Friday, June 30, 2006

The PETA Trial

Here are photos of the alleged mass killing of pets by some animal rights activists. BEWARE: These are disturbing and horrible.

Please check out the web page and tell me what you think of it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Big Dog, Little Dog

If dogs didn't exist, then man would have built one… Oops… someone already did that! We domesticated the dog a long time ago. Now, we are even building mechanical dogs.

See: Big Dog Walking 4-Legged Tank/Mule

Even in this modern world, we still need dogs. And I think we are going to need some form of dog, even if it has to be a mechanical one, a thousand years from now.

It’s just silly how so many people fight against having dogs, when they provide so much utility and companionship. Why even a little dog can save someone’s life. Check out this story, how a Pomeranian alerted a woman to an intruder (who has since been arrested on suspicion of murdering one of her neighbors).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Another Look At Clicker Training and Operant Conditioning

So, you operant conditioning / clicker training fans might want to consider some facts before you start spouting how your all positive training theories are superior to all others.

Check this out…

• Scientists still consider some species particularly unsuited for confinement:

• "A newly-captured porpoise or small whale is certainly frightened, and death from shock is not uncommon. Spinners and kikos [spotted dolphins] are particularly high-strung and apt to go into shock; some oceanariums will not even attempt to capture animals from this genus because they are frightened so easily." Karen Pryor (1975).
• "Few species seem to be genetically incompatible, but for some reason the common dolphin does not always co-exist well with the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and other large dolphins." Joseph Geraci (1986). Walker (1975) described common dolphins as "the most delicate of the four routinely-captured species" and "the most difficult to keep in captivity.
• "Shallenberger (cited in Reeves & Leatherwood, 1984) described the melon- headed whales at Sea Life Park, "In captivity they can become quite aggressive and must be handled carefully."
Pryor (cited in Reeves & Leatherwood, 1984) described pygmy killer whales at Sea Life Park, "They proved aggressive and did not adapt well."
• The Fraser's dolphin, was described by Hammond & Leatherwood (1994): "we believe the nervousness and general ‘fragility' of this species probably makes it unacceptable for captivity."

So, after hearing all these great stories about how operant conditioning works with sea animals, we find out that THEY ARE ONLY WORKING WITH THE MOST SOCIABLE AND MALLEABLE SPECIES! You mean, these techniques won’t work with all marine life in an aquarium? These experts can’t control the aggression or fearfulness with these techniques? These noted experts need to skip working with some species?

Does this mean therefore that you clicker trainers (all positive trainers) are willing to accept that maybe all positive reinforcement in training doesn’t always succeed with all dogs? What do we do with those that are highly aggressive or fearful when they don’t fit within your program? Put them down? Hmm? We certainly can’t just turn them back into nature, like you can with a wild sea animal. We can’t just drop those dogs off in some forest or parking lot and figure it will all work out.

Any dog training fool can take a highly trainable, non-aggressive, food motivated, stable dog and get great training results. But, not all dogs fit that description.

Time to get your heads out of the clouds and start reading the scientific literature critically.

Rest In Peace

1952 – 2006

Funny. Irreverent. Hurting. Politically incorrect. Frustrated. Blunt. Troubled soul.
Blogging pioneer, widely read.

Rest in peace.

Let’s never forget that there are real people behind all these blogs.

Monday, June 26, 2006

LEGISLATIVE ALERT: Here's another poorly conceived dog bite law

Owners would not face prosecution if the victim of the attack was trespassing on the owners' property, they have a properly fenced-in yard and have posted beware-of-dog signs.

This is NOT adequate. It is a start, but not nearly adequate. There are MANY more justifiable reasons for a dog to bite.

How about consulting some dog experts, eh? I have many links on the sidebar of pro-dog groups that could help draft a much more reasonable and effective dog bite law.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

DOGSTER: New dog blog!

I have found a new blog, Dogster, that I really like. Check it out. I'm adding it to my Links.

The dog world is quite interesting, and the more I learn, the more I find how much I DON’T know or didn't see. Dogster is quite interesting and I think you’ll like it, too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


With pet food and veterinarian visits, Eileen Acheson knew that owning a dog could be costly. She had no idea.

The Redondo Beach woman must pay $97,500 to her neighbors, who won a dog barking suit against her in court this month, or say goodbye to Rover.

These kinds of judgments are absurd. I advocate the regulation of homeowner's associations. They are out of control. There is no way this sized judgment is at all just or reasonable compared to the issue in dispute. Just like we need tort reform, we need reform here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Shame On PetSmart!

Have you seen this? Petsmart discriminates against bull breeds in its doggie daycare program. What breeds are NOT allowed in their doggie daycares?

