Sunday, April 30, 2017

Old Techniques Meet New Technology

Watching this is a reminder of how much better the best dog trainers are today than they were 25 years ago.

This is Vicki Hearne, who was a very good writer and dog trainer. Here she is in 1991 trying to rehabilitate Bandit, a heavy-boned Pit Bull that was slated to be killed for biting people.

Vicki Hearne was at the top of the heap in 1991, and criticism is cheap. That said, I would observe two things: 1) Vicki barely has control of the dog because the dog is about as powerful as she is and she just has a slip chain collar on the dog, and not a prong collar, and; 2) The dog has been brought too close to the cows too soon.

If this dog had been put on a prong collar, and things moved a bit slower, there would be less drama. But perhaps drama was what this film producer required? That could be it, as the push from TV and film crews did not start yesterday, did it?

I post this clip, not to criticize what it being done here, but to note that when folks are asked what to do to stop a specific behavior, they seem to jog backwards very fast. Suddenly it's all very complicated and they have to know "why" the behavior is being done. But guess what? Most of the time it doesn't matter why the behavior was being done. Bandit has some prey drive. Maybe he's just curious about those cows, but when he approaches and they run, the code will explode. So how do we get Bandit to be less curious about cows? How do we get him to not chase cows and look at cows as being about as interesting as a rock or a fence?

And what if it isn't a cow, but a dog? What would you do then? How would you get a leash-reactive dog to chill out and become phlegmatic? Might it be the same thing for dogs as for cows?

How about a squirrel?  A chicken?

Now, to be fair, none of this was as easy 25 years ago as it is today.

Twenty five years ago, the main tool was a long leash, and so the timing of a corrections tended to be poor even if you were half-decent at long-leash handling.  So while Vicki could have done much better with a prong collar on this short leash, 25 years ago she would have been stuck with either a long leash on a slip collar, or a thrown object such as a chain, rope, or bumper, or an old-fashioned "buster" e-collar with perhaps 7 levels which would have been quite a nit hotter than the low-stimulation "tap" collars we use today.

Having said that it would have take longer 25 years ago, the basics would have been about the same: you cannot be shy about correcting bad behavior, and you reward calmness and good behavior, and that too is done with good timing. You do not need to "understand" why the dog chases the cow, or hates the other dog, or barks at squirrels. You just have to send a strong NO signal, and reward calmness (and not necessarily with food).

If the dog looks at the cow -- correction. When the dog fully relaxes: a bit of kibble or a gentle scratch behind the ear.

Repeat, repeat, and repeat again as you move closer and closer to the problem. At first the dog will be on a long leash tied to a firm post or stake, but that will not be needed at some point.  You can train a dog not to chase cows, or sheep, or chickens.  But can it be done with treats alone? Maybe not in a high drive dog.

Which reminds me of the late Greg D. He trained his Patterdale terriers to leave chickens alone by putting  them in, at a pretty early age, with an Asil fighing chicken. The bird only had natural spurs, but it was enough, and  afterwards the dog never ordered chicken off the menu again.  Another friend did much the same thing with a tough old ewe, and the adult border terrier was well broken to sheep after that.

Bottom line: Get on with it.  If you have a problem with a self-reinforcing behavior that has to stop, name it and identify it, and move to find an aversive or punishment that is well-timed enough, and disliked enough, that it stops the behavior.

Trump Plumps Shovels

Donald Trump is visiting the Ames shovel factory in Pennsylvania.

I wonder if he'll note how many of those Ames shovels are now made in China. Here's the story of the Ames shovel factory and the Ames tool company as told on this blog some years ago.

Barney and Old Stuff

Barney was my dog in college -- a rescue terrier from the street, and one of the many dogs that I have owned that was smarter than me. 

Back when I was starving and living off of a sack of raw rye stashed in the corner of the micro-bio department (yes, for a month I was that poor), this dog was making out like a bandit. 

I once ran into the lady who ran the grill in the Student Union.

"Is that your dog?" she asked me. 

I avered that it was, and to prove it I ordered Barney into a 'down stay.' 

