and thinking about coercive techniques in dog training. We recently presented, for example, Kathy Sdao's hour and a half  long lecture on The Seductiveness of Shock to a group of our members. Since we are all still wild about Wilde and always looking for insights and ideas, here is what Nicole Wilde has to say about this subject in her most recent blog -- COOPERATION VERSUS COERCION:

    I’d like you to imagine that you are a young, not-yet-verbal child who is entering a foster home. Naturally, you are a nervous about meeting your new foster parents, and wonder what life will be like. You don’t yet know what will be expected of you or how you will be treated. And since you’re not familiar with the daily household routine, you will need to be taught. On your first morning, your foster father says he’s going to take you out for a fun walk to see the neighborhood. You’re very excited! But when you run to the front door and fling it open, he scowls and pushes you away from the door. You’re surprised and a bit frightened at being handled that way. You try again, and this time the man seems very angry. He shoves you more forcefully than the first time. Now you’re truly afraid. You dare not go near the door. Instead, you wait, looking at the man, not knowing what to do. He smiles, opens the door, and gestures for you to go through. You learned a valuable lesson; don’t open the door and run out, but instead wait for the man to open it.

    Now let’s imagine that instead, the man leads you to a small carpet near the front door. He gestures to you to stand there, and when you do, he smiles. He then walks to the door and begins to open it. Excited, you begin to move toward the door. He closes the door and waits. You’re momentarily surprised, but then think for a moment, and step back on the mat. The man smiles. Very quickly, you learn that waiting on the mat not only makes the man happy, but makes the door open so fun things can happen.

    In both front door scenarios, you learned a lesson. However, the first method caused anxiety and trepidation, and taught you that you might need to be wary of this new stranger. In the second scenario, you learned that the man you would be living with seemed kind and patient, and behaved like someone who would show you what was expected. Of course, kids are not dogs, but the comparison of teaching with cooperation versus coercion, along with the possible fallout coercion might cause, is a legitimate one.

    Among dog trainers, the concepts of cooperation and coercion are well known, and are implemented constantly. Confusingly, though, labels such as “positive trainer,” “balanced trainer” and others don’t really tell the average dog owner much about which way a trainer chooses to train, and can even be misleading. I’ve seen a self-proclaimed “positive trainer” jerk a dog so harshly that the poor dog ended up hanging off the ground by his neck. The only positive there is that owners should positively run the other way! Regardless of labels, though, any approach to training dogs is either based in cooperation or coercion. Sure, there are different forms of coercion, some much harsher than others, and many trainers only use coercion once a dog has been trained and chooses to disregard a command. But here I’m talking about when we’re first teaching dogs what we’d like them to do. A dog can be taught in a variety of ways to lie down, for example, from being lured into position with a treat to having someone stomp on his collar near the neck so his head is slammed to the ground, followed by his body. (Think that sounds awful? It’s how our group class trainer taught it when I was a kid. I was horrified.) The dog ends up lying down either way, but showing the dog what’s expected first, rather than using harsh physical force, is much more pleasant for everyone and builds trust rather than causing mistrust and fear. And what about things like leash walking where the dog isn’t given any instructions at all, but is simply jerked every time he makes a mistake? It would be like me wanting you to learn a ballroom dance, but instead of teaching you the steps, I just stomp on your foot every time you make a mistake. Wanna dance? Didn’t think so.

    And that, really, is at the heart of it all. Dog training shouldn’t be a battle of wills, but an ever-evolving dance of communication and cooperation. It’s the way I’ve always trained and always will, and it’s what is kindest to the dog. Either way, the dog will learn; but what else the dog is learning—kindness and trust, or mistrust and fear—is even more important.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________
    You can find my books here, my artwork here and my Facebook page here. Please feel free to leave comments, and subscribe so you don’t miss any posts! Thanks, Nicole Wilde


  • 03 Jul 2018 9:34 AM | Skip Daiger (Administrator)

    There are some very good blogs about dogs out there in cyberland, so we thought we would share some of them. Nicole's recent blog about the (maybe tiresome) subject of "pack leadership" might be worth a thoughtful re-look:

    This Whole Pack Leader Thing

    Written & conceived by Nicole Wilde, May 22, 2018

    If you hear a whistling sound, it’s the steam coming out of my ears because I’ve just heard yet another person state that someone else’s dogs wouldn’t have aggression issues if only that person were a stronger pack leader. Gah! Okay. Deep breaths. Let me backtrack. I was at the park this morning with my dogs when I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen in some time. I like her and her dogs, and we stood there catching up as our dogs romped happily. When she asked what I’ve been writing lately and I responded that I’d put out a book called Keeping the Peace, which is about dogs fighting in the home, she looked perplexed. “But,” she said, “that’s just a matter of being a strong pack leader. Dogs won’t fight if they have one.” Here’s the thing: she’s partly right, in that it is important that dogs have someone who teaches them the rules and enforces them in a kind, fair way. It’s important too that when dogs are unsure of something that they can look to their person for direction, and that when they’re starting to do something they shouldn’t, their person can intervene. However. That doesn’t mean that having even the best of human leaders in the home guarantees that dogs won’t have aggression issues.

