Hey guys let's address one very common myth out there:
"DOGS WANT TO PLEASE"
They really don't, if you think about it, every dog has an agenda. They "want to please" because it's convenient to that particular dog in that particular scenario. In other words, they are doing whatever they can to "please" themselves.
But let's look at it from a very practical and common sense perspective: If dogs want to please, why is dog training a booming industry? Why does your average dog do things that your average pet owners needs help with?
Simple, because they don't "want to please".
In the video below and in my book I explain the difference between more biddable dogs and more independent dogs. The biddable dogs are the ones that make it seem like it's a dogs' nature to want to "please" but in reality it has little to do with that and more to do with the appeasement mechanism of its interactions in order to maintain harmony.
Just remember that if we convince ourselves that dogs in general "want to please", it would automatically put us in a state of disappointment when they are simply making mistakes or doing things dogs do that aren't very "pleasing" to us. That's when people get upset, that's when people blame the dog.
If you just look at the dog as a dog, an animal that has its own agenda, an animal that makes mistakes like any other being on this planet, then you will be less likely to take those mistakes personally.
So don't be a douche, it's not all about you, it's ultimately about them.
Back in 1985 I lived in Susterseel, Germany. I was but a child. New to the area; I didn’t know anyone and thus had no friends. The owner of the hotel that we stayed in for the first few months had a German Shepherd (GSD). He looked pretty old and seemed to have low energy but he was very friendly. That dog became my only friend for weeks. He was the reason I fell in love with the GSD breed. He walked with me every morning to the bus stop and was waiting to greet me every afternoon when I got back from school. He was an amazingly sweet dog. But at the time even at the young age of six years old, I could tell that something wasn’t quite right with him. Walking looked painful. My parents thought it may have just been because the dog was old. It turned out, this sweet dog was only five-years old. Looking back on it now some thirty-ish years later, I believe the pain was from hip dysplasia. And mankind is to blame for it.
For decades the GSD was among the most popular breeds in the world, but their numbers have started to decline. New research suggests the decreasing demand for GSDs may have something to do with the breed’s propensity for health problems which is likely the result of selective breeding for cosmetic traits.
A relatively recent shift in the way GSDs are bred has been linked to the breed’s current predisposition to an array of health conditions, according to research published in July of 2017 on Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. Compared to other breeds, GSDs are now disproportionately prone to musculoskeletal disorders, osteoarthritis, diarrhea, EPI, obesity, and behavioral problems. These findings should raise some red flags among breeders, but as long as people are still willing to fork out $2,500.00 and more experts are skeptical that anything will be done to remedy the problem.
Contrary to popular belief the GSD didn’t show up until the first part of the 1900’s. Shortly after their first appearance they became one of the worlds’ most popular breeds. Historically, these dogs were bred for work such as herding, military, guard duty, police, guide-dog and service work. Originally a medium sized dog topping out at about 50lbs, their popularity as guard dogs resulted in them being bred for a larger size (85lbs-120lbs) and a more confident temperament. In recent decades, however, breeders have focused on the breed’s aesthetics rather than their overall functional health. This is especially true regarding the “show lines.” The resulting changes to the breed’s physical characteristics due to selective breeding has now impacted the health of GSDs as a whole.
GSDs being predisposed to many health conditions is well documented. In 2013 researchers collected data on approximately 500,000 dogs from veterinary clinics across the UK. This study included data going back to 2005, along with data from dogs who were under veterinary care at the time of the study.
Disturbingly, out of roughly 500,000 dogs (12,146 being GSDs) nearly 300,000 of them (7,652 GSDs) had at least one disorder recorded in 2013. And according to this research, most are most likely to be euthanized due to complications arising from musculoskeletal disorders such as hip and elbow dysplasia. An astonishing 263 different health conditions were documented in the breed, the most common being inflammation of the ear canal, osteoarthritis, diarrhea, obesity, and aggression. The average GSDs typically live to be between 9 and 13 years old, which is actually pretty good, but its quality of life may be diminished because of the breed’s susceptibility to so many health complications.
Bearing all of this in mind, it isn’t difficult to see why the GSDs popularity has declined over the past decade. Who in their right mind would make the conscious decision to purchase, adopt or rescue a breed with such an abundance of serious health issues? Dr. Dan O’Neill of the Royal Veterinary College stated, “Our results highlight the power of primary-care veterinary clinical records to help understand breed health in dogs and to support evidence-based approaches towards improved health and welfare in dogs; interestingly, we found osteoarthritis to be one of the most common conditions reported, which may be caused, in part, by breeding for cosmetic traits such as lower hindquarters or a sloping back.”