"I love your dog," she said, patting him on the head.  "I cook him a steak every night while you're upstairs working."

The puppy in this picture is a Welsh terrier, the first "Cambrian Right Stuff" owned by may parents. She died of old age and was replaced with another Cambrian Right Stuff, who was replaced by Pearl, one of my retired Jack Russells, who was replaced by Darwin, a rescue Jack Russell.

We measure life in dogs... or at least we do in our family.  We have never not had terriers.

Birds of Pray

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The "P Word" Some Dog Trainers Have Forgotten

Training is going on all around us all the time.

So too is bad behavior.

Most of the time, however, bad behavior is put in check, not by rewards but by aversive consequences.

These two men will stop fighting pretty quickly once the police come, and they will not be quick to fight again after the police haul them to the station, book them, and they have to explain to their spouse, children, and boss why they have to go to court, pay a fine, and spend the weekend in jail.

No policeman ever said:  "We have to know why they are fighting in order to change their behavior" 

No policeman ever said: "It will take a long time to teach them not to fight."

Police and the criminal justice systems know something; Fighting is a self-rewarding behavior.  

Sometimes it feels good to get the adrenaline up and pop someone in the nose.

And yet, it doesn't happen too often in our daily lives because time and experience has shown us that staying calm and walking away results in a better long-term outcome almost every time.

When did we learn that?  Was it second grade when we were pulled down to the principals office and our parents were mortified because we were suspended for a day?

That didn't take? Then the penalties got higher until they did. How much do you want to lose? Your allowance? The car? Your freedom? Your job? Your future?

Our entire legal system swings on penalties to stop self-rewarding behavior, whether they are penalties for simple assault or robbery, sexual assault or embezzlement.

Why is our legal system focused on penalties?

Because they work.

Rewards are great for encouraging people to show up early, study hard, and help paint the gym, but none of those behaviors are internally self-rewarding, which is why they have to be externally self-rewarding.

How do you stop internally self-rewarding behavior, and how do you stop it pretty damn quick?

Punishment.  The "P" word.

And does punishment work?  What if it physically hurts these two men?  What if it psychology damages them or their community?  Is there a better way?

Those last three questions are good ones to ask, but they are subordinate to the FIRST question: Does it work?

Did having the police show up, book these guys, and send them to court and jail (while taking a deep dive into their wallets) discourage them from rushing out to fight again?

Yep. That works.  Significant memorable consequences are remembered and shape future behavior.

That's why punishment is the core response used to stop self-rewarding anti-social behaviors all over the world.

But that's not how the modern dog trainer does it, is it?

They suggest we try to distract these two men with something shiny or fun.  Perhaps a girl, or a martini, or a five dollar bill.

They suggest we exercise these two men more so they are too tired to fight.

They suggest letting them fight and as soon as one slows down and is not swinging quite as hard as the other one, that we jump in and say "what a good boy" and toss them an Oreo cookie to encourage more of that kind of behavior.

They suggest turning our back on them and just ignore the fighting.

They suggest having one work the night shift, and the other the day shift, so they never run into each other.

They suggest that we try to figure out why they are fighting.  Maybe they need to be socialized more? Maybe it's a medical thing?  Maybe they're bored or its a dominance thing? Have they both been neutered? Is it smell?  Are they resource guarding?  Is a woman in heat nearby?

But you know what they never quite get around to suggesting?  Punishment.

And you know what they never quite get around to asking?  Did the punishment work?

Ask the trick trainer how to stop a dog barking at every squirrel it sees through a window, and it's either "pull the blinds" or "teach a down stay," or my absolute favorite:  "teach the dog to bark on cue and then never give the cue."

Putting a bark collar on the dog is not suggested. That's too easy.  Where's the 50-hours in training at $20 an hour in that?

But does it work?

Like new money.  

Friday, April 28, 2017

Nose Evolution to Ponder


How Do You Stop a Single Behavior Now?

Jeff Gellman is one of the nicest guys in the world
and a terrific dog trainer who not only goes around the country training dog trainers and owners, but is constantly learning and passing it on. What he does is truly heroic work, and a benefit to dog owners, trainers, and shelter dogs.

