Archive for the ‘Blogathon2011’ Category

Ta da!

cartoon of woman jumping for joyThat’s all folks! 24 posts in 24 hours. All to help raise money to help animals. Blogathon2011. Your donations to the NE Humane Society are tax deductible and will be matched in kind. Check out the posts from other bloggers, each working to help the people helping the animals they are moved by.

Thanks for stopping by and for your support.

No one of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. Find what moves you and act on it.

All the best to you and yours,

Debbie Jacobs, CPDT-KA, CAP2


Using rewards to manipulate behavior

There is still time to make a donation to help the people helping the animals. Your donation is tax deductible and will be matched, a twofer!

As a follow-up to my last post here is a video showing how we use food to give dogs new skills and pattern new behaviors. Kelly was fearful of people and by using food to get him to move around he is building new patterns of behavior-those primarily being approaching a person without being afraid to do it. It can be a slow process, completely dependent on the skills and ability of the dog. But the changes we make are well established.


Make love not war

drawing of hand giving peace signDespite all the evidence indicating that aggressive, intimidating handling can lead to heightened aggressive responses in dogs, there are still people, dog trainers among them, who will insist that unless we use overwhelming punishment or coercion with an aggressive dog (who may be aggressive because they are scared, even if it doesn’t look or feel like it to us), we are doing the dogs of the planet a disservice. I hear it all the time, my carrying the banner of reward-based training leads to dead dogs. Yes, dead dogs. They are dead because ‘cookie tossing’ trainers (as they are disparagingly called) failed to change the behavior of an aggressive dog. The premise being that if only someone had punished the mean out of the dog they’d have ended up with a tail wagging, happy, compliant, pet dog. This is akin to saying that because one doctor failed to cure a disease and the patient ultimately died, that all doctors who attended the same med school would have also been unsuccessful . There are great doctors, and those who are less so. There are also some diseases which can safely and effectively be cured, others not, and those that will require lifetime management.

We know, from studies of rats, and remember that mammalian brains have a lot in common, that if male rats are injected with oxytocin, the hormone responsible for making us feel all warm and fuzzy about someone, or something, they are less likely to behave aggressively and attack rat pups sired by other males. The more oxtyocin, the less aggression. Toss in some of the ‘yippee I won!’ neurotransmitter dopamine, and you have an animal who is feeling right with the world. Being as clever as we are, we can manipulate other humans and animals in our lives to do exactly what we want by increasing the odds that they’ll experience the feelings associated with either or both oxytocin and dopamine. Marketing research is based on figuring out how to do this. When it comes to our dogs it’s pretty darn easy. Even if a dog were to be strongly concerned with their place in a social hierarchy, a hierarchy which exists to ensure access to resources, they are out of their league when it comes to competing with humans. And don’t think they don’t know this.

The primary resources animals establish hierarchies for are food and mates. We control both. We either limit our dog’s access to mates, or remove their ability to mate using surgery. And until they can sort out how to stock and open a refrigerator, they are dependent on us for food, and don’t think they don’t realize this either. Animals can and do change their behavior to get what they need. Animals who have not been compromised by trauma or abuse will do so readily. Those who display debilitating levels of fear and/or aggression will have a harder time. We can make it easier for them by helping them to ‘feel’ better, to get oxytocin and dopamine flowing. We can do this using food and other rewards.

Just because someone has not developed the relationship or ability to motivate a dog to behave appropriately without force, coercion or punishment, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And because someone may have had success using force to get the compliance they were after does not make it the best means to an end.

There is still time to make a donation to help the people helping the animals. Your donation is tax deductible and will be matched, a twofer!

Essential training even if your dog is hopeless at it

There is still time to make a donation to help the people helping the animals. Your donation is tax deductible and will be matched, a twofer!

Nice to see you!

Nikolaas Tinbergen, an early ethologist said that ‘ethology is the study of animal behavior and we must interview the animals in their own language’, or something to that effect, sorry I couldn’t come up with the actual quote.

We have failed dogs miserably to this end. Dog behavior is horribly misunderstood. TV shows and movies anthropomorphise dog behavior while celebrity trainers make up their own translations of dog behavior that have no basis in fact. Despite thousands of years of coexistence we might as well have just stumbled upon dogs given how much the average pet owner understands about their behavior.

This following video is an example of an exuberant greeting ritual my fearful dog Sunny performs whenever I return from being away for several hours. We can learn a lot by watching our dogs. Stay loose when meeting dogs and you’ll convey your intention to avoid conflict with them.

This post is part of Blogathon2011. I am writing to help raise money for the Nebraska Humane Society. You can donate here. A few dollars here and a few dollars there will add up. You can put your credit card where your intent is.

This post had nothing whatsoever to do with dogs

Fun on the Colorado River. I spent 15 days paddling the Colorado River with a group of women over 40.

You can still make a donation to help animals at the Nebraska Humane Society. I have been part of Blogathon2011. 24 hours of blogging every hour.

Says who?

One of the statements I often hear in regard to training both fearful and non-fearful dogs is that someone used a particular technique with their dog and it ‘worked’. I have to assume that what they mean is that they were able to change their dog’s behavior to meet their needs. ‘Their’ being the owner’s. This is important of course, dogs won’t last long in a home if they are not able to meet their owner’s expectations, but I usually have two questions.

1. Did it also ‘work’ for the dog?

2. What does ‘working’ look like?

I may be able to get a fearful dog to sit while a child comes over and pets him/her. This may work for me, but if the dog is afraid, it sure isn’t ‘working’ for them. It may tragically end up not working for the child if I’m not careful.

If merely getting compliance from a dog is what counts as success, I may disagree with the assessment that something has ‘worked’. A dog who appears to be calm and nonplussed by a situation may in actuality be stressed and zoning out. This doesn’t qualify as ‘working’ in my opinion.

When I want to know if a training method worked I don’t just ask the owner, I ask the dog.

I’m participating in Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society.

Commercial break

This blog is part of Blogathon2011. 24 hours of hourly blogging to help raise money for animal related causes. You can help by making a donation to the Nebraska Humane Society. All donation are tax deductible and will be matched in kind. So your money doubles itself. It’s the best investment around. Click here to make your contribution. No amount too small!

Stay tuned! I’ll be back in an hour after this commercial break.

Make mine a double!

I’m participating in Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society

It’s getting late. I’m fading. How about a double medium latte! If you donate the $3.50 to buy me a virtual high caffeine drink I may be able to push through to morning. Anyone?

Click here to buy me that latte!


black & white drawing of a man spraying on deodorant Ok, so it’s getting late and as I was flipping through my catalog of clip art I came upon this image. Never in my life could I imagine ever needing to use it, and that made me want to come up with an excuse to include a black & white drawing of a man with superman hair spraying on deodorant, in a blog post. There are some other gems in this collection of 250,000 images. And I suppose that to come up with 250,000 images you may very well need to include at least one of someone spraying on deodorant.

I am drawn to how peaceful he seems, serious yet a small smile seems to be playing at the corner of his lips. Not even a smidgeon of embarrassment being drawn as a man doing what should be left to the privacy of one’s bathroom. And how about those cheek bones and that jaw! Not only is he ruggedly flawless, he cares about personal hygiene.

Could I, with any semblance of legitimacy, come up with a post about dogs that would warrant the use of this image? Give me a minute, I’m still thinking….. I could go with something about smell, dogs having much finer tuned sense of smell than we do, but I prefer metaphor. So before my hour runs out and I need to get another post up, I guess I can’t do it. How about you? Can you ‘throw me a bone’ and help me come up with ideas?

At this point they may be regretting inviting me to the party but this post was written for Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society. Click here to donate!