Normally I would link to the article at Dog Star Daily but here is a great blog by a new blogger on the team Dr. Rose
According to research conducted here in the UK, a third of those with children considered getting a family pet for Christmas. Dogs, as always, are top of the list and it got me thinking about posting something reflective for my first post here at DogStarDaily. I spared a thought for all of those puppies, adolescent dogs and rescued dogs that will go to homes and receive less than perfect training from owners with increasing stress levels, exasberated at their dogs "lack of understanding", "stubbornness" and "naughtyness". Only to end up in a rescue centre, being re-homed or biting someone and being euthanised.
The question I often pose to anyone who owns, looks after or trains dogs is this: if the outcome was the same, would you like to train your dog so that it readily spends time with you and obeys you willingly, using methods that are straight-forward and that work - or would you like to train your dog so that it fears you, using methods that are slower and cause other behaviour and training problems later on? It's a slightly biased questioning technique as it lends itself to one strongly preferred answer but I believe that only one of them is correct - for the dog. Yet I know, through experience and research, that although one is correct, the other is more common. I have just spent 9 very long and tiring months researching dangerous dogs as a by-product of ineffective training and looking in great detail at the very topical "dangerous dogs" label and what can be done about it. Many dog owners, breeders, trainers, veterinary professionals and now politicians have opinions (often very heated ones - which often makes things worse) about breed discrimination, punishments, changing laws and how best to tackle these many "viscious", "unruly" and "dangerous" dogs that attack people and other dogs. But as an academic and a lecturer, what really struck me was the distinct lack of focus on education.
If we can train a chimp to skateboard, a chicken to distinguish specific shapes or a dog to empty the washing machine, surely we can teach owners how to effectively train dogs so that they are safe around people and other dogs, highlighting the important of responsibility - and accountability.
My approach to the issue of dangerous dogs, based on the philosophy of my own Responsible Dog Owners Campaign (www.nationaldogcampaign.co.uk
PLEASE sign the Government petition!), is education. Vets and significant resources such as DogStarDaily and dog trainers, can play a vital and key role in encouraging early socialisation, good puppy training and giving effective advice during adolescence, to avoid the vast majority of problems which lead to "dangerous dogs". Our four-legged friends unfortunately don't come with instruction manuals (neither to children either and as a prospective human parent, I strongly believe that both really should!!) so it is important to promote correct information, to assist owners in preventing perfectly predictable problems which all too often lead to euthanasia, re-homing and aggressive dogs.
Your new puppy or rescued dog, does not speak English – it has no concept of what you are saying or any innate comprehension of what you want it to do: it is up to us to show it what we would like it to do and what would like it to not do. How we train our dogs and how much time we dedicate to them has a big impact on how they will behave – and whether they are likely to bite or not. Shouting at your dog when it doesn’t come back to you simply because you haven’t trained it to want to come back to you or telling your puppy off when it soils in the house because it doesn’t understand – and never will – why not to poo on the carpet; it simply requires more training. These are just two common mistakes owners make when assuming the dog has a higher intelligence than it actually has. Dolphins are more intelligent than dogs but you don’t see trainers desperately berating them: “you did this yesterday you stupid fish – jump over the **** hoop!”. Dogs do not possess a plane of psychology complex enough to offer stubbornness so when your dog does not obey you, ask yourself why: it is very likely that the dog is stressed, has found something more interesting or rewarding to do or simply does not understand what you want it to do. However, the training process can and should be fun and free of any pain and punitive techniques.
Avoid electric shock collars, spray collars, air sprays, metal discs and probably 90% of the gadgets and gizmos out there. They are unnecessary and actually increase the training time. Do you question it when you see wild animals in small cages? Does a part of you wonder if the performing killer whale is happy or if that tank is large enough? Positive training methods always strengthen bonds and create happy and balanced dogs who readily behave well. Punitive and so-called ‘dominant’ techniques create dogs who are fearful, will more readily use aggression in defence and cement a relationship based on distrust.
There is still a lot of work to be done to show dogs the same level of respect as dolphins and other performing marine mammals and to demonstrate to everyone training a dog that the attitude to take is not one of 'there are plenty more fish in the sea'.
Be responsible and embrace education. Can you remember a teacher you particularly liked at school? You probably still really enjoy the subject they taught. You probably won't be able to remember anything they said to you or anything they did for you but you do remember how that person made you feel. Those animals with emotional intelligence - of which canines are one - will always remember how something makes them feel. It's our turn to be the good teacher for your four-legged friend...