Another dog trainer, who I personally do not know, but who I have been following on his Facebook page, videos, and on his web site, is Gary Wilkes, who first brought clicker training for dogs to the world, and who is a massive supporter of rewards-based training, but who is also quite adamant that most of the serious problems people have with dogs is about self-rewarding behaviors that need to be stopped, and preferably sooner rather than later.

Jeff recently interviewed Gary for one of his Periscope presentations, and watching and listening to this interview is highly recommended.  Click on the link.  Guaranteed goodness.

The topic: How do you stop a single behavior now?

The question is a simple one, and yet if you talk to people with "dog problems," the answers you get back are astounding.

"Pookie runs to the window every 5 minutes to bark at the squirrels in the yard."  

Right. And what do you do about it? Ask that question, and you get a blank look back.

You mean I am supposed to DO something??

Yes.  Let's start there.  And for the rest, see this link.

A word of warning, however:  don't even think about arguing with Gary Wilkes or going off topic. He won't have it, and if you think I run a tight ship in that regard, Gary runs an even tighter one. Zombies, time wasters and anonymous cowards should take their nonsense elsewhere.

Coffee and Provocation

Russian Mass Murder of Reindeer
In Russia, poachers have killed over 20,000 reindeer only to cut out their tongues out and leave miles of rotting carcasses. The reason? The Chinese value reindeer tongue, and so capitalism and free market and open borders has 20,000 more victims.  A special thanks and a tip of the hat to the weird belief systems of the Chinese, which are killing tiger, elephants, and millions of other creatures all over the world (including dogs).

Corporate Mass Murder of Humans
In the 1960s, the sugar industry paid three Harvard scientists $50,000 to say that heart disease was most likely caused by saturated fat. After their report was published in JAMA, diets concentrating on low fat gained the endorsement of many health authorities, and obesity in the U.S. skyrocketed.

Let the Stoning and Beheadings Begin!
Saudi Arabia and Iran are leading members of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women which is “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” Saudi Arabia also has the top spot on the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Free Food!
"Falling Fruit is a massive, collaborative map of the urban harvest. By uniting the efforts of foragers, freegans, and foresters everywhere, the map points to over a half million food sources around the world." On first inspection, it mostly looks like it identifies tree and shrubs that could be a food source, such as a sugar maples and spice bushes.

Small Dogs Pee More Often
Small dogs pee more, and male small dogs tend to mark the most. Science confirms!

Malaria Vaccine in the Works
A malaria vaccine could be available as soon as 2018. The vaccine must be administered a total of four times to be effective, once a month for three months then another dose 18 months later. Without the critical fourth dose, the benefits of the vaccine fall short. They are also working on changing the DNA of mosquitoes so they can no longer carry Malaria.

Great Communicators of the 20th Century
British spies used semen as invisible ink during WWI. The method was invented by Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming.

A Fungus Among Us
There is an extremely rare mushroom that is only found in two specific locations: Texas and Japan, 6,800 miles apart. The mushrooms grow on different medium and in different conditions in the two locations.

Go to a Concert
100 percent of Jack Johnson’s touring revenue goes to non-profit groups around the world. Since 2001, he has donated more than $25 million to charity.

They Used to Give Coffee to Babies
That and other good ideas are in the video, below.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

He Listens to Squawk Box

Now he listens to Squawk Box on CNBC, but he really misses Bill O'Reilly.

In the Land of the Blind the One-Eyed Dog is King

A repost from October 2011

While at coffee today, I read an article on Slate penned by Gene Lyons.

The article was about a fellow who bought a 5-year old German shepherd protection dog, sight unseen, for $7,500, and then tried to return it.

It's a good read; check it out.

Buried in the article was this little line:

Almost as puzzling as dog haters are people who keep pets but have no earthly idea how the animals think and feel.

Cesar Milan has made a handsome living off dog owners whose cluelessness makes “The Dog Whisperer” one of the funniest things on TV.

The word clueless leaped out at me, as some years ago David Dunning used this word to describe why people so often think weird things, a topic I am flipping around in my brain these days.

