Monday, April 30, 2012

Are Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous?

Are Pit Bulls inherently dangerous?

They are according to the Maryland Court of Appeals
which has voided a long-standing “one free bite” rule in the state regard­ing the rights of dog bite vic­tims to receive com­pen­sa­tion for their injuries.

In a deci­sion, pub­lished April 26TH in Dorothy M. Tracey v. Anthony K. Solesky, the Mary­land Court of Appeals ruled:

We are mod­i­fy­ing the Mary­land com­mon law of lia­bil­ity as it relates to attacks by pit bull and cross-bred pit bull dogs against humans. With the stan­dard we estab­lish today (which is to be applied in this case on remand), when an owner or a land­lord is proven to have knowl­edge of the pres­ence of a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull (as both the owner and land­lord did in this case) or should have had such knowl­edge, a prima facie case is estab­lished. It is not nec­es­sary that the land­lord (or the pit bull’s owner) have actual knowl­edge that the spe­cific pit bull involved is dan­ger­ous. Because of its aggres­sive and vicious nature and its capa­bil­ity to inflict seri­ous and some­times fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inher­ently dangerous.

Under Maryland law Pit Bulls will now come with strict liability, which is to say that under the opinion authored by Judge Dale Catell (42 pages):
Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.

The facts of this case stem from a 2007 pit bull attack in Towson, Maryland that almost killed 10-year-old Dominic Solesky and seriously injured 9-year-old Scotty Mason.

Dominic's parents sued the dog's 27-year-old owner who retrieved the dog but did not tend to the injured boys who were covered in blood, nor did he call emergency 911.

Deaths from dog bites are quite rare (only about 30 a year -- far less than for swimming pools), but serious dog bites are not rare, and the majority of deaths and serious dog bites in this country are committed by Pit Bull-type dogs.

Yes, there is data on this -- look it up.

Does this mean that Pit Bulls should be banned?  The court said No.

Does that mean that Pit Bull ownership should come with strict liability? The court said Yes.

We recognize the problems that exist when breed specific legislation is proposed - which is opposed by pit bull breeders, owners and fanciers. Such opposition has been present for many years. Our opinion in the present case does not ban pit bulls, but puts a greater responsibility for vicious dogs where pit bull advocates have long argued it should be -- with the owners and others who have the power of control over such dogs. Our opinion imposes greater duties by reducing the standards necessary to hold owners and others liable for the attacks of their pit bulls.

Where you stand on the question of Pit Bulls depends, in no small degree, to whether or not you really stand for the dogs.

You see, both questions about banning Pit Bulls and strict liability are framed as if the Pit Bull issue is solely about the rights of dog owners and the rights of dog bite victims.

It's not.

It's also about the nearly one million Pit Bulls
that are killed every year in America's shelters -- over 40 MILLION POUNDS of dead Pit Bulls a year.

These dogs are bred by Pit Bull "lovers" and then sold to other "Pit Bull lovers" who then abandon these dogs to "shelters" where they are put down because no one wants them.

To put a point on it, more Pit Bull dogs are killed every year in America than the total number of dogs registered by the American Kennel Club every year.

This "Pit Bull problem" is not caused by people who hate Pit Bulls.

It is not caused by Dachshund owners or by unsympathetic landlords, or by State Judges, or by frustrated City Council members.

It is not caused by small children who are mauled while playing in city parks.

The Pit Bull problem is caused by Pit Bull owners who will not stop breeding these dogs despite the fact that there are far too many of them in the wrong hands.

The Pit Bull problem is, in short, caused by the toxic combination of over-amped dogs and sub-wattage human beings.

Absent action other than hand wringing by the Pit Bull community -- which has NOT proposed workable solutions on its own -- others have stepped in and will continue to step in with their solutions.

Will those solutions be workable?

One thing is for sure: they will not be less workable.

Denver has simply banned the dog and now has the lowest Pit Bull kill rate in the country.

San Francisco has mandatory spay-neuter and, as a consequence, Pit Bull deaths have plummeted.

Boston has mandatory spay-neuter laws and a muzzle law as well, and, as a consequence, Pit Bull deaths have plummetted

In every single case, legislation proposed and adopted by City Councils and opposed by the Pit Bull community, has resulted in legislation worked to reduce Pit Bull deaths.

Is that a win?

It is if you stand for Pit Bulls

Dogs are Smarter Than You Think

I am not sure why Neil deGrasse Tyson was chosen to narrate this segment on dog intelligence, but he does a fine job.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Your Argument Is Invalid

"Why the Kindle Will Fail" and Other Predictions

I have watched all of "Downton Abbey" on my Kindle Fire, and all but the last three episodes of "Foyle's War" as well as all of "Dr Martin." 

I have read about two dozen books and perused about twice that number. 

I check my emails (and sometimes answer them) on my Kindle, as well as listen to music when at the gym.

I goose through about 125 web sites and blogs a day on my Kindle as well as read the news.

So what's next on my agenda with my Kindle? 

I think today I will read Rick Munarriz's 2007 book Why the Kindle will Fail, which is now FREE for Amazon Prime members.

