About Gary Wilkes

I have more than 35 years experience working with people and dogs. I have worked at the highest levels of competence and difficulty with real world behavioral control. A big part of my passion is the 8 years I spent in shelters, where killing unwanted animals was a big part of the job. Most of those owners would have kept the dog if simple solutions had been offered to them. At the time I didn't have anything to offer but a kennel and a two in ten chance of adoption. Now I have the solutions. I had to build them myself because those who claim to want solutions to the humane tragedy haven't bothered to. If I make a statement, it's based on more than 25 years experience with thousands of dogs. If it's speculation, I'll tell you. My goal is to provide information you can take to the bank. I hope you like the offering.

Two Day Broad-Band Seminar – leaning toward gun-dogs and other working dogs

Aiken, South Carolina May 6/7, 2017
Contact: Mark Fulmer on Facebook or email me at wilkesgm@aol.com

This seminar is in the construction phase but it will be aimed primarily at hunters or those who wish to have great control in the field. As specific topics are firmed up I will amend this to whet your appetite. MageeGunDogsB

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A couple family photos for you – circa 1920, Pineburr, Mississippi. MageeGundogA

2-Day “Broad Band” Seminar with Gary Wilkes – Phoenix, AZ January 28/29 2017

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Using a target stick to teach S&R style “agility’.

seminarlocation1Contact for details, price and registration: Michele Wilkes scooterzmomi@aol.com
Lodging: See bottom of page

Phone: 480-649-9804

This seminar will introduce you to real clicker training – the first practical and humane application of operant conditioning for dogs, from its creator.  You will gain first-hand knowledge of how to shape and control behaviors with precision and maintain great performance. You will also learn how to stop behaviors on a dime. No, this isn’t that namby-pamby “all-treats” stuff. You will learn to use the full spectrum of behavioral tools at your disposal. The facility is guide dog school with a lovely open grassy area and covered areas in case it rains. We will have plenty of room to move around and shelter from the storm. Continue reading

The Emperor’s New Khaki Clothes.

Once upon a time I was asked to go to one of the most prestigious zoos in the country as a consultant. They are so prestigious that I was not allowed to refer to myself as a consultant. The behavior director gave me an intimate tour that included going past an adult ocelot in a long, narrow ‘natural’ cage about 30 yards long and 6 yards wide. The cat stayed at one end. He would leap up on the fence, leap to the corner fence, drop to the ground, head toward his starting point and do it again…and again…and again. The cat was clearly mad from confinement. Why was it on display? To attract customers. It was the only ocelot they had.ocelot

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An Open Letter to Dog Trainers:

After 8 years of watching the results of shelters and animal control I knew what dog owners needed. You can’t have people hand you their dog and not figure it out after ten or fifteen thousand. Yes, they lie on exit questionnaires. That should be assumed. They say what they can to get themselves off the moral hook. As they are new to the process of giving up a dog the use trite, non-justifications – they’re moving, The dog digs holes. It jumps the fence. All may be true – but the questionnaire readers swallow the lies and discount the truth. That is because they haven’t received 10,000 dogs from people. They extract the data and then twist it to their own purpose.
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The Formula

1) Strengthen tendencies toward a behavior that the dog can pigeon-hole as a unique behavior. This can be done with either positive or negative reinforcement.
2) Once the behavior is predictably replicable, precede the behavior with an arbitrary cue. If you wish to use different modalities (visual vs. auditory vs. tactile) put them in sequence, NOT at the same time.
3) Practice the pattern using positive reinforcement.
4) Create a situation likely to fail. Apply “punishment for failure to perform a known behavior in a timely fashion” – Do it right and do it right now. You may have to use positive reinforcement to increase likelihood of response. Then repeat this process until it happens ‘right, right now’. This is a critical step and may take several shots dropping to #3 to get to another round of #4.
5) Integrate the behavior into the dog’s repertoire so that you can get it when you want it and no other behavior conflicts. This will use reinforcement and punishment (both types of each) as needed to maintain high levels of performance and reliability.
6) Maintain the behavior as needed. If it fails, go back to step 1. Do not try to take a short cut by dropping to a slightly lower level of performance. You may have a fundamental error embedded in the behavior at any part of the process.

Done.
p.s. If you can’t state a concise formula for what you do, work on it. Simplifying it to basic principles helps clarify the process. It also makes trouble-shooting easier.

Tell me what you won’t do – I’ll tell you what you can’t do.

Tell me what you won’t do and I’ll tell you what you can’t do.
Tell me what you don’t know and I’ll tell you what you can’t know. – Gary Wilkes

I know behavior. Not just dogs. I know 9 species, including humans. There are commonalities to all of them. There are differences to all of them. They all respond to fundamental principles of behavior. If you recall, that was B.F. Skinner’s mantra – watching a pigeon allows you to extrapolate to the entire population of humans and animals on the planet. That is highly unlikely to be true, even if you examine how pigeons behave in nature. Now imagine you decide that you are only going to study how often they do a single behavior – an instinctive behavior NOT common to most species…pecking things. Then decide that you ‘prefer’ one of the polarities of behavioral effects…positive reinforcement. Now go back and look at my two statements at the top of my post.
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Dumb and Dumber: Two ‘solutions’ that aren’t

Two of the dumbest concepts in dog training have roots in the same thing – ignorance. Here’s how it works.

You don’t know how to control a behavior problem. Meaning you are incapable of working on a specific behavior and eliminating it or putting it ‘on cue’.

Your knee-jerk solution becomes 1) Exercise and 2) Redirection/teach an alternate behavior.
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The Job at Hand: Failure is not a practice.

Caution: Minor preaching at the end. (My father was a Methodist minister and theologian. Sometimes I can’t help letting in some of that stuff.)

If I fail to do my job a dog could die. That has been my life since 1977. If I fail to catch a dog loose on the freeway, it could die. If I fail to get a stuck dog out of a drainage culvert when it’s raining and the water is rising, the dog could die. If I fail to teach a dog not to blast out the front door, a dog could die. If I fail to teach a reliable recall, a dog could die.
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