Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Dogs and Wolves: Dispelling Cesar Millan Once Again

A new book by Toni Shelbourne called "The Truth About Wolves and Dogs" is a very easy, worthwhile, and informative read. Shelbourne ends her well-illustrated book by imploring readers to "Say 'no' to inappropriate training methods." She also writes, "Let's have a revolution and let our dogs be dogs." Amen. Read More

Wolves and Dogs Deserve Our Respect

I am delighted that Marc brought this book to my attention. I plan to order a copy. It is indeed both refreshing and important to allow these wonderful animals (wolves and dogs) to be themselves. It is our responsibility as humans to given them respect, and to learn more about their own wise ways in every realm that we can.

Having been a long time dog owner (now a great German Shepherd), and having had the special pleasure of working with wolves, one wolf in particular (see lupeywolf.com) I realize there is so much more for me to learn. This contrasts totally with human projections on what we imagine, and want, our fellow creatures to be.

Its great that many are now joining in with their insights and appreciation.

John C. Fentress, PhD

Dog training

I grow increasingly tired of everyone trying to "Dispell" Cesar Millan, I've had dogs all my life and training differs for each dog, yes they are individuals and members of our family and their training should be designed around them. I've watched Cesar for years along with many other trainers, and have come to realize that all trainers have a style and whichever style works for your dog is golden. Everyone compares themselves to Cesar and his methods, well it's his style and it works for the masses so lets stop pointing fingers and go back to trying to help our dogs live happy safe lives. I don't believe that a "touch" or noise"tsssst" is abuse and if pointing a finger is what you want to do point your fingers at the lawmakers who are not making laws stricter for animal abusers, lets put our minds together on how to get the message out to our lawmakers that we won't stand for animal abuse anywhere under any circumstances.

Reinforcement vs Punishment

Anonymous wrote:
I don't believe that a "touch" or noise"tsssst" is abuse and if pointing a finger is what you want to do point your fingers at the lawmakers who are not making laws stricter for animal abusers, lets put our minds together on how to get the message out to our lawmakers that we won't stand for animal abuse anywhere under any circumstances.

Well, touching and noises are not abusive, until they're paired with an aversive stimulus which in turn turns them into a conditioned stimulus with same function- in other words, pairing those "tools" with yanking a choking collar will result