After that, I might read Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market (2000) written by the noted stock market liar-for-hire James K. Glassman.  I can buy a used copy for 1 cent, but I am not sure it's worth it unless Amazon Prime will chip in with free shipping. 

Not to be outdone by Glassman, other pimps, fools and book hustlers followed suit with Super Boom: Why the Dow Jones Will Hit 38,820 and Dow 40,000: Strategies for Profiting from the Greatest Bull Market in History, to say nothing of Dow 100,000And then, of course, there is Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust - And How You Can Profit from It.   A used copy of this last tract is available for 1 cent, but once again I am not sure it's worth it unless Amazon Prime will toss in free shipping.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Was Moses a Dog Trainer?

From The Wall Street Journal comes this ancient tale of operant conditioning:
Rabbi Robert Wolkoff has a recurrent nightmare. A congregant is lifting a holy Torah scroll high up in the air when it starts to tilt toward the ground. 

In the dream, the rabbi lunges forward to catch the scroll, screaming, "Watch out, watch out." Then he wakes up in a cold sweat.

Jewish congregations are struggling with the heavy weight of Torah scrolls as they look for more ways to include women and older men in the sacred act of lifting a Torah. That's prompting some to look to acquire lighter Torahs, WSJ's Lucette Lagnado reports.

It isn't all in his head.

Lifting the Torah scroll during Sabbath services—a ritual known as "Hagbah," which means to lift in Hebrew—is considered a tremendous honor. It can also be a perilous undertaking.

The average Torah scroll, which contains the Five Books of Moses, handwritten by a quill on parchment, can weigh about 25 or 30 pounds. Scrolls are mounted on long wooden poles; they are often hard to handle, and even harder to hoist. Some scrolls, encased in wood and silver, weigh 40 or 50 pounds or more.

Accidents happen, and when they do, custom calls for significant acts of contrition, including fasting. Lots of fasting.

"If you drop the Torah, the implications are dire -- the shame is enormous -- and traditionally one needed to fast for 40 days," says Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. The offender has plenty of company in hunger, as anyone who witnesses the Torah tumble must also refrain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.


Of course, Moses did not actually set out the 40-days of fasting rule, but it is pretty old religious law going back at least many hundreds of years, and it probably helps explain why so many Torahs are in such remarkably good condition today despite extreme old age, war, travel, and other hardship.

But, of course, not everyone is comfortable with  a serious punishment hanging over their head, are they?

And so, in this softer world of disposable everything, the suggestion has been made that instead of 40-days of fasting as punishment for dropping the Torah, that money be paid instead -- a tzedakah contribution to a worthy cause.

But will that keep Torahs safe?  Will the person who serves as Torah lifter, or hagbah, fear a fine as much as 40-days of fasting?   Willcash be deterrent enough?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dog at the Breakfast Table

When researchers let dogs choose between two plates of food, one with a single piece of food and the other with six pieces, the dogs generally went for the larger portion.

However, when a human showed a clear preference for the plate with the small portion, the dogs apparently recognized and responded to the human social cues and went for what we perceived as "best".  >> To read more

Pearl: In the Dirt and In Retirement

Pearl in the dirt.

Pearl is now in "retirement" with my folks a couple of blocks from where I work.  I took this picture with my cell phone at lunch yesterday.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freak on a Leash

This is a champion Neopolitan Mastiff in India, and the worst looking dog I have ever seen.

It is important to note Neopolitan Mastiffs are very rare breeds, and are outliers in the dog world in the way that circus freaks are outliers in the human world. Of course, even in the world of circus freaks, there are some freaks that are more shocking than others, and this Neo falls into that folder. This dog's death will be a relief to itself. If it could load the gun and pull the trigger, I have no doubt that it would.

How did this dog come about? It was, as is the case with so many dog breeds, a conflux of pretender and pretension, avarice and ego, with defomity, disease and dysfunction held together with the glue of delusion and denial.   I tell the complete story here.

Let's Slow Jam the News With Barak Obama!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Domestic Terrierism Needed

From the BBC:
Foxes have damaged equipment during an Olympic shooting test event ahead of this summer's London Games. The animals have chewed cables, wrecked microphones and soiled the podium area at the event, being held around the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich. They have evaded capture - or worse - even though more than 800 of the world's finest shooters are present. [ source ]
So has it come to this? Will domestic terrierists be needed to put the Olympics on a proper footing?

When People Think Strange Things About Dogs

"You can train dogs all you want, but as soon as they die, they forget it all."

I was a speaker at the 12th Annual International Association of Canine Professionals in Orlando, Florida over the weekend and met a bunch of terrific people and their dogs.

I asked the same question over and over of all the dog trainers I met: "How did you get into the world of dog training?

The variety of answers I got back was dizzying.  I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of backgrounds -- everyone from the first woman ethologist in the U.S., to a former electronics technician who now had a decade of solid dog work under his belt.

Along with a diversity in backgrounds, was a diversity of training methods.  This was not a "one size fits all" crowd -- a point underscored in Martin Deeley's excellent presentation entitled "There Are No Magic Wands".

