Archive for the ‘Rose’s Reflections’ Category

Favorite Video Friday – Best Friends   Leave a comment

Oh my, you have to watch this video, it’s just perfect – will put a smile on your face and give you the warm fuzzies!

Although there is the odd moment when the German Shepherd demonstrates her/his inclination to resource guarding, these are mates, having fun.  Just what we want from our dogs.

Favorite Video Friday – Best Friends.

Advertisements

Why Everything You Know about Wolf Packs is Wrong   Leave a comment

Further to my previous posts about wolves and their relevance to dog training, have a look at:

Why Everything you know about wolf packs is wrong

Cycle of Violence   Leave a comment

In future when someone asks me about my job, I’m going to say ‘I help to interrupt the cycle of violence that develops when animals are abused” – or something to that effect – if you can suggest a shorter, catchier phrase, please let me know!

We all know that violence begets violence, in families, in society.

But just recently I’ve been                                    Max and family, Dec 2012                                    reminded that humans using violence against animals can lead to violence against fellow humans.  I’ve been reading Training the Best Dog Ever by the late Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz and she quotes some alarming observations for the USA, and I’m sure the same can be said for other countries: American Humane (the organization that issues the ‘No Animals were Harmed’ disclaimer for movies and TV shows) reports that violent criminals were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have “committed childhood acts of cruelty toward pets” and that abuse against animals occurs in an overwhelming majority of households where there is documented child abuse and neglect.

Sylvia-Stasiewicz makes the point that by using positive reinforcement methods to train our pets, we lay the foundation for peaceful interaction between humans.  Children who see animals abused by adults learn that that is the way we deal with behaviour or situations we don’t like.  Abuse, as we know, is often subtle and not necessarily overtly violent. It can be while a dog is being trained or just the random acts of unspeakable violence seen every day by animal welfare organizations the world over.

Children who learn to treat their pets with respect and consistency absorb a way of interacting that will stand them in good stead as adults.  It’s not a quantum leap to make the conclusion as the author does: “…positive dog training strengthens our families and communities.”

Sometimes when I say I’m a dog trainer, or run a puppy school, friends and new acquaintances smile and imply it’s a ‘sweet’ thing to do, ‘how cute’, and I could let it make me feel that my job is not an important one compared to some.  But knowing the link between animal violence and human violence and that at Rose’s Puppy School we train with positive reinforcement, respect and love and how that feeds into a stable society I’ll stand a little taller and know my job matters!

 

If you need to remember how to smile, watch this!   Leave a comment

I’ve just watched this happy dog show with a broad smile on my face.  No matter what your opinion on dogs doing ‘tricks’ it’s clear these dogs are having a ball.

Key things I noticed:

  • between each little ‘act’ the dogs rush back to the handler for their treat;
  • the handler is full of exuberance and enthusiasm;
  • if the dogs had been maltreated or punished during the training they would not be giving such clear signs of having fun – dogs don’t lie;
  • not one sign of inter dog aggression or jealousy, it’s so satisfying to see a bunch of dogs working together;
  • I didn’t spot a single pedigree in the group.

Don’t underestimate what your dog can learn with the right attitude and patience on your part, plus a little imagination and a whole lot of time!

Dog Show.

So What’s the Fuss?   Leave a comment

Why does it matter if dogs aren’t really wolves in doggie clothing?

There was a subtle shift in my mind set when I began to take this on board a couple of years ago. What we think tends to inform our actions. So if I think my dog is really wolf, and wolves have such a bad rep, then I need to be on top of keeping my ‘wolf’ in check. So even though I love my dogs, I have to be a disciplinarian and strong authority figure. I cannot let my guard slip (especially with large German Shepherds who are way too smart!) and need to sit on any ‘signs’ of rebellion.

But once I understood that the information is flawed (see previous blog “Wolf?”), I did quite a bit of thinking over time about how that would change my relationship with my own dogs and how I would advise owners of the cute little pups who come to Rose’s Puppy School. It was important that my thinking led to responsible advice handed out to trusting humans. The wrong advice could lead to injury and heartbreak further down the line.

So yes, dogs need guidance and leadership from their humans, but they don’t need punishment. Behaviours we find unacceptable can be interrupted and made unsuccessful consistently for a puppy so that that behaviour falls off the possible options the dogs has to pick from in a given situation. Instead we can substitute behaviours that are more acceptable that we reinforce over and over until that option is the dog’s first choice.

I love hearing from owners about how the puppy is learning not to jump because they have made jumping boring by ignoring the bouncing baby and teaching them to sit and greet a hand instead.

A problem owners often come up against is when their otherwise loving pet decides that couches are made for him, and growls because they try and turf him off. He’s not actually telling them that he’s the boss and a higher ranking animal. He’s just saying he likes that spot and isn’t willing to share or move. You’ll need to entice him off the couch and onto his own bed (lots of yummy treats or a delicious stuffed hoof will make that change a much better option) – do NOT punish him for being on the couch or growling – that could rouse his resource guarding instinct and lead to an argument you may not win. For a while restrict access to the couch when you are not there to remind him he has his own bed. Keep reinforcing the correct sleeping spot and cue ‘on your bed’, ‘go settle’.