Recalling Dunning's diagram, I drew a slightly modified version on a napkin, with an added circle to show what people might actually know about dogs, and a second circle to encompass ignorance, which I think is quite different from cluelessness.

The smallest circle, in yellow, is denial. This is the stuff about dogs that is too painful for us to confront for whatever reason. Sometimes this is about dogs in general or a breed in particular, but often as not it is about the owner and his or her own need to work out his or her own psychological issues through a canine surrogate.

The next largest circle, in white, is actual knowledge about dogs. Here we have the sum total of what an owner may have read about dogs, been told about dogs, or actually experienced or seen with their own eyes with their own dog. This is a surprisingly small circle with most people, and it is probably way over-represented in this drawing.

The next largest circle, the one in orange, is self-deception or what Dunning describes as "rationalization, wishful thinking, defensive processing, self-delusion, and motivated reasoning." This is the circle that encompasses all the falsities we tenaciously hang on to, or refuse to reexamine because re-examining them is not very convenient. How many people position their dog food or dog training choices as the only ones that work, and never mind the evidence to the contrary? How many people blame the dog for their failure to be clear and consistent? How many people are breed or kennel blind? How many think they exercise their dog when they walk it around the block? How many people think they know all about dogs even though they have never read a book or bothered to teach a dog a simple trick?

The next ring is ignorance. These are the things we know we do not know. We may not know how to teach a dog how to climb a ladder, for example, or how to close a barbed wire flesh wound, but we know it can be done and it can be learned.

Finally, on the very outside, and encircling all in purple, we have cluelessness. This is the stuff that we do not know that we do not know. This is the eternal mystery of dogs. Humans do not smell the world as dogs do, nor do we see the world in the same visual spectrum, nor do we see the world from the same angle. We do not hear what a dog hears, and we do not have the same internal drives or all of the same motivations. When a dog throws a sign, we generally do not know how read it or even that it is being given, much less how to send it back (or that we should) with a wag of our tail or a slight movement of our ears, or a curve in our gait.

We have no idea. 

In the world of the dog, we humans seem to bump around blind, deaf, loud, incoherent, manic and stupid.

Look at what is in white versus the sum of what is colored, and remember that knowledge is probably over-represented here!

Now is there really any wonder why so many people think strange things about dogs?

Self-deception alone has made us blind to the large numbers of deformed dogs paraded around Kennel Club rings. Self-deception is what enables us to call a place a "shelter" when 75 percent of the dogs admitted are summarily killed.

Denial is what enables English Bull Dog owners to claim their dogs are fit for function and Pit Bull owners to tell each other that their dogs are exactly the same as all the others.

And as for knowledge, it is not that easy to get, is it?

The all-breed books are packed with invented stories from dog dealers, while so many of the dog training books are either autobiographies or tips on how to train a dog to do a trick. Veterinarians seem to be more interested in bill padding than setting the world straight on how to breed healthier dogs. And how much of what we read or are told is nonsense copied from one autodidact to another?

And, of course, book learning will only take you part way. You cannot really know dogs until you have spent a lot of time in action with them and observing them, and not just one dog, but many.

If you truly want to know about dogs, you have to take them out into the elements for which they were created. And even then, there will be mysteries.

While you may be able to shrink the denial circle, and expand the knowledge circle, there will always be the vast land of Clueless lying just over the horizon.

Throwing Dirt with a Keyboard

The Internet is a bit like the farms; an always changing landscape where new things spring up and old things fall down.

Back in 2006, when I first wrote about Gresham's Law and the Internet  and the parade of Whores, Trolls, Cowards, Parasites, and King Babies to be found online, Facebook and Twitter did not even exist!

I am happy to say that since posting my No Zombies, Time Wasters and Anonymous Cowards page, the crazy train has slowed down. Though I get 3,000-4,000 viewers a day, I only have to delete spam and idiocy about once a week, which is not too heavy a lift.

That said, if I had any one piece of advice for anyone writing anything in the world of dogs, it would be this: Make it about the dogs. Make it about principles and not personalities.