So what did I talk about?  My presentation was entitled When Good People Think Strange Things About Dogs, and it was a naked attempt to try to get dog trainers to suit up for a new American dog culture centered on meritocracy, rather than to parrot the contrived British dog show culture fashioned to salute aristocracy.

Dog trainers, it seems to me, have a stake in people doing things with dogs, and they have a stake in dogs living longer so that their training investments are not wasted by disease, dysfunction and death.

As I told the conference participants:  "You can train dogs all you want, but as soon as they die, they forget it all."

For those interested in the slides and the text of my presentation, I have put up a PDF of both here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dick Russell Was All About the Dogs

Not the last of the dog men, but a very good one. This is an American story.

Kickstart this movie into existence.  Click and treat.


Guide Dog Calls Cops When Blind Woman Attacked

Dogs Exercising Well

On the rings.

On a treadmill.

Doing squats.

Saving Lawyers One Direct Mail Letter at at Time

As I have noted in the past, the vast majority of funds raised through direct mail by the Humane Society of the U.S. is spent on sending out more direct mail. Almost all the rest is centered on attacking farming. Not a dime goes to directly helping shelter animals.

This is not to say that HSUS does not do some things that have some value.

It is to say, however, that donating to HSUS is a stupid way to help animals -- the financial equivalent of heating up your coffee by burning a $100 bill.

By the way, I am not a huge fan of Humanewatch, either. This is an "astro-turf" group created by a fellow that has found his niche here in Washington, D.C. by running attack campaigns on behalf of ethically bankrupt industries.  And yes, that includes fast food restaurants, the meat industry, the alcohol industry, the tobacco industry, and the gun industry. 

Flim-flam men to the left of me and apologists for collateral killers on the right.  What a town I live in, eh!?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Opening for the Pope

People were lined up along the streets in Mexico to see the Pope, but this little fellow thought all the attention was just for him.   And why not?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Funny Every Time


Cheese and Choke Chains

A little more of this, a little less of that.

That's what training is all about no matter what type of beast is being trained.

Most people know how to reward positive behavior, and to be honest it's not that tough to train a small child or a new puppy.

But what about bad behavior that is strongly self-reinforcing, and may have gone on for years without any opposition at all?

"Train a different behavior" we are told, but of course those are just words. The answer to a barking dog is not to "train it to bark on command and then never give the command," no matter how often that bit of nonsense is repeated. For dogs, barking is a self-rewarding behavior, same as deer-chasing and digging in trash cans for stray scraps of food.

But, of course, not all training is about dogs and small children is it?

We also train adult people, organizations, corporations, and even clients.

And is all that training done using a "click and treat" paradigm?

Of course not.

Nor could it ever be.

For example, what are we supposed to be doing with criminals who rob our houses and shoplift in our stores?

Are we to reward them every time they decide not to rob us?

Are we we supposed to buy a meal and a movie ticket for a rapist every time they allow a pretty girl to walk by unmolested?

I think not!

And what about corporations that engage in illegal theft, profiteering, and bill-padding, or which manufacture products that maim, poison or kill?

Are we supposed to give tax breaks to all the companies that don't kill us and don't poison us and don't rip us off?

Are we supposed to "click and treat" companies full of liars, cheat and thieves as soon as they stop lying, stealing and cheating?

How do you "train" away corporate bad behavior with a purely-positive rewards-based system?

Believe it or not, that question reared it head a few weeks back when I was asked to speak at a conference entitled "Control the Corporation" put on by Ralph Nader's Center for Study of Responsive Law.

Control the Corporation? We might need a pretty big leash for that!

So what did I suggest? Did I suggest "shooting the dog" and getting rid of big corporations, or jailing top executives?


That's never going to happen. The biggest corporate scoundrels are companies that are "too big to jail," and their top managers are "too privileged" to jail, no matter what anyone might wish.

That said, I did not suggest "click and treat" as an appropriate solution to ripping off and poisoning America's oldest, sickest and poorest!

Instead, I suggested incentivizing the right good actors, and penalizing the right bad actors, and in both cases making the gain and the pain very personal.

In short, there is a place for cheese and choke chains.

It's not a matter of one or the other
-- it's a question of using the right tool on the right problem at the right time.   Training is training.

And YES, you can dog train the corporation!


Fish on Friday


Not a Fish on Friday

Bryde Whale, Baja Caifornia (source and click to enlarge)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kindergarten Drill Instructor?

How unpleasant does a "punishment" have to be in order to discourage a behavior?

That depends on the age and past experience of the animal, the temperament of the animal, and the nature of the behavior you wish to discourage.

A general rule is that the "NO" has to be at least as strong as the "GO," but if the unpleasant action is well-timed, and there is no previous pattern of bad behavior to break,  the correction does not have to be very serious, nor does it need to be administered for very long or very often.

Puppies and children, for example, can be steered with little more than a 95-5 mixture of verbal praise and slightly harsh words.  In fact it generally does not take too much to steer even a normal well-adjusted adult away from a neutral but unwanted behavior.  Tap an adult on the side of their nose with one finger, for example, and see how they recoil even after they have been warned that you are going to do it to prove your training point.  Ego deflation is a massive aversive with humans!