With all of the selective breeding aimed toward sloping the back of the GSD I can’t help but wonder, how has that become the breed standard in conformation? “The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short. The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness." This is the “SV” standard originally set up by Max Von Stephanitz (the “architect” of the German shepherd), which near as I can tell is the mandating authority on all things GSD. Yet, looking at the past years prize winners for conformation it seems to me that this standard has been grossly ignored and in doing so the GSD breed as a whole is suffering because of it.
Not long ago I adopted a GSD that had to be euthanized three years later due to complications perpetuated by a genetic disorder caused by bad breeding. I have since had two other GSDs and every time they defecate I breath a sigh of relief when I see that it’s a healthy dump. No dog owner should ever have to worry that their dogs’ health will turn on a dime due to man interfering in genetics through selective breeding.
Jason is a friend of mine and contributor to this blog. He's a certified Canine Training and behavior specialist and is currently training his GSD in PSA (Protection Sports Association)
If you're into martial arts please give his FB page a visit. He's a Karate and Tae Kwon Do instructor as well.
This quick article is aimed at dog trainers. I'm sure a refresher more than anything else as it's a very common sentence in the dog training industry. Especially if you work with driven dogs.
There are many times I hear dog trainers say things like: "I don't need to use food/toys for my dog to do the behavior", or "Toys as rewards are not really useful because it gets the dog out of focus too much".
-Training WITH drive- means we use the most motivating reward for the dog with the following stipulation: "You can have it if you follow these rules"
These rules don't have to be complex or difficult. They can be simple and easy at first, "You give me eye contact and then you can have the reward". At times simpler than that, meaning, sometimes you have to lure the dog into position.
Some trainers fall into the trap of "you have to do the behavior because I told you to do the behavior". This is definitely necessary in training, I'm not arguing that. But we also want to address the intense desire to do the behavior.
Look, if you're training your pet client to stop pulling, I get it, no big deal. The dog has to know the boundaries and understand the discipline of the behavior. But if you're competing, or doing demos with your dog. You want your dog to look intense, like this obedience exercise is the most fun part of its day.
If you don't want to train in drive, no worries, don't. I'm sure your dogs are very obedient and look equally impressive. Getting your dog to LOVE the exercise however sets you a notch above the rest.
"But what if the dog has no drive?"
Trust me, there is SOMETHING any dog is dying to get from you. You have to get creative sometimes. You may have to try different treats, you may have to withhold a meal AND try different treats. You may have to try different toys, you may have to try different toys and treats. You may have to use juice, broth, etc.
"Not necessary, I don't need it!" You're right! you don't "need" it, it's just nice to have.
"I use praise only!"
Ugh, for f***'s sake! why are you still reading this?
Below I have a video of a friend's dog(Husky) I worked for a few days. The main thing I addressed here was discipline, "Stop Pulling". I used food, but this was mostly a discipline exercise, there's little engagement. In many cases, you will have to start with discipline first.
Jackpots! Jackpots are your friend! If you want the dog to go from "stop pulling" to "I love to follow you", random jackpots will convince him that there's a probability of a high reward.
Discipline along with strong desire is what really paints a nice picture most dog trainers want to see. It's constant pull and push, carrot and stick, but it's certainly fun.
Let's cut right to the chase...
1) IT ADDRESSES TWO COMPONENTS OF OPERANT CONDITIONING
2) IT ALLOWS YOU TO HELP MORE PEOPLE WITH THEIR DOG PROBLEMS
Let's face it, when you put dogs and people in a household there's a lot of room for misunderstanding. Especially nowadays when adoptions are going through the roof.
I have seen first hand the incompetence of trainers that are purely positive AND "crank and yank" trainers who rely on one half the quadrant too much. This makes sense because if I only give you a set of tools to fix a problem, you wont be able to fix most problems. This analogy makes sense if you're a handyman as well.
Not to brag, but my students and I have been able to help so many people with their dogs when previous trainers were no help. That's not to say we're special or smarter, we're just armed with all the tools we can possibly use for any given problem.
3) IT'S MORE ENJOYABLE!
I can't tell you how frustrating it is to limit yourself to only one way of training! You end up blaming the dog or the owner. That's what I see a lot in the dog training industry. It's not the dog's fault that you're too close minded to help it. It's not the owner's fault that you decided to stick to your moral agenda.
It's frustrating, it's not enjoyable to train with a limited set of tools. I was a handyman at one point in my life and I know how irritating it was to not have the proper tools for the right job at the moment.
Training as a balanced trainer is satisfying and enjoyable because you can actually help the dog figure things out while maintaining a happy attitude.
