Animal Clairvoyance:

Many people would love to have Dr. Doolittle’s amazing ability. It is an appealing idea to believe that we can talk directly to animals. It is impossible to gaze into the loving eyes of a dog and not recognize intelligence. The cold, almost condescending stare of a cat speaks volumes to the willing listener. Over the last few years, a new career has emerged that aims to satisfy our wish to talk to our pets – animal communicator.
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Top Ten Reasons for Giving Up an Animal:

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WaWaKennelOne of the peculiarities of the humane industry is that it’s hard to separate the bad guys from people who are overwhelmed with owing an animal or inexperienced in successful ownership. We often talk about irresponsible breeders and owners, but there is almost never a name or face that we can connect with the problem. One place where pet overpopulation is immediately personal is at the receiving counter of an animal shelter. I spent eight years being “that guy” and have a fair amount of knowledge of what people say when they are giving up their animal. When a person takes in a dog or cat, there is no way to hide from the truth. The obvious solution to feeling guilty about the fear that your pet will not be adopted is to fib about the true nature of the beast.

To really understand the dynamics of avoiding the truth while getting rid of your pet, try this “Top Ten List” Note: To sort out our list and to make it more readable, I have also included a pet lover’s translation – Ready? Here goes!! Continue reading

The Premack Principle: Much ado about nothing you don’t already know.

Modern dog trainers and behaviorists like to make a connection between scientific research and some kind of über-knowledge they use to train animals. That way they can imply that they are secret knowledge that mere trainers don’t have. Look up the word hubris if you wish to know the truth of that practice. Their words are meant to sell a product, not give insight. In reality, trainers have been plying their trade so long that there is virtually nothing that hasn’t come before. To give you an example that you are just as smart about behavior as the learned doctors and their acolytes who crow the “great accomplishments” of modern, scientific training, consider one of their crowning discoveries – the Premack Principle. Continue reading

The Dog, the GPS and a Loving Home: Not always connected.

This post isn’t exactly about behavior – it’s about the broader effects of behavior and about why I became a trainer and behaviorist. It is slanted toward dog professionals, but if you are simply a dog lover you can mentally edit the references to business. 

It all started about 35 years ago. I was out of college with no real desire to pursue my chosen profession – architecture. After working a succession of jobs in the town where I went to college, I was offered a job managing the local humane society. For the next eight years I worked in some aspect of the humane industry and became convinced of something. Continue reading

Clicker Training You can Count On

At a seminar I gave in Wichita, Kansas, one of the attendees was Dr. Ogden Lindsley – brilliant pioneer behaviorist, inventor of “Precision Teaching” and donkey trainer extraordinaire. Og’s influence on clicker training and operant conditioning and training has been significant though not always recognized. When you hear clicker trainers talk about “fluency”, they are unknowingly using Og’s terminology and frame of reference. Og is one of the few behavior analysts who is an expert at actually teaching real animals in real surroundings to perform dependable and intricate behaviors. His jack donkey, Silver Butte Jack, played basketball, carried a full size miner’s pick in his mouth on cue and fetched the mail from the roadside mailbox – about 200 yards from the house. Other than a little drool and slobber, the mail arrived in better shape that some scent articles I’ve seen. Continue reading