Jumping and sleeping quarters are just 2 of many areas of possible confusion when bringing up this different species. The more you read and listen and work with your dog, the more you’ll understand and learn about how to adapt her canine instincts to your human expectations.

Posted 20/10/2012 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour, Rose's Reflections

Tagged with

Wolf?   Leave a comment

So what’s the story with dogs and wolves?  We hear here there and everywhere that wolves live in a hierarchical society using strength and aggression to secure a higher place in the pack; that they are led by an alpha male and female that exert their authority by means of dominant displays.  We have also been told that dogs are closely related to wolves and therefore use the same social structure and that if we want to live with a dog we need to understand how to be the alpha somebody or other.

This is the theory that I’ve ‘grown up’ in the dog world hearing and to be honest using, without questioning it.  But one aspect that has always disturbed me with this model is that talking ‘dominance’ gives some humans the idea that they can use physical force to get their dogs to listen, often going too far in their anger with a ‘disobedient’ animal.  Once I learned about positive reinforcement and clicker training I was thrilled to have tools to work with my beloved GSDs without force, and from then on I did all I could to spread the word.  Ever since I started Rose’s Puppy School in 1998 I’ve preached PR as the way to go.

The next ‘aha’ understanding came when I read ‘Dogs’ by Ray Coppinger and attended a seminar he gave in Cape Town.  Here we learned about the differences between dogs and wolves and that the pack theory had been shown to be incorrect in the light of more recent research.  Yeah for DNA!

So point no 1 is that wolves are dogs closest living relatives.  However, point 2, dogs are not descended from wolves – rather modern wolves and dogs share a common ancestry that diverged 10 000+ years ago into 2 separate species.

Point 3: The wolves that were studied in the past were North American Timber wolves (less closely related to dogs than European wolves) in captivity.  Unrelated, in confined spaces, leaderless, competing for food, space, and mating privileges.  This is very different to the wolf in its natural habitat, now shown to live in family groups, usually mom, dad and the kids.  In other words, a family.  Successful families live co-operatively, with parents as leaders but the kids have roles to play too, especially the teenagers who help with the younger cubs.  Observers say that there is little overt aggression in the wolf family groups, that is reserved for intruders.  Not pussy cats no, but also not the dominance driven animal usually portrayed.

So wrong assumptions, wrong wolves, wrong situations have led us up the garden path and only in the last 10 years or so have biologists and scientists come to a better understanding through observation of wild wolves and DNA research.  This is a very simplified version but if you’re interested, check out John Bradshaw’s’ In Defence of Dogs’ and Coppinger’s ‘Dogs’. I’m sure we’ll learn more in the years to come.

I haven’t even begun on the differences between dogs and wolves, but for now, using the wolf as a possible model:  your dog needs you to be his ‘leader’ but not his boss, he needs your authority wielded with love, not aggression or dominance. You’re not the alpha, you’re the parent (if I can use that word without being accused of anthropomorphism).  Science has shown that dogs are not trying to take over your world, they just keep doing what works for them and it’s up to us to mold their behaviour to fit into our world successfully.

Posted 05/10/2012 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour, Rose's Reflections

Tagged with , ,

It’s time to get the word out!   Leave a comment

  • I am not an animal behaviourist so cannot call myself an expert in this field.  I have had years of interacting with dogs as pets, working towards competitions and helping others achieve their goals, coupled with being interested, concerned and enthusiastic.
  • All this exposure to dogs and also to humans who are expert in behaviour or biology has led to a gradual change in my understanding of how dogs relate to each other and to humans.  Being a trainer and vet nurse I’ve had the opportunity to attend seminars, lectures and conferences; meet behaviourists, biologists, vets; read books; observe my own dogs and the 100s of puppies that’ve passed through Rose’s Puppy School.
  • These are a few books that I’ve read that have been influential on this journey of understanding dogs:

Ray Coppinger : Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behaviour and Evolution

John Bradshaw: In Defence of Dogs (apparently now in paperback as “Dog Sense”)

Jean Donaldson: Culture Clash and Dogs are from Neptune

Pat Miller: Power of Positive Dog Training

Karin Pryor: Don’t Shoot the Dog 1985

  • Ray Coppinger’s seminar made me sit and up and really start to grapple with understanding the origin of dogs and how that should change what I do and how I view canine behaviour.
  • I am concerned that the changes in attitude and understanding are not filtering down to owners and breeders.  That’s one reason that I think puppy school can be of great benefit in that we do much more than just give pups an opportunity to interact with others in their species in a controlled environment.  In a well run puppy school there should be lots of sharing of information to owners and opportunity for them to ask questions and begin their own journey of understanding.
  • John Bradshaw said: “Owners and dogs have been at the mercy of poor quality trickled-down information used by traditional, militaristic training.” That is so true and I am determined to be part of the ongoing learning and conversation around understanding dogs that has begun over the last few years.
  • Next blog I’ll write more about these ‘new’ ideas  concerning the history of dogs and how they relate to humans.Wolf?