4) IT MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON
This may sound weird but it's TRUE! when you understand the principles of operant conditioning you understand how to properly communicate with an animal that doesn't speak your language in a very compassionate and clear way. Operant conditioning procedures were studied, developed and applied on animals, ultimately for the benefit of human psychology. Understanding these principles, automatically makes you understand people in a clearer way, thus making it more likely to be a better person.
**Just to be clear, calling yourself a "balanced trainer" while refusing to properly use Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment, justifying extremely forceful techniques on a consistent basis for the sake of convenience and taking pride in how you can make any dog behave in 2 minutes, doesn't make you a Balanced Trainer, it makes you an incompetent and insensitive douche-bag.**
Whether you're traveling to go to a competition or just taking your dog on a road trip there are a few things that will either make the trip pleasant or completely uncomfortable, not to mention unsafe.
Just recently my family and I drove over 7 hours to go on a beautiful hike. Well worth the drive. We took our 3 year old dog with us. I have traveled with dogs in the past so this wasn't my first trip. There are a few things that made the trip comfortable that I want to share with you.
1. Get a designated area for the dog.
I have an SUV so this was easy for me. I understand not everyone has an SUV but try to get an area cleared for your dog. This will make the dog comfortable since it wont be stepping all over your things. If you think you can just cram the dog back there because you have no room you'll be setting the dog up for long hours of discomfort. Take the extra step and figure out a system that allows you to pack as much as you can while giving your dog plenty of room.
Try to use a crate if possible! this will make it that much easier to travel. Please introduce the crate before you take your trip. Take your time with it, and make sure there's plenty of reward history. Use a crate that is big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. If your dog is squeezed in a crate for a long period of time it wont be fair at all.
2. Don't just throw the dog in the back of your pick up.
I know this is very tempting when you have a pick up truck. Don't do it. You may tell yourself you wont hit anyone but you never know. They're called accidents for a reason. You may be the best driver there is but it wont stop the worst driver from hitting you. You have a seat belt and the impact may be minimal on you but it will be a big deal for your dog. It's a major safely concern that is illegal in some areas. Even if you get a harness that acts as a seat belt you're still doing your dog a disservice by leaving it in the back of the pick up.
If you have a pick up and you're going to put your dog in the back, crate it. Once you've crated the dog, strap it. A crate floating around is just as bad.
3. Leave the AC on and the windows cracked when you leave him in the car.
Depending on how long your trip is, you're gonna have to stop to get a bite to eat and/or stretch your legs. This means you're going to have to leave your dog in the car more than likely. There is a way to do this SAFELY.
Depending on the weather you might be fine just cracking the windows. If the weather is cooler there will be no need to leave the AC on. If the weather is warm, don't take risks at the expense of your dog.
What you want to do here is disconnect the clicker or car alarm remote from the key-chain but leave the key in the ignition with the car running and the AC on at low temperature, if not full blast. When the car is idle it can affect the intensity of the AC. Crack the windows a "just in case" for well, just in case the AC or your car dies.
You also want to park near the window of the establishment and I would add parking in reverse so that from the inside of the building you can get a good view of your vehicle. The reason I suggest parking in reverse is because most dogs are kept in the back of the Car/SUV/Truck.
If your dog has never been left unattended (specially if it's not crated) give it a test run first before you go on your trip.
4. Give your dog time to potty and stretch it's legs too.
Your dog also needs to move around so time potty breaks accordingly. I know you want to get to your destination fast but trust me it'll be better in the long run. Plan your dog's potty breaks on your terms. If you've been driving for five hours now and you think your dog might be due for a potty break, stop when you see an appropriate area. The worst thing you can do is wait till it's too late or your dog is freaking out and now you have to stop on the side of road with a lot of traffic or in a questionable neighborhood.
Please have your dog on leash at all times on these breaks. As we were driving to Palo Duro this car stopped on the side of the road, a dog came out and went right into the road. Had there been more traffic when this happened we would have seen a dog meet its end.
5. If you have to stop for the night, book a pet friendly hotel ahead of time.
You'll be surprised to know not every hotel welcomes pets. Fortunately there are plenty of hotels that do. Do your research and schedule this ahead of time unless you're planning on sleeping in your car in some parking lot.
6. Enjoy the trip.
Don't rush unless you have a deadline. Stop and go for walks and make the trip memorable. It doesn't have to be a long walk, 10 minutes is short and sweet, if you can do more, great!
If your dog has motion sickness you can give it dramamine, but please consult a veterinarian first! he/she'll help you with dosage appropriate for your dog. It can help. There are other meds that can be administered for dogs with motion sickness but I'm not a veterinarian so please check with your dog's veterinarian first!
Crating a dog that has some motion sickness can help also, covering the crate can also help to block the view.