But what if a bad behavior is truly self-reinforcing, has gone on without consistent correction for a long time, and explodes a deeply ingrained genetic code as well?

How do you reduce bad behavior under those circumstances?

The U.S. military has found the cure.  Here is what they have been prescribing for a very long time:

  1. A lot of physical exercise;
  2. The creation of a human pack dynamic by reducing personal identity (shaved heads and identical uniforms) and making everyone operate as a unit;
  3. Clear instruction about expected behaviors, and clear instruction on how to do those behaviors, and;
  4. Powerful aversives if those expected and taught behaviors are not performed.

When all four-parts of this program are put together, the result is the rapid transformation of undisciplined raw recruits into a well-oiled fighting force that is second to none in the world. 

People who once drifted in unhappy sloth and self-centered turmoil now have a life with a purpose.

Do Marine Corps Drill Instructors "click and treat" their young charges with bonbons, booze, and effusive verbal praise?  


The message of the Drill Instructor to a new recruit is the same as a dog trainer with an adult dog that is exhibiting bad self-reinforcing behaviors that have been tolerated for far too long:  You are no longer going to be treated like a child, we are going to give you basic instruction, and we are going to impose standards, consistency, clarity and consequences in your life.

Job One is exercise, and Job Two is basic instruction about daily activities to be reinforced with a rigid schedule.  And yes, there will be consequences for getting it wrong.

And, of course, it works like new money.  

There are, of course, different horses for different courses.  

If a parent tried to train a small child using the same training techniques employed on a green Marine recruit, the result would be a very unhappy childhood.


One size does NOT fit all.  Surprise!

You do not train a confused kindergartener the same way you train a 22-year old Marine Corps recruit with a sense of privilege, and you do not train a Marine Corps recruit with exploding hormones and oppositional defiance issues the same way you train a seven-year old who still wets his bed at night.

Is operant conditioning at work in both cases?  Of course.  But just as the recipe for a cookie is not the same as that for a cake even if the ingredients are basically the same, so too are the mixes of rewards, punishments, and cues different for people (and dogs) at different ages and with different life experiences, learning goals, and performance standards.

Is very serious "bomb proofing" of Marine Corps recruits done with aversive techniques?  Yep.  Think rubber bullets, live grenades, and mace, but also think a million push ups, a 1,000 squats, full- pack running for miles, and so many leg lifts that wayward recruits are sure they are going to drown in their own sweat. 

Of course no one in the Marine Corps or the Army is trying to cause unnecessary pain, but if a little aversion therapy is all it takes to make sure a life is saved and the unit works, then the Marines and the Army are more than fine with that.

In the military, you either see the light or you feel the heat.  The cost of failure is simply too high to settle for less.

Goodnight Levon Helm and Thanks for the Music


RIP.  Never dead.  Just resting on the other side of the mountain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Boundaries of Life and Death

The Boundaries of Life and Death from Saskia Kretzschmann on Vimeo.

"The Boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"
. . . . . . . . -- Edgar Allen Poe

Then and Now in the House of the Tortoise


Political Odd Jobs and Nut Bags

Spot on Mr. Rorschach!

OBAMA WAS RIGHT! This crazy lady IS a gun grabber! Where is the Republican OUTRAGE?

TED NUGENT FOR MITTENS ROMNEY. Because nothing says patriotism like draft-dodging by shitting in your own pants and wearing them for a week.

AND GOD SAID, "Let there be Chaz" and He saw that it was all Good.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Bunko Tales Told in Emails

The picture, above, was sent to me during the middle of Hurricane Katrina. It purported to be an Alligator found swimming down the middle of a road in the Ninth Ward, New Orleans.

The only problem, of course, was that the picture does not show an Alligator -- it shows a Nile Crocodile. And though this 21-foot beast is very real, it was shot in the Congo in front of the Petroleum Club, Plage Sportive, in Pointe Noire back in 2003.

Then, of course there was the email of the giant snake. It seems "an Australian sheep farmer was puzzled at the disappearance of sheep on his farm" and then one day he found the animal, below, killed by an electric fence on his property.

But, of course, it could not be true.

The snake shown is an African Rock Python, which is not found in Australia.

A quick search turned up the true story: the snake was found dead at the Silent Valley Game Ranch in South Africa. The snake had just eaten an impala and was trying to go under the fence when it was killed by the electricity from the fence.

And just to tie it back to dogs, the Silent Valley Game Ranch does have Jack Russells -- they had one that was gored by a Wart Hog.

Bribery, Extortion or Incentivized Listening?

Over at TechDirt they dare to ask Is Lobbying Closer To Bribery... Or Extortion?

Actually, I think it's neither; it's something different -- what I would call incentivized listening.

It's pretty rare for a policy maker to be "bought" out right. More likely he or she is intentionally listening to only one side of the story.