Form Follows Function? On What Planet?

Red fox taxidermy mannequins.   Reposted from 2013.

At the side of every show ring, there is always some well-dressed individual talking about "the standard" and how "form follows function."

It all sounds good, of course -- wonderful rhetorical chestnuts -- but it's pretty much nonsense.

I mean think about it.

A working dachshund is a great little animal in the field and does the same work as a terrier, but it does not LOOK like a terrier, does it?  It does not have the same form!

By the same token, a Patterdale Terrier does not look too much like a Jack Russell, which does not look too much like a Border Terrier. Smooth coats and rough do equally well in the field, as do coats of black or white, red or brown, or any combination in between. A folded ear is the same as a prick ear, a black nose the same as a liver-colored nose. Every working earthdog breed has a different head shape, and many have different tails as well. A perfect scissors bite is not necessary for work.

So when people say "form follows function," what the hell are they talking about?

Let us hope they are not talking about movement. Movement is one of those words show people toss around with a wink and a nod as if they have the secret knowledge of a wine connoisseur.

It is pure bunk.

"Movement" may be important to a greyhound, a pulling dog, or even a border collie, but it is not much of a concern as it relates to a pet dog, or even working terrier. So long as a dog can walk well, and has decent muscle mass, a working terrier does not not stylized movement.  Hocks in or out hardly matters a whit.

Which is not to say that movement is irrelevant to terrier work. In fact, it is critical.

But the important movement is .... wait for it .... an owner that will move off the couch, and move out of the car, and move into a hedgerow, and move a lot of dirt while digging down to a dog that is in full voice with rising adrenaline.

That's the only important part of movement that matters.

After you have done that a few dozen times, you will know a little more about movement, and terriers in particular.

We hear a great deal of nodding nonsense from folks who talk a good game about "protecting" their breed.

But protect it from what? And by what right or qualification do these people think they are particularly well chosen to protect the bred? And what do they intend to protect it with?

In almost every case they are not people who dig, and they seek to "protect" the terrier with nothing but a scrap of paper proclaiming their show dog is "up to the standard."

And who do these people hope to protect the breed from?

Why, show ring breeders, of course!

It is all laughable nonsense.  And it becomes nonsense on stilts when people begin to talk about "the standard" as if it were a sacred text delivered to Moses on the Mount.

In fact, is there anything standard about "the standard?"

I defy you to find a single canine standard that is more than 20 years old that has not been changed at least once.

And then there is the little matter that the standard is not the same from one country to another, or one registry to another.

So what is so "standard" about the standard?

Ironically, what is NOT part of any standard in the UK or the US, is a requirement that the dog actually be a proven worker in the field. That, apparently is not "the standard." That function is not required for the rosette. A black nose, is a "Yes," but working a dozen fox, raccoon, badger, or groundhog in the field, is a "No."

The one issue of any importance in "the standard" as it relates to "form follows function," is chest size. Yet on this point, "the standard" is awfully vague, isn't it?

We are told a chest span is a man's hands. Yes, but whose hands?

We do not measure a house in cubits, so why are we measuring dogs in "hand spans"? Who but the puppy peddler profits by keeping chest measurements this vague?

The Germans are not so coy and facile about chest size. A standard working dachshund (a "Teckel" in German) has a chest of just under 14 inches. The measurement is precise -- 35 cm -- and it reflects the chest size of the average red fox. The Germans are not ones to shave dice when it comes to working dogs!

It is interesting that the same 14" chest size is named not only by fox biologists, but also by such terriermen as Barry Jones, Ken James, and Eddie Chapman. In fact, if any one thing separates the digger from the rosette chaser, it's clarity on chest size.

The rosette chaser is always a bit vague about what a "span" actually means. A digger knows it means his fingers better well overlap, and if he is working fox in a natural fox-dug earth, it is best if his fingers overlap by more than one joint!

And so we come back to the real meaning of "form follows function" as used by academics in the dog world.

For these folks the "form" being refered to seems to be a paper form showing the pedigree of the animal being displayed. And "the function" is either the rosette from a show judge, or the cash to be gotten from a prospective dog-buyer.

