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Showing posts with label dog training. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dog training. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Are the Barbara Woodhouse Days Back

Dog training is big business and lucrative.

Photo: Pixabay

Recently I watched an exasperated woman screaming at her cowering misbehaved dog and violently pulling its head back whenever it got more than a foot in front of her, almost lifting the large dog off the ground. After half a dozen such actions I decided to admonish her, (not always a good plan), but she turned her frustration and anger on me saying she was only doing what her dog behaviourist had advised her to do, and suggested I should have a word with him. I replied that I would be glad to do so, but I was sure he had not told her to be so violent. My wife gave her the parting comment that the days of Barbara Woodhouse were long over, but are they?
For those too young to remember Barbara Woodhouse, she was a highly celebrated and regarded dog trainer across the world in the 1970’s and 1980’s with TV programmes, books and documentaries about what many looked upon as domineering, heavy handed and cruel methods.

Controversy over Jeff Gellman

History often repeats itself and recently there has been controversy about American dog trainer Jeff Gellman who allegedly hits dogs with a rolled up towel and uses prong collars and remote control shock collars, which are in common use in North America and are readily available on the internet in the U.K. He has become a YouTube celebrity and owners queue up willing to pay large sums for a session with him. Dog training is big business and very lucrative but as always totally unregulated.
But his methods highlight the great division that still exists after decades of research and debate regarding the best and most humane way of training a dog to fit in with our modern lifestyles. Every self-proclaimed dog behaviourist and trainer has their own ideas or copy the method of the day. But then everybody likes to think they are a dog expert.

The argument over negative and positive reinforcement.

The main division between the “experts” is whether “aversive” or “negative reinforcement” training i.e. using a bit of brute force like Mr Gellman and Barbara Woodhouse is cruel and counter productive and causes stress compared with “positive reinforcement” where dogs are bribed with treats and praised to toe the line.
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour indicated that 65% of dogs trained with “aversive” or “negative reinforcement” methods i.e. using punishment showed signs of stress such as mouth licking, shaking and whining compared with only 8% of those trained by “positive” or reward and praise methods. Whether this is scientifically sound or not, common sense dictates that hitting, yanking and electrocuting dogs is probably not the most humane course of action.

Too Many Experts

The new science of animal behaviour means we now live in a world of dog behaviourists, clinical animal behaviourists, psychiatrists, counsellors and a variety of trainers with diplomas and degrees just to make dogs compliant and contented with our modern lifestyles. But still we argue, debate and write scientific papers but still cannot come up with a consensus.
Realistically the sheer act of training a dog to make it comply with our will and our selfish demands is an act of dominance whatever method used. For many owners, like the exasperated lady, any method that solves the problem is OK with them, cruel or not.
But ironically it is us who have inflicted our mental health and behavioural problems onto them through our lack of understanding of their needs. They have to be under our control at all times and because of our hectic lives we have no option but to leave them home alone, fail to walk them as we should and generally do not give them the attention they desire. We have confused them to the point where they do not understand their role in our lives.
I do wonder if we read too much into dog training. I have always been willing to put up with the odd foibles a dog of mine might have and find ways of circumventing any problems that might arise because of them, rather than destroying their will and individual character, but this method doesn’t have all the answers either. Perhaps we should give more thought to acquiring a dog in the first place if we are unable to cater for all their needs and desires rather than always trying to transform them to our requirements.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Don't Jog The Dog

Just because many dogs can run fast it doesn’t necessarily mean they enjoy running long distances

I remember the days when enjoying the company of your dog involved taking it for a walk, allowing it to sniff wherever and whenever it wanted and for whatever time, meet other canine friends, running the odd 5o metres with it, throwing a ball, conversing and allowing it to be …. well a dog. But such interaction doesn't seem to fit in with our hectic modern lifestyles anymore and we appear to be selfishly insisting they participate in our various leisure pursuits rather than considering their desires and needs.

Just because many dogs can run fast it doesn’t necessarily mean they enjoy running long distances at a set pace, following some form of personal training regime or extreme sport we have devised for them and perhaps conceitedly believe they may enjoy. Dogs are well-known for putting up with anything we throw at them in order to please their human carers. There is a fine line between running with your dog for enjoyment and running them into the ground. Given the choice most dogs might prefer a walk and a bit of boisterous play.
There are plenty of blogs expounding the virtues of enjoying jogging or running with your dog. They give helpful tips on special equipment that makes the task easier, the health hazards your dog might suffer, training methods and the best breed to choose, but rarely query the necessity in the first place. It must be questionable surely to choose a breed of dog on the basis of whether it is a suitable running partner. And if health hazards are potentially involved, should we be putting a dog at risk just because we haven’t the time or patience to take it for a walk or sadly cannot find a human running buddy.

Keep up - those are the rules

“I release the hound and let him roam off leash. I continue on my run and let Rodney sprint off, sniff, and do his thing. But he has to catch up to me by the time we get back to the path. Those are our rules. He revels in the burst of freedom, but he yields and returns to me at the end again. He comes close so I can clip him back onto the leash without stopping”. gearjunkie-Running with your dog
As in most things some people can take it too far, literally too far in this case, often 20 miles or more and invent and participate in trendy and extreme and totally unnecessary canine buddy sports such as marathons, canicrosscanibike and caniscoot. Others do not heed any advice and just take their poor dog off without any preparation regardless of breed or health considerations.
Dogs are unfairly given special training to ensure they keep pace, maintain a steady rhythm, drink from a bottle on the move, refrain from stopping to sniff, defecate or pee and keep to the middle of wide paths away from foliage that may distract them. This is because it is an inconvenience to clear up after the dog or carry a poo bag.
“Running with a bag of dog poop is a bad time. I plan my running route so that Rodney can go near where there is a public garbage can. If you want to maximise your run, this is a crucial thing. Build this strategy into your running routes so you’re not stuck carrying a stinky bag for more than a few hundred feet".

Veterinary profession advice

Veterinary professions around the world seem to sit on the fence in regard to any welfare issues involved in running dogs, neither condemning or promoting it. Many veterinarians consider 8 months to 18 months as the best time to start a dog running and of course an expensive full health examination to make sure it is capable. Dogs with arthritis, heart and respiratory disease and breeds with snub noses are thankfully ruled out but owners are warned about injuries, damage to paws on hot tarmac or by salt in cold weather. No consideration is given to possible mental health implications in regard to restricting them from enjoying their natural behaviours.
The pet trade, as always, is not one to miss out on a new trend that has potential profits by supporting and provides dog running bootees, special running leads for one or more dogs, drinking canteens, sweat bands and who knows what. None of which would be necessary if we didn’t insist on having a canine running buddy instead of a human one
One of the most infuriating things for some dog lovers is to see a person jogging with their dog, headphones on or looking down at their Fitbit or phone without checking on their dog at all. They are often oblivious that their dog may be in discomfort or needing a water break. Dogs will naturally slow down or stop just like us humans when they get tired, but for some runners this is not allowed. Many will soldier on because they want to please and are eager to remain at our sides or preferably in front which only makes them strive even more.
I am all for spending as much time as possible with your dog, but for me the increasing trend to utilise dogs in extreme sports and as part of personal training is a step to far. It is an unnecessary, unnatural and arguably harmful pastime which perhaps should be discouraged. It is strange that in this era where we trying to get away from the old adage that dogs are purely property that we can do with what we want, we appear to be doing exactly that.