The clip below was shot in November for a film in production about the DC Influence Industry. I am not sure why they thought I should be interviewed (I am no expert on lobbying!), but if someone wants to ask me questions on a Saturday, I will answer them, and let's see if anyone salutes!

IACP Conference in Orlando

I am one of the speakers at the 2012 International Association of Canine Professionals conference in Orlando, Florida this Friday and Saturday.  My own talk is about "When Good People Think Strange Things About Dogs," but the talk I want to hear most is that by Martin Deeley:
Martin will evaluate the narrow approaches and the radical movements that expound them, whether it be all positive or predominantly pressure. He will put into plain words how one must develop resourcefulness, instead of the one-equipment approach. Martin will use his own experiences, both with dogs and with the public, to explain the benefits of being versatile, as well as some of the pitfalls. He will look at the current trends in the canine world and ask the question, “Should there be any pendulum between total positive and total pressure? Should we pigeonhole canine professionals and criticize them by saying they only use one magic wand?”

In short, big tent or small tent?

One size fits all, or different breeds and different needs?

Or, to put it another way:  How come your boss at work does not scream or make the staff run laps for small infractions, but a Marine Corps Drill Instructor never cracks a smile, and yet no one trains their own children using either method?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Golden Bullets: A "True" Story of Africa

In his excellent book, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe, Peter Godwin tells the story of the early days of a certain section of Zimbabwe:

[I]n 1832, as the [followers of Nxaba, a Ndwandwe chief] fled further north, they came across the Portuguese settlement at Macequece, a gold-trading post and mission station. The Nxaba attacked it, and during the fierce battle the Portuguese ran out of bullets. In desperation, they broke out their boxes of bullion, melted the nuggets over the fire, and poured them into molds to cast bullets of gold. I had always been fascinated by that story when I was growing up. Imagine that, casting the bullets out of the gold that was your most precious possession? Literally using your riches to save your lives. And I used to think about the bodies of those Nxaba warriors felled in the bush, with gold bullets lodged in their flesh. And whenever I read in the press the phrase a silver bullet, or a golden bullet, to solve some problem, I thought of those Nxaba warriors, those Nxaba corpses, lying on the riverbank. And the fact that the golden bullets used by the Portuguese didn’t turn out to be golden bullets in a problem-solving way, after all. The Portuguese ran out of gunpowder, and the Nxaba killed them all

Do I actually believe this story? Not for a second.  If one is under attack, there is no time to make bullets.  Besides, if you are firing an 1830 smoothbore, and have powder, small stones will do as well as bullets, but neither will be as accurate or as quick as a bow and arrow or a pike.

But do I think this story of gold bullets was told in old Rhodesia, South Africa, and Mozambique as a warning and a lesson that all the gold in the world would not hold back the inexorable tide of Africa and majority rule?

Absolutely. In fact, I think this story still works very well on that level today.

Just Stay out of My Woods ... Please

In a world of morons behaving badly, we now have how-to manuals:


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Going Negative as Dog Trainer Marketing Tool

Someone sent me this link, which I think says it about as well as it can be said:
The trainers that identify as “positive reinforcement dog trainers” tend to spend way more time explaining what methods, techniques and tools they don’t use, rather than explaining their own personal training ideology. Their website content, blog posts and Facebook pages are full of tired, now decades-old, rhetoric decrying any method that isn’t theirs as “un scientific” or “outdated” and “based on old ideas and mythology.”

In short, though they say they employ a positive methodology, their message is primarily negative.  Before I go on, let me set the record straight. When a trainer identifies as a “positive reinforcement trainer,” what they are essentially implying, or often saying outright, is that they reject the use of one of the 4 learning quadrants of operant conditioning -the use of positive punishment – in their dog training protocol. By doing this, they also imply, or also come straight out and say, that if a trainer doesn’t follow their philosophy, they probably just rely on the use of just one of the quadrants, positive punishment, to achieve results. Furthermore, they will go on to cite examples of extreme punishment techniques that they never do. They talk about old, “military style” training techniques. They describe horrific things like hitting, kicking or hanging a dog by the leash, and then categorize these abusive techniques right along with the use of any type of training collar. On and on they go. “Never work with a dog trainer who does this”, “I never do that”. Negative phrase after negative phrase.

What’s missing from their websites though, is an explanation of exactly what it is they do to achieve results, and what those results are....

... Effective dog training is results driven, and so is having a successful dog training business, especially in these times of social media, reviews, and instant status updates. If a dog trainer is not getting results, they probably aren’t getting much business. If that’s the case, then just like a candidate with slipping poll numbers, they begin to switch their message away from what they are capable of achieving, and focus on what others, like their more successful competitors, might be doing wrong.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coffee and Provocation

Terrierists:  It's Time to Rip Off the Insurance Industry:
It's time the pet insurance industry was made to subsidize terrier work.  In the UK, TescoBank pet insurance writes;  “Pet insurance doesn't have to be expensive. This option gives you essential cover - so if your pet is involved in an accident and hurt or is attacked by another animal, we'll cover your veterinary fees up to £3,000 per injury caused by an accident for up to 12 months from the first date of the injury or up to the vet fee limit, whichever happens first.”