"Dogs in the "bully breed" classification (e.g. Pit Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bull Dogs or mixed breeds that have the appearance or characteristics of one of these breeds)"

This is outrageous. Either they know what they are doing with dogs or they don't. Breed isn't the issue, temperament of the individual dog, and the quality of the trainers are the issue. Are they professionals or not? Do they train their staff properly or not?

This kind of thing just goes along with the Dog Hating, "politically correct", crowd that hates the pit fighting or bully breeds. Shame on them!

Maybe it is time to call for a boycott. Hey, Dog Lovers! Time to fight back!!!

(If PetSmart is "smart" they will retract this policy. If I have this wrong, then let me know, but I got this off their own web page!)

The Straight Poop

A study conducted last August and September, quoted in today’s Raleigh News & Observer, shows men and rural residents are least likely to clean up their dog’s poop.

47 percent of urban residents “rarely” or “never” pick up dog poop. That compares to 49 percent of suburban residents and 47 percent of city-dwellers.

People in the 18-24 and 65-older age groups are most likely to clean their dog’s poop. Least likely are those in the 35-54 age group.

I’m male, live in the suburbs, and am between the ages of 35 and 54.

Gee, according to that list, I’m doomed!

Seriously, though. Too much is made of dog poop in many communities. First, communities should plan better for their canine residents, allocating land for “poop stations” that dispense plastic bags. Second, we have a bigger problem with pooping geese and people who litter than pooping dogs. Third, if you ever travel, you’ll notice that in most nature parks, they have a display talking about how beneficial the animal poop is for the environment… yet they ban dogs from the parks on the grounds that dog poop is bad for the park. So weird. I don’t think it is that big of a deal. Poop your dog. Pick up. Leave people alone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The result of a male dog and a female coyote is a dogote, while the result of a male coyote and a female dog is a coydog. There is a difference where the cross-breeding of animals is concerned: the male of the parent species gives the first part of the offspring's name.

I’ve heard of these, and knew someone that had one. I see no rational reason to intentionally create this hybrid. There is also a theory that coydogs are actually wolf / coyote hybrids, which is entirely possible.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dog Attack Evaluated

A woman in her mid-70s was attacked and bitten repeatedly by a neighbor's dog as she walked near her Fairwood home.

Neighbors said the dog is usually kept in the back yard, but on Sunday, two young girls in the family took the dog out on a leash. Animal control Sgt. David Morris said that was clearly a mistake.

"This dog is probably 65-70 pounds, probably outweighed the young girl that was walking the dog. There's no way a 5, 6, 7, 8 10-year-old child is going to be able to control a dog 50, 60, 70 pounds," he said.

As I have said before… kids and dogs should be supervised. The interesting question here is whether the dog should be put down. If this is the complete story, these kids did something very wrong. They shouldn’t have been out with the dog unsupervised. Some dogs will try to protect children, and children are not capable of restraining dogs that are just as big, or bigger, than they are. With an adult, it is quite possible this dog might never have bitten anyone off leash. In addition, some dogs are much more wary of the elderly, and more likely to growl at, or attack, them. I have seen dogs that were otherwise sociable in public, act differently around some people. One trigger for growling or attacking is if the victim acts or feels fearful around dogs. This type of demeanor puts many dogs on the defensive. In the wild, a fearful animal either runs away or makes a full blown attack. When dogs sense fear in someone, their natural programming puts them on guard, since they perceive their lives are in danger. Add to this, if a dog is with puppies or young children, in other words, anyone the dog feels responsible for protecting, the risk of the dog attacking can increase. This phenomenon might very well have played a factor here. I'm also not pleased with the part about the dog being "usually kept in the back yard." Social isolation isn't good for dogs, and if this dog spends most of its life in the back yard, such a dog will become more and more wary of strangers, and more likely to bite, especially around the dog's territory.

THE DOG: This dog needs a behavioral evaluation by a professional. If the dog is a normal dog, physically and mentally healthy, and if the parents can be determined to be criminally negligent, then I would place the dog in another home, and this incident shouldn’t be held against the dog, either legally or socially.

THE KIDS: In a few cases, I do support spanking kids for doing wrong. If these kids knew they were not to take the dog out for a walk on their own, if I was the parent, I would sit them down, remind them of the house rules, tell them what happened as a result of their breaking the rules, and then administer a spanking and have them do some kind of community service related to dog bite incidents. If the kids weren’t told to not take the dog for a walk, then I would not administer punishment to the kids.

THE PARENTS: Regarding the parents, they will have headaches enough as a result of this. They will most likely be sued by the victim, their insurance company will pay the damages and then cancel their homeowner’s insurance, and their dog will probably be put to death. If the dog is to be kept, if found to be a well adjusted dog, then better fencing should be installed and a new supervision and socialization program implemented.