Form follows function, indeed!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tough as Nails In an Era When You Had to Be

Famous Irish explorer Tom Crean and sled dog pups Roger, Nell, Toby, and Nelson during the Endurance expedition of 1991 to Antarctica.

 Crean was about as tough as they come, and was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica, including the ill-fated Shackleton expedition in which the Endurance was trapped in sea-ice and sank leaving the crew to rescue themselves with an epic open-boat journey to Elephant and then South Georgia island.

The High Cost of Voter Supression

Coffee and Provocation

I'm With the Shrimp, Not the Band
A team of scientists from universities in the UK, the US, and Brazil have named a new species of pistol shrimp after the band, Pink Floyd, because of its bright-pink big claw, and its ability to shoot sound shockwaves at its foes.

Will Tesla Crash?
Tesla has now surpassed the value of General Motors, making it among the most valuable car maker in the US, despite the fact that most people have never even seen a Tesla on the road.  When price to earnings ratios are this far out of whack, worry.

Real Blue Bloods 
Blue horseshoe crab blood sells for up to $14,000 per quart. The blood is used to detect harmful bacteria.

Ban ALL the Dogs?
Eugene, Oregon is starting a 6-month ban on all dogs downtown to see if it makes a difference in dog bites. In other news, Oregon is going to cut down all its trees to reduce forest fires, and kill all its politicians in order to reduce graft.

A Bigger Denominator Makes a Smaller Fraction
There are more slaves in the world right now than ever before in recorded history. How can that be possible? Simple: far more people,  The numerator may be a wee bit bigger, but the denominator is 7 times larger.

Shake and Bake Baby
Scientists aim to grow premature humans in a plastic bag, aka a "Biobag artificial uterus," after successful tests on baby sheep.

For $850 You Can Get the Suit
It's $425 for artificially mud-stained jeans, and another $425 for the jean jacket which will make you look like your head has been up an elephant's ass.  Available at Nordstrom's, of course -- the place where idiots shop.  You can also get ones with paint on them, so you can look like a complete home repair incompetent.

My coffee buddy this morning.

"That's How They Get You"

I remember when a pound of flesh was a pound of flesh.

Now it's the same price, but only 8 ounces.

The Dog, the Shepherd, and the Wolf

Robert M. Pirsig died yesterday.
Or at least, that's when I heard about it.
We were very close.
Once, when he lived in Madison, Wisconsin,
I looked up his home address.
This was before there was an internet.
I got a map,
and walked to his house.
This was before there was GPS
and turn-by-turn directions.
I stopped in front of his house
and looked up at it.
You could not see a lot.
And that was it.
We were very close I tell you,
Maybe 200 feet.
That is,
if he was actually home.

Sure The Dog Talks, But He Lies

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Terrier Training That Works in the Field

I've gotten a few inquiries about my post that referenced Karen Pryor.

Does she actually use an Invisible Fence on her own dogs?

She does.  As she notes in Don't Shoot the Dog:

"The same principle is at work in the Invisible Fence systems for keeping a dog on your property. A radio wire is strung around the area in which you want to confine the dog. The dog wears a collar with a receiver in it. If the dog gets too near the line, the collar shocks it. However, a few feet before that point, the collar gives a warning buzz. The warning buzzer is a discriminative stimulus for "Don't go any further." If the setup is properly installed, a trained dog can be effectively confined and will never receive an actual shock. I used such a fence when my terrier and I lived in a house in the woods. An actual fence would have been a perpetual invitation to try to dig under it or escape through an open gate; the conditioned warning signal and the Invisible Fence were far more secure."

And what about my note that she could not train her border terrier not to chase squirrels?  That can be found on her own web site:

"Going from that collie to terriers in the woods is just a shaping staircase; if you want to do it, it can be done, but it involves a lot of steps. For me, that's too much like work. My practical solution is a mix of training and management. The backyard is fenced, and there the dogs can bark and chase squirrels all they want. Outside the front door, on the sidewalk, we enjoy a shaped behavior of stalking squirrels, with an occasional brief 'chase' reinforcer. In the woods, my poodle, whose lust for squirrels is mitigated by his general timidity, can be off-leash, because he was quite easily shaped to come when called, even from squirrels. My 17-year-old border terrier, however, stays on-leash in the woods. From her standpoint, it's a lot better than no woods at all."