Goodby Merial Hello PetArmour and PetTrust:
A group of former Merial pharmaceutical executives have left to start "FidoPharm" which is now making the generic versions of Frontline -- the same stuff at a lower price.  Is "PetArmor" really "half the price" as advertised?  Maybe.  That depends on what you were paying for Frontline.  FidoPharm is also selling PetTrust which is the generic version of Heartgard Plus. Again, it's the exact same stuff at less money.

Your Robot Overlords:
Will Robot Overlords patrol our forests for fire?  Count on it.  They will probably plow our fields too.

Why E-books are Not as Cheap as You Imagine:
One reason e-books are expensive is because paper does not cost very much.  If you want book to cost less, then we have to cut out author advances, design, marketing, publicity, office space, and staff.  Of course, the other reason that e-books cost more than you would think is that there has been massive price-rigging fraud going on.  The U.S. Department of Justice is on top of it.  Maybe.

The latest Indian census reveals the population of that country is more likely to own a cellphone than have a toilet at home.

Sleep Deep With Your Gun Safe Close at Hand:
How about a gun safe that doubles as a box spring?  Perfect for the responsible small-house paranoid!

Your State is #1 in What?
Virginia has the best high school in the country.  Maryland has the wealthiest families.  West Virignia is tops in toothlessness. North Carolina is tops in sweet potato production.  Alaska is tops in suicides.  Maine has the lowest incarceration rate.  Pennsylvania is tops in deer collisions.  Check out the rest!

Coffee bars in the U.K. in 1959:
Coffee is an American drink, and tea is for the British.  Here's why.

Real Patriots Pay Taxes

The voice on this cartoon is Cliff Edwards, aka "Ukelele Ike", an American singer and voice actor who specialized in jazzy versions of pop standards and novelty tunes in the 1920s and 30s and who later went on to voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's Pinocchio (1940).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Out of Every 7 Dogs in the AKC...

  • One out of every 7 dogs in the American Kennel Club is a Labrador Retriever.
  • The top ten most popular breeds in the AKC account for more than half of all registrations, while more than 100 of the more uncommon breeds account for less than 15% of the total.
  • Or, to put it another way Labrador Retrievers account for more AKC registrations than the 118 least popular breeds COMBINED.

Tomorrow Is Friday the 13th


Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Sweet Tweet

Language With Terroir

The Internet is an inspirational place
where millions of people reach out to locate kindred souls, share knowledge, and build worthwhile communities and information resources. Most of these people stand up straight, have real names, have real email addresses, do pretty solid research, and can look other folks in the eye.

Ironically, the Internet is also a sad place full of angry, pathetic and lonely losers who seek to destroy community, sow confusion and spread disinformation. Most of these folks are anonymous cowards who do not seem to have real names, do not have real email addresses, do not do any real research before typing, and who will never look anyone in the eye because they are fakes and know it.

Imagine my surprise to discover that this last group actually has a Wiki entry to describe them!

And yes, they really are called Anonymous Cowards.

Other terms that are apparently used are: "Anonymous Idiot" and "Random Fuckbag."

Lovely. And, of course, there is the old standard: Troll.

Run a blog, forum or web site and you will get such creatures showing up. They are like rats in a barn and they come in several forms: hit and run posters, cyber-bullies, flame-baiters and sock puppets, to name just a few.

Of course the Internet is increasingly international so "Random Fuckbag" has to find its equivalent in other languages.

And so I have recently learned the Spanish phrase: "Pendejo sin nombre," or "nameless asshole."

Cool. Very international.

But what about the other languages? What's the equivalent in French? In German? In Finnish? In Dutch? In Swedish?

A quick run at Google Translator suggested "anonymous coward" in Dutch (anonieme lafaard), French (lâche anonyme), German (anonymer Feigling), Swedish (anonym feg), and Croatian (anonimnih kukavica).

But how to begin to translate "Random Fuckbag"?

I decide"old condom" is about as close as I am likely to get with Google Translator, which obligingly suggests equivalents in Dutch (oud condoom), French (vieux préservatif), German (alte Kondo), Swedish (gamla kondom), and Croatian (stari kondom).

I know these phrases are not quite right and do not carry the necessary sauce for the goose. What is really needed here are foreign-language colloquialisms.

Sadly, however, the Internet has not yet been perfected to that level.

An "anonymous idiot" or "ashole" may work as descriptive insult in any language, but it lacks distinction as a result. "Random fuckbag" is handmade phrasing that is probably unique to the English language. It is idiom with at least a little bit of terroir left in it.

It is language with legs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Italian Job

Art by Kevin Brockbank for the April 2012 issue of Dogs Today.

Look through the back of any dog magazine, and you will find dog dealers hawking "testosterone" dogs to young men.