ANIMAL CONTROL: An investigation should be pursued concerning the circumstances surrounding this incident, and the law enforced. However, as I have stated before, there are justified bites and unjustified bites. This is a tough case, which requires good judgment, not just going by the letter of the law, to determine whether this should be prosecuted. Not every dog bite case should require that the dog be put down or the owners punished.

THE VICTIM: The victim should be compensated for all medical bills by the parents. The children and parents should be made to apologize to her for what happened. Law abiding people deserve to be safe when walking in public.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Breed Restrictions Of Major Insurers... The List Keeps Growing

Here’s how major insurers in Tennessee handle dog ownership of various breeds in homeowner’s policies… Allstate, Farmers, Hartford, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, State Farm, etc…

Breed restrictions include pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Chows, Presa Canarios, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherd Dogs, Siberian Huskies, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Wolf Hybrids, and Akitas…

Read this article. Look at what irresponsible dog owners have done to the rest of us. And look at how regulation of dogs, using breed specific legislation, has hurt us as dog owners.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Was This Dog Attack Justified?

A 13-year-old was attacked by a friend's pit bull in the Top Hat neighborhood of Seattle Wednesday.

The girl apparently told police that the dog had been acting up and she hit it on the nose, which may have triggered the attack.

OK, this sounds like this was a provoked attack... meaning the dog wasn't at fault. Kids aren't always innocent in dog bite cases. This is a good reason to teach everyone in your family... DON'T HIT DOGS TO PUNISH THEM!!!!! (By the way... where were the parents? And why was this dog left unsupervised?) If this story is as it appears, I WOULD NOT recommend euthanasia for this dog. You can't expect that you can hit a dog, especially a dog that isn't yours, and expect that the dog is going to just take it. To a dog, you've attacked THEM. These aren't cartoon characters. They are animals, and they will act like animals, not furry little punching bags.

Dangerous Waters

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Terrible New Dog Bite Law

The proposed rules include the county's first specific definition for vicious dogs: animals that bite a person or other animal, causing severe injury, or dogs owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of fighting with other animals.

This definition is just not good enough. Many dog bites are justified. This definition needs to be expanded to allow for justified bites. Here is an article I wrote on When Should A Dog Be Allowed To Bite. This needs to be incorporated in this law. In addition, we need to have due process procedures to define how an accusation is going to be handled. The procedures being set up are also not well thought out. Here is another article I wrote on How To Make A Fair Dog Bite Law.

Violent Felons Banned From Owning Dogs

As of Jan. 1, 2007, Illinois will be the first state in the Union to restrict dog ownership of convicted felons.

Those who have been convicted of certain felonies - mostly those dealing with violence, weapons or drugs - are banned from owning dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. They are also prohibited from owning dogs that have been declared vicious or dangerous.

The banning period is 10 years beginning with the felon's release from custody. In some cases, that period may be covered by parole. In many cases, it will not.

This is good legislation, and is something I’ve advocated for years. Most of our dog problems are people problems. Most of our worst pit bull problems are problems with violent criminals. Violent criminals should NOT be allowed to have a dog to run another drug or pit fighting operation.

Monday, June 05, 2006

This Dog Deserved Better

John Hohnsbehn received 3-year-old Teddy, a Great Pyrenees, when it was a puppy as a gift from his brother, Bruce Hohnsbehn. When John Hohnsbehn moved out of his East Alton home and into an apartment a little more than a month ago because of marital troubles, he left the dog there. The 120-pound dog, which Hohnsbehn estimated was worth between $1,000 and $1,500, could not stay in the apartment.

Animal Control officers seized Teddy last Tuesday, and after trying to find a place for him at an Edwardsville pound and at a humane society shelter, they euthanized the animal. John Hohnsbehn said he never was notified. Instead, his 18-year-old daughter signed the paperwork that his wife, Jackie Hohnsbehn, approved over the telephone. She could not be reached for comment.

While John Hohnsbehn conceded he told his wife she could "do what she thought was best" to the dog, he countered he should have been called before it was killed.

So, why didn't this shelter contact a Great Pyrenees rescue organization? It isn't good enough, when you are in the business of rescuing dogs, to just make a token effort to find another home. And why didn't this husband, wife or adult daughter contact a GP rescue organization? Was this family fight worth the death of this dog? Where is the evidence this dog was either unhealthy or had an unstable temperament? Where is the evidence that everything was done to save this dog? If we assume that this story is complete and accurate, these people all were undeserving of having a dog, including the shelter involved. Poor dog; he deserved a lot better than this.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cesar Millan's Way

A couple of months ago, I was asked to write a review of Cesar Millan’s book, “Cesar’s Way”. Appearing on high profile shows, such as Oprah Winfrey, he is marketed as “America’s most sought-after-dog-behavior expert. But Cesar is not a trainer in the traditional sense – his expertise lies in his unique ability to comprehend dog psychology… Founder of the Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles, Cesar Millan is the star of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan on National Geographic Channel.”