Bottom line: Reliance on clicker training alone is a reliance on a system that too often fails to meet real-world needs in the real world.

Have you noticed that Skinner, the Brelands, and Karen Pryor mostly focus on training animals in cages, tanks, and boxes?

This is where they learned animal training -- in an environment without distractions, where nothing comes in or out.

Is that the real world? A box?  A fish tank?  A living room?  Of course not.

And did you notice that their fame was not gained training dogs?

Why is that?

Here's a hint: They all tried to train dogs outside of cages, boxes, tanks, and closed rooms.  That's where the money is.  But guess what?  They were not very good at it.

One reason they were not good at it, is that their core experience was training non-predators (chickens and pigeons, pigs and raccoons), or animals with relatively weak prey drives.  When given line-bred predators like a working terrier or a Malinois, rewards-only theory fell apart pretty quickly. Sure, you could get a very hungry animal to perform behaviors with food. Always. But could you get them to reliably perform behaviors in an open forest and field situation when they were not very hungry, and any and every kind of distraction could pop up at every turn?

And what about stopping self-rewarding behaviors? Could you get a terrier to not chase a squirrel?

Karen Pryor couldn't, and she had 17 years to try.

Please do not misunderstand the point being made here. Food reward and marker (clicker) training is core stuff.  Rewards-based marker or clicker training is a big part of getting a dog to understand what he is supposed to do -- exactly what you are asking at that moment.  But so too is the use of aversive markers to show what you don't want to be done, at that moment, whether that is a leash pop (hard to do from 12 feet), or a thrown chain or heavy rope (hard to do from 30 feet), which is why a modern e-collar is such a game changer (a panoply of reliable and instant signals sent from as far as a mile away).

For those who wonder what the difference is between an Invisible Fence, a modern e-collar, and an old-fashioned "buster" caller, see this post: 10 Quick Notes for the E-Collar Curious.

The Disciplined Disciple

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Good Manual on E Collar Training

Larry Krohn
has written a short (75-page) manual on low-stimulation e-collar training.

This is the manual that should come with every modern e-collar. This is solid basic stuff about how to integrate an e-collar into dog training in order to get a solid recall, a solid down-stay, and a tight heel. Larry deals with using e-collars with reactive dogs, phobic dogs, and aggressive dogs.

Should you integrate an e-collar into your dog training?


Having said that, I recognizing that a lot of folks are going to wonder why they should shell out money for a good e-collar collar, what collar to get, and how the modern $200 e-collars are different from the older cheaper rigs and Invisible Fences.

Good questions!

A quick answer can be found on this post: 10 Quick Notes for the E-Collar Curious.

The New Media

Terrific Tattoo

Very good art, humorous, original, and a little edgy. Full applause!

Death Before Discomfort?

A repost from July 2012

Tyler Muto gets it right.

There is a silent killer in the dog training world. It is not a virus, not a piece of equipment, not a bacteria.

It is an idea.

It is the idea that all dogs, in all situations, should be trained with nothing other than rewards, and without ever the use of aversives. “Reward what you like and ignore what you don’t” is the mantra that is preached, and all will be well in the world. In the dog training community this philosophy goes by many names, some call it Pure Positive (which is not an accurate description), some call it Progressive Reinforcement, some call it Reward Only, but for the purposes of this article I will refer to it as Aversive Free or AF.

Aversive Free (AF) Training can be defined as training which involves only the R+ and P- quadrants of learning. When I refer to Aversive Free (AF) Trainers in this article, I am not referring to those who simply choose this approach for themselves, but I am referring to those who vehemently oppose the use of aversives for any dog in any situation.

Let me be clear, what I am referring to is not the idea that reward only techniques are good, and work in some cases. What I am referring to is the dogmatic belief that this is the ONLY way to train a dog, or deal with behavior problems. The aversive free philosophy is that any type of consequence other than simply removing the reward, is cruel, inhumane, and barbaric.