The list of dogs includes the "Olde English Bulldogge" along with the Old English Bulldog, the Original English Bulldogge, Olde Bulldogge, the Campeiro Bulldog, Leavitt Bulldog, the Catahoula Bulldog, the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, the Aussie Bulldog, the Victorian Bulldog, the Valley Bulldog, the Olde Boston Bulldogge, the Dorset Old Tyme Bulldog, the Ca de Bou, the Banter Bulldog, and the Johnson Bulldog, to say nothing of the Alana Espanol, Cane Corso, Bully Kutta, and the recreated "Alaunt."

These new-age molosser breeds are sandwiched between the English, Tibetan and Bull Mastiffs, the Rottweilers, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Dogo Argentino, the Fila Brasileriro and, of course, the English Bulldog.

And then, of course, there is "The Italian Job" -- the Neopolitan Mastiff.

What does a Neopolitan Mastiff have in common with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

Actually quite a lot.

For one, both dogs were created at a dog show, based on a sample size of one.

Both dogs were invented by show ring people anxious to create a breed that looked like the pictures they had seen on a wall. 

In the case of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Roswell Eldridge was trying to breed a dog that looked like those seen in the paintings of van Dyck.  

In the case of the Neopolitan Mastiff, Piero Scanziani was looking to breed a heavy "gladiator dog" like those he saw in the mosaics at Pompeii.

Scanziani, to set the record straight, was not Italian, but Swiss.  Born in 1908, he was one of those young wanna-be-tough-guys who are so often fascinated by molosser breeds.  Starting in 1930, at the age of 22, he began breeding Boxers, English Bulldogs, and Dogue de Bordeaux.

After Italy's ignoble defeat at the end of World War II,  Scanziani, now the editor of an Italian dog magazine called Cani, had an idea.  Why not create a heavy-bodied "Italian dog" that would harken back to the greater glory that was Rome and perhaps revive the nation's flagging sense of self?  

Scanziani cast about for a mastiff that was large enough and imposing enough to do the job, but he came up blank until October 12, 1946  when he attended the Castel dell'Ovo dog show in Naples, which was the first dog show to be held in Italy after WW II.

There Scanziani met a gentleman who owned a massive dog by the name of Guaglione, but the dog had already been sold to another man by the name of Carmine Puolo. 

Undeterred, Scanziani eventually bought Guaglione from Carmine Puolo in 1949, and that same day he also acquired from Puolo a bitch by the name of Pacchiana. 

Scanziani declared that he now had the foundation stock for his new breed -- two dogs of pedigree unknown which he had acquired on the same day!  

Within a few months, Scanziani had written up a standard for his new breed based on Guaglione's appearance, and in 1951 Guaglione was made the first Italian "Champion" of the breed. 

Wow, what a dog man!   He buys a dog, invents a history for it, writes a breed standard based on a sample size of one, and makes the dog a champion!

Welcome to "the Italian Job" -- the Neopolitan Mastiff. 

This is a breed created by dog show people for dog show purposes, and it has never strayed too far from that path.  This is a dog forged in the fire of fantasy.  It was never a dog designed for work because there was no work for it to do.  A gladiator dog?  It's to laugh.  The Roman coliseum was in ruins the day this dog was created, and it still remains a ruin! 

Today the Neopolitan Mastiff is shown in the ring as a "working" dog.  But working at what?  No one can say.  There are no Kennel Club-registered mastinos working as guard or police dogs at any military, police, or corporate security installation in the world.  This is a dog that is simply too heavy too move, and too plagued with health problems to invest time and energy into training.

Which is not to say that there are not working molossers in this world; there certainly are! 

American Pit Bulls are used for police work, guard work, and pig-catching work around the world, as are various cross-bred bandogs.

But a cross-bred bandog is not a Neo, is it?  By definition, a Neopolitan Mastiff is a registered dog bred to a standard that allows not a single drop of outcrossed blood.

Now, to be clear, there is nothing uniquely bad about Neos. 

Are they hideous freaks fit only for Harry Potter movies?   Sure, but so are a lot of Kennel Club dogs, from Chinese Cresteds to Pekingese and Italian Greyhounds.

Are almost 100% born cesarean?  Sure, but how is that different from a lot of Kennel Club molossers, from English Bulldogs to English Mastiffs?

Are too many burdened with cherry eye?  Of course, but if we start counting that as a defect we won't have Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds and Saint Bernards, will we?

Do too many of these dogs die painful deaths from gastric torsion and cancer?  Well sure, but how is that different from Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, and Great Danes to name just a few breeds with similar problems?

No, I am not outraged by the Neo's health problems. 

I am outraged that this dog is in the "working" dog class when this dog has NEVER worked, cannot work, and does not work.

So what is my solution?

I propose a new class for Kennel Club dogs -- a class that Piero Scanziani himself would have saluted. 

You see Scanziani was a writer of religious science fiction.

Is not the Kennel Club a religion that operates independent of science and which professes things that its adherents are told to believe based on faith alone?

It is!

And are not a great number of Kennel Club breed histories little more than science fiction?

They are!

So let us create a Kennel Club class for Science Fiction dogs. It will be a big and diverse class.

It will have in it the terrier breeds that are terrified of a mouse and that are too big to go to ground on a fox.  

