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  • 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)


    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

HEART has trainers and other pet professionals serving the entire Kansas City metro and surrounding areas.

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