Read the whole thing.

As noted, it's not a question of being mean or excessive -- it's a question of simpy drawing a line and sticking to it, and when push comes to shove there may be measured but predictable and immediate consequences that may not include simply ignoring the bad behavior or rewarding some other kind of behavior.

In the real world, not all consequences are positive.

Death from Snake Bite Before Discomfort?

The real world of forest, field and fen presents a lot of serious aversive consequences for the wild animals that live there and the farm animals, humans and pets that visit.

Mother Nature is not a clicker trainer!

In the clip, above, an African Spitting Cobra teaches an adult male lion about the consequences of approaching too closely.

In the clip, below, a Puff Adder gives the same message to a Honey Badger who apparently just survives his ordeal.

Here in the U.S., of course, we have snakes that are every bit as dangerous as the Spitting Cobra or the Puff Adder -- Mojave Rattlesnakes, Western Diamondbacks, and Eastern Diamondbacks.

A dog that gets bit by a rattlesnake has a reasonably high chance of being dead in short order and a very certain chance of being in a lot of distress requiring expensive veterinary intervention.

The one thing that reliably works for dogs that hunt in territory frequented by rattlesnakes is snake-aversion training, and the best snake aversion training is done with an e-collar.

Of course the pure click-and-treat crowd does not really care what works. The most extreme in this crowd have slipped into cult-like babble that is as immune to fact, reason, observation, and experience as anything you will hear from a born-again Christian, Mormon, or Scientologist.

Apparently the message of the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training Behavior (which despite the grand name is simply an unaccredited dog training school with no buildings) is that your dog is better off dead than discomforted by being trained to avoid snakes.

Really? Karen Pryor salutes that? Hard to believe, but that, at least, is the message of Nan Arthur who is an instructor with the Karen Pryor Academy and who, when asked about snake-proofing dogs, had no training advice at all other than to tell The North County Times that no one should ever take their dog off-leash in an area where there might be a rattlesnake -- which, of course, includes most of the United States.

So no bird hunting, eh? No rabbit coursing, no terrier work, no pig hunting.

And never mind that in California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Florida it's not entirely unlikely that you will one day find a rattlesnake in your backyard.

I suppose in those states no one should ever let their dog off of the living room rug!

Ms. Arthur goes on to tell us that e-collars simply do not work.

"There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that shock collars teach anything to dogs."

Right. Apparently Ms. Arthur is as as well informed on these matters as a parakeet. People are paying her for training advice? Each to his own, of course, but as you are driving to a Karen Pryor Academy seminar (loans are available!), you might pay attention to all the cows by the side of the road that are carefully standing behind electric fencing. Those cows seem to have learned quite a lot from electric fencing, even if Ms. Arthur has not!

But, of course, it's not just cows.  My own working terriers (like millions of other dogs) are contained behind a simple Invisible Fence system and never mind the parade of raccoons, fox, deer, possum and squirrels that travel through my yard at night.  Invisible Fence has trained and taught my dogs that they are not to follow, and that training has been every bit as successful as the lessons taught by spitting cobras to adult lions.

But, of course, the observational success of e-collar training does end there, does it?

Scores of thousands of working bird dogs have learned and lived happy and productive lives with e-collar instruction.

Ditto for dogs that work Schutzhund and Ring, search and rescue, and even simple obedience.

All of this is completely new information to Nan Arthur, of course. Blinders on, her essential message to the world is:  Snake death before discomfort!

Ms. Arthur goes on:

We live in snake country. That's just a fact. Horses get bitten, children get bitten, cats get bitten, and nobody's putting shock collars on them.

Right. Good point. Deep thinking going on there.

A horse weighs anywhere from 10 to 100 times the weight of a dog, and kids are warned about snakes, while cats rarely move more than 100 yards from a house.

So, really good points being made there Ms. Arthur. Thanks for sharing. Now what brand of shovel would you recommend I use when I bury my dog?

Death before discomfort? Oh yes, please tell us more!


And these are the dogs that lived!