It will have in it the "herding" breeds never seen in the hands of commercial sheep men -- the Bearded Collies, the Lassie Collies, the Old English Sheep Dogs, and the like. 

It will have in it the running dogs that trip over their own hair, and the German Shepherds with hocks as collapsed as Hitler's bunker.

And, of course, it will have in it all those molosser breeds which, like the Neopolitan Mastiff and the English Bulldog, have devolved into cartoons and caricatures.

Fit for function?  Of course!  They are fit for the function of science fiction!


Bigger Than Crufts... and in New Jersey

The Morris and Essex Dog Show, in New Jersey, was the work of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, niece of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Mrs. Dodge was the first woman judge at the Westminster dog show in 1924, and in 1927 she held the first Morris and Essex Dog Show which was, for several decades, the largest dog show in the world, with an attendance of 50,000 people in 1939.  The last Morris and Essex show was held in 1957.

Held on the 130-acre polo field at Hartley Farms, her husbands estate across the road from her own (separate beds were apparently not enough), the Morris and Essex dog show had 3 1/2 acres of tents and more than 20 acres set aside for parking. Special guests and judges were served an elegant sit-down  lunch, while everyone else received a splendid box lunch.  Food consumed at the event included 1 1/2 tons of roast turkey, 100 hams, 750 quarts of potato salad, 8,000 rolls, 400 fruitcakes and 750 quarts of ice cream.  Mrs. Dodge and her husband, Marcellus Hartley Dodge, heir to the Remington Arms fortune, paid the entire bill.

Mrs. Dodge's favorite breed was the German Shepherd, though she had many Cocker Spaniels as well, and she could have as many as 150 dogs at any given time, some of which included Bloodhounds, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers. 

Dog show judges from around the world attended the Morris and Essex show, including Max von Stephanitz, the father of the German Shepherd, who attended in 1930.   Rin Tin Tin was the star guest at the show in 1933.

Geraldine R. Dodge was a philanthropist, as well as a dog lover, and she was one of the founders of the Seeing Eye Foundation in Morristown, New Jersey which, in 1929, became the first guide dog school for the blind in the country.

Mrs. Dodge with a Best In Show winner.

Mrs. Dodge died in 1973, but the Morris and Essex dog show has recently been revived (smaller now, of course), and even has it's own FaceBook page!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Digging on the Dogs

Post hole diggers on the shoulder, shovel and the rest of my kit in the pack, and Gideon sliding into a hole right at my feet.  Thanks to Isaac for the picture!

Vets Decry Perverse Policy at the Kennel Club

Andrew Ashe, the President of the British Small Animals Veterinary Association (BSA) has released a statement on the broadcast of 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed – Three Years On' by the BBC:

Jemima Harrison has highlighted an important issue. It is essential that veterinary surgeons, dog breeders and the general public no longer accept that breeding for extremes of conformation or knowingly from animals with inherited disease is an acceptable practice. The programme highlighted two main areas of concern, firstly the small genetic pool that exists in many breeds and secondly continued breeding for extremes of body shape. Both these areas must be addressed urgently. A civilised nation must agree that it is not acceptable to breed dogs that cannot function as dogs. BSAVA supports the health schemes that are now available to owners as steps in the right direction. However it is difficult to believe that health schemes are going to be sufficient in themselves to tackle these problems rapidly and effectively. It is particularly perverse to be promoting health schemes and yet continuing to allow the registration and showing of progeny with Coefficients of Inbreeding as high as 47.5% or where the animal concerned is known to have failed a screening test (significant in that breed)

Mark Johnson, Vice President of the BSAVA goes on to note that:
... [T]he Kennel Club should adopt the Advisory Council on Welfare in Dog Breeding recommendation and not register puppies with a coefficient of breeding (over 5 generations) greater than 12.5%.

In short incest is not best
, and the planned breeding of freaks who are unfit for function and are in discomfort and pain is a moral issue and, perhaps, should be a legal one as well.

Exactly right. As I noted in an article entitled Sick Puppies and Broken Dogs:

When pressed about the physical abuse and pain heaped on dogs by extreme standards, and the systematic inbreeding of dogs within a closed registry system, the Kennel Club is quick to blame “the Victorians.” There is little they can do to change things quickly, they explain. It will take time. Reform will be slow. But good news; they have created an advisory committee of show dog breeders to point the way forward! Right. And the Vatican has also put the question of what to do about pederasty to a group of celibate old men who think it perfectly fine to wear dresses to the office. What? Am I making a parallel between the Kennel Club and the Vatican? You think that’s outrageous? Really? Which side have I offended?

I would argue that Job One for the Kennel Club a
t this point should be to require pre-qualification of dogs from certain breeds to be shown at any Kennel Club sanctioned show. You want to end extreme brachycephalic dogs and other 'select for defect' issues? That's the way to do it!

Another idea comes from David Cavill at Our Dogs: banning certain deformed breeds, such as English Bulldogs and Neopolitan Mastiffs, from being used in advertising, TV shows and movies. Cavill notes that "that sort of legislation would be easy to pass, easy to implement." Yes it would -- and a brilliant idea.

Let's do it!