The Permissive Path to Death and Destruction: There’s the rub.

Let’s accept for a second that any use of punishment is horrible. OK. However, I don’t know that it kills very many dogs, outright. It may scare them for awhile and require time to rehabilitate the dog, but death isn’t the usual outcome. However, being intent on clarity, I’m going to accept for a second that punishment somehow kills dogs. My next question is, “how many”? Is it 1:100, 1:1000, 1:1,000,000? The reason I want the numbers is because I want to make a rational decision about the topic. Without some kind of numbers we can’t make logical comparisons. So, we will have to plunge into this topic with some educated guess-work. I used to be a dog catcher. I was a shelter manager. I have real-world experience to help me make heads-or-tails of this. If my perspective seems a little funny, you can chalk it up to my experience. Continue reading

Feral Cats, Neverending

FeralCatTrapI once was the ‘field services’ guy for a private shelter near Seattle. The staff was a combination of rabid animal rights people, clueless little old ladies in tennis shoes and people who were thrust into that job because they had no other skills. I was given the task of trapping out two feral cats at Ivar’s Salmon House in the U district in Seattle. It took about five weeks. First, the cooks threw out salmon for the cats. Second, I could only IvarsSalmonHouseget there about twice a week. Third, I only got one of them. The pregnant female got away. A total waste of time. However, I happened to know of a partial solution and have attempted many times over the years to get it implemented – including telling about 500 directors and shelter managers when I was the main speaker at a major humane conference. So far, no takers. Continue reading

When to say “NO”, literally

TorsoWhen I worked in shelters I was bitten twice by six-week-old kittens and a Chihuahua pinked my little finger nail. Doing what I do now I have three pin-hole marks on the top of my left hand – meaning the dog bit and I was able to relax my hand so that the teeth didn’t come together – no wound on the underside of my hand. In all that time I have only had one real bite. It is insignificant for most of the reasons you might consider and very significant in a couple of other areas.
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How Things Work:

When I was a young man, working in the humane movement, I was offered mounds of information about dogs. It seemed that I was the one person on the planet who was ignorant of the beasts. Every person I talked to seemed to have a great-uncle, aunt, cousin or sister who was a master dog trainer. The various great nephews and nieces would announce their familial relationship, swell up with pride and tell me the secret to understanding the canine psyche. I soon learned to either listen politely to these gems of canine lore or wear protective gear. People who know everything about dogs have very short tempers. Continue reading

Fear, Terror and Pain: Your Best Friends in a Hostile World

There is a new television series called, Naked and Afraid. The basic premise is that they drop two people into a hostile part of the world and they have to survive for 21 days.  naked-afraid-110-notunein-01Each survivalist gets to take a single item with them. This is usually a machete or a technological fire starter. However, they are taking the most important survival tools inside their skulls. The keys to survival, from a jungle in Columbia to a Walmart parking lot, are the abilities to be scared and feel pain.

If WalMart_ParkingLotyou doubt this, consider the following quote – “About one in a million people are thought to be born without a sense of pain, which results in severe self-inflicted injuries from an early age and can lead to premature death.” Duh. Imagine walking barefoot on sharp rocks and not being able to sense that you are cutting yourself to ribbons. Imagine walking right up to a jaguar and not being afraid. The absence of correct reactions to fear and pain often lead to premature death. You can take that to the bank or the graveyard – your choice.
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The “Treatless Click”

I was at the post office the other day, when a man walked up and laid a package on the counter. He touched the artificial voice box at his throat and asked the clerk how much it would cost to mail the package. The clerk weighed the package and then asked “Would you prefer Express or Priority?” The man with the artificial voice box was slow in reaching up to his neck, and did not answer instantly. The clerk again said “Do you want Express or Priority.” The man touched his communicator and croaked out “Priority.” Over the next few minutes, the routine was repeated several times — the man taking extra time to speak because of the apparatus — the clerk repeated himself, automatically, even though he could see why the man hadn’t answered promptly. The clerk was offering an operant behavior, on a “Fixed Interval” schedule of positive reinforcement.
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Puppy Mile Markers: By Request

Johnson_Bayou_road_signJustin Wilson, the famous Cajun comedian, tells a story about a city slicker who finds himself lost in a small Louisiana town. The man stops a small child and asks “Hey, child, if I take this road, where I gonna be at?” To which the boy answers, “It breaks my heart to tell you, mister, but, me, — I don’t know.” After asking about each of the roads in view, and getting the same answer, the man disgustedly comments, “Kid, you don’t know a darned thing!.” To which the child replies, “Maybe so, but I ain’t lost.”.

Like the city slicker in unfamiliar territory, many puppy owners find themselves in the position of being helplessly lost. By contrast, their puppies are like the child who has no idea of the outside world, but yet, “ain’t lost.” Finding the right training road for you and your puppy is similar to navigating to a known destination – it is a wise idea to know how to get there, before you start your trip. Continue reading

Positive Alternatives to Punishment: Seriously?

Perhaps the biggest scam in the world is the assertion that there are “positive” methods that make punishment unnecessary. OK. Let’s see about that. 3193_8155-17367_4_s0Talk to an ER vet about intestinal blockages. If a dog suffers from pica – a problem that is not connected to nutrition but is connected to ancient scavenging behavior, what are the options? Let’s say the dog ingests a sock and it passes. You now know the dog has the tendency to do such a thing. A week later, the dog ingests some underwear. Now you have a pattern forming. Next, the dog eats another sock and it hits the ER, where it’s belly will be sliced open (after confirmation of the blockage) as a first resort. The window of opportunity to save the dog’s life is limited to a few hours.
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