In his book, he focuses on three elements when dealing with any dog: exercise, discipline and affection, in that order.

Regarding his method, Cesar Millan runs a type of dog camp or doggie daycare. He uses

a.) a considerable amount of exercise, including the use of treadmills and backpacks, as a way of relaxing dogs to prepare them for counter-conditioning exercises;
b.) packs of dogs to rehabilitate unstable, fearful or aggressive dogs;
c.) Leashes and chain collars to block jumping, whining, possessiveness, biting, aggressiveness, excessive barking, mounting, fighting, active dominance challenges;
d.) Redirection to get dogs doing alternative behaviors in play areas, obstacle courses, a pool, a feeding area, a sleeping area, and an eating / drinking area;
e.) calming techniques using hand feeding;
f.) a limited amount of obedience training, such as teaching the dogs to heel on a loose lead at the handler’s side;
g.) a “claw” technique, his own version of the “alpha rollover”, and a pursuit technique to deal with dogs that don’t show submission to other dogs or people;
h.) “flooding” for phobias;
i.) “calm / assertive” handler techniques;
j.) touch and sound techniques to interrupt, correct and / or redirect behaviors;
k.) a variety of traditional manners rules, which are implemented with the “no free lunch” type of approach;
l.) a variety of games and other “mental challenges”; and
m.) human intervention.

He also believes that obedience training doesn’t fix everything, and feels that an “all positive” approach to behavior modification is not justified for many dogs, especially those that are dangerously aggressive or on the verge of being put to death for behavioral problems.

By doing a bit of research on the internet, I found that Cesar Millan is quite a controversial figure in the dog training world. On the internet, his critics claim

a.) He lacks credentials;
b.) He hasn’t titled dogs in either obedience or in the show dog ring;
c.) He uses “old methods” such as leash corrections, e-collars, dominance techniques, the alpha roll; which they claim induces “learned helplessness”;
d.) The dogs are stressed when his methods are applied;
e.) Some behavioral problems are medically related, are not going to be addressed by any kind of behavior modification program, and Cesar Millan doesn’t clarify this in his writings or on his TV show;
f.) He doesn’t use the accepted behavioral terminology, and makes up his own behavioral vocabulary; and
g.) He and his company are being sued by a former customer for allegedly injuring a dog; inferring or charging this is evidence he is a cruel and inhumane trainer. Some have gone so far as to petition the National Geographic channel to pull his show off the air, and to offer to testify against him in court!

There is a philosophical war going on about how to train animals and humans. Cesar Millan’s primary critics are generally from the “all positive” folks, who have become extremists, and thus hate what Cesar Millan is doing. The clicker folks and veterinary behaviorists really have their hair in a knot. To them, dominance and aggression have become discredited as concepts, only their credentials are valid, stress is considered abnormal and insurmountable, any kind of correction is considered abusive, and operant conditioning has become the bible of all things behavioral.

In his book, Cesar Millan addresses his critics on some of these points, and it is worth reading the book to hear his side of the story.

None of Cesar Millan’s work is really new to anyone experienced with dog training and behavior modification. If you are an experienced “dog psychologist” all this stuff can, and probably should be, in your training toolbox, along with your treats, toys, clickers, and massage techniques. However, few know how to properly administer any of the techniques Cesar uses, so, unless you know what you are doing, you should stick to purely positive methods to get results.

I found the book interesting and would recommend it, yet I had to spend a considerable amount of time pondering what he had to say about behavior.

In general, I liked the book and found it interesting, but I think it isn’t very useful for most dog owners. Most of what he is saying and doing will go over the heads of most people, and that includes most dog trainers and behaviorists. His methods are also expensive to implement, and they require using packs of dogs in conjunction with each technique.

If I am interpreting his book, and what I’ve found by researching his program, I don’t think his methods are abusive or unethical, but I do think it would be foolish for anyone to try the things he suggests unless they know what he is really talking about. My opinion is that you shouldn’t be doing any of these methods with any dog unless you are working with a professional. The only annoying thing I found about his book is his use of language and terminology. He uses terms, such as “energy”, to define a wide array of behavioral phenomena. His terminology is hard to decipher, and therefore made my review of his book especially difficult. I also think it is misleading to draw the conclusion, from the marketing you get in the media, that you can save all dogs if you just knew more about “dog psychology”… and I didn’t find that stressed clearly enough in his book. I do give him credit for saying that not all dog owners are willing or capable of doing what is necessary for the wellbeing of their dogs.

I’m not here to vouch for Cesar Millan. I don’t know him personally, and can only judge him by what I know about the dog world, and what I’ve seen on TV, from what I’ve read in his book, from his interviews in the media, and by evaluating what his critics say and who they are.

Get the book. Read it and judge for yourself.