    Although children and dogs are obviously two different species, family dynamics and psychology do have some things in common. A parent who lets their kids run wild with very few rules and boundaries is likely to have less control over them than one who establishes house rules and enforces behavioral expectations. In all the homes I’ve visited over the years to train dogs, there was a strong correlation between how much control the owner had over her kids and how much control she had over her dogs. But does being a responsible parent and strong leader guarantee that a kid isn’t going to fight with other kids? Does it mean the kid will like most other kids he meets? And should he be expected to like and get along with every one of them? Of course not, and we can’t expect it from our dogs, either. Sure, we should train them and yes, we absolutely should teach them our house rules and how we expect them to behave. And there should be fair, non-violent but effective consequences should they choose not to comply. Those things can go a long way in raising well-behaved dogs. But the fact is that dogs, like people, simply do not like everyone they meet. A dog might like most dogs, but absolutely loathe the other dog who lives in the home. Or, perhaps the dogs get along some of the time but then get into horrific fights in specific situations. Of course, I believe much if that is solvable (hence the book); but simply being a strong pack leader is not going to fix everything on its own. Our television culture has ensured that many owners have heard about the importance of being a strong pack leader and, to an extent, that’s useful. But on the flip side, it’s damaging in many cases to put the entire burden of blame on the owner (along with the resulting guilt if the problem isn’t solved), and to believe that canine behavior issues, which are inherently complex, can be solved with strong leadership alone.This reminds me of the man who walks his nice, sweet Lab around our local park in the mornings. Fortunately for him, his dog is friendly with other dogs and people. But he truly believes that if any dog has aggression issues with other dogs he encounters, it’s entirely the owner’s fault, period; and that a dog who snarls and lunges at passing dogs can be “rehabilitated” simply by walking him right up to other dogs (regardless of how dog-reactive those dogs are) and letting them meet, and not allowing the dog to react aggressively. Do that enough, and the problem is solved, thanks to strong pack leadership. Yeah. That goes well…until it doesn’t. Again, while being a good leader is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all to solving all canine behavior problems.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________

    You can find more "Wilde" blogs, my books, seminar DVDs and more at www.nicolewilde.com and my artwork at www.photomagicalart.com.

  • 30 Jun 2018 9:44 AM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

    HERE COME THE FIREWORKS! WHERE’S YOUR DOG? LINDA MICHAELS, M.A. – DEL MAR DOG TRAINING

    Every year many dogs suffer psychological trauma during the 4th of July fireworks, whereas, we humans are ecstatic over fireworks. Understanding your dog’s fearful behavior and what you can do at this stressful time of year is important for the emotional well-being of your pet.

    Interestingly, one of the only innate fears humans have is a fear of loud noises. We still “jump” and our bodies prepare to “fight or flight” (or freeze) when we become startled by a loud, erratically heard noise. The bright flashing light can contribute in part to your dog’s fear, as well as the squeals of young children that may accompany the loud booms. Many dogs try to run away from fireworks by escaping the house or yard. Without understanding the origin and nature of the “threat”, it’s adaptable to survival to do so! It’s adaptive for us and for our dogs. Evolution would have it, that when a loud noise is perceived, in order to survive and procreate another day, the fittest need to take action. However, some dogs are frozen in fear and shake uncontrollably. Your dog’s fear may not be so obvious, but now’s the time to learn to read dog body language if you haven’t as yet. 

    Make preparations to protect your dog from the drama of fireworks by not leaving her alone and creating as calm an environment as possible. If you’re going out to watch fireworks, leave your dog home with a loving pet sitter and prep the sitter about your what you’d like done.  I’m going out on a bay cruise to get an up-close look at the fireworks being launched form the barges there. I’ll be posting photos!

    If your dog has not been properly desensitized to fireworks, there are ways to do that. However, it’s always a challenge and the July 4th celebrations are such a short and infrequent occurrence that lots of Management, Security and Noise Blocking may just be easier on you both.

    There’s a lot you can do to make this wonderful holiday fun for you, and to make it “hum drum”, or even a happy time for your dog…which is precisely what we want!
    Get the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behavior Manual for teaching classes, private behavior consultations and pet parents. 

    Linda Michaels, M.A., Psychology, author, behavior consultant and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: LindaMichaelsPositively@gmail.com for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us atDogPsychologistOnCall.com  Originally published RanchCoastNews. All rights reserved.


  • 01 Feb 2018 10:20 PM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

    If I ask you to work the math problem: 85 + 15, you can surely answer 100 with just a little bit of thought.  If I ask you the same while you careen down the first hill of the Mamba at Worlds of Fun, you might have a harder time working out that math.  When the brain is distracted with lots of stimuli, like the sensation of dropping 70 mph in a train on a track, it can’t function as well as if you were sitting in a classroom.

    Training a dog can often be like trying to teach someone math on a roller-coaster.  To achieve optimum results, it is best to start teaching your dog his new skills in a classroom fit for a dog.  This is a place where your dog is accustomed to spending time. For most, this is the kitchen; it has readily accessible rewards and is many times the place a family spends a lot of time. 

    Learning skills in this low-distraction place gives your dog a chance to focus on the lesson being taught.  It is a much harder task to understand our training intentions when your dog is distracted by his environment.  When a dog’s attention is divided between your lesson and, for example, the children running through the kitchen, the excitement of the activity probably wins. 

    Even more difficult for a dog is trying to learn something new when he is not only distracted by things happening around him, but also stressed by these things.  Many things will stress a dog.  There might be something that is causing fear (some dogs don’t like visitors arriving to their house, loud garbage trucks picking up the trash, men in baseball hats and beards, etc., etc.) or your dog might be feeling stress because of how you are trying to teach your lesson (punishment for wrong choices can be very stressful).  Keeping your training fun for you and your dog will actually increase the quality of learning and your dog will be quicker to understand and remember his training. 

    So start in a classroom, and over time, sprinkle distractions into your training sessions.  Beware the assumption that your dog can respond to your cues in all levels of distractions.  If you find your dog not responding to the cue, give him a little extra help using a treat to lure him into position, and realize you might need to practice a bit more in a less distracting area. 

    Before you know it, when life gets as crazy as a roller-coaster, your dog will understand and respond to what you are asking him to do.  Enjoy the ride!

    Author:  Melissa Laub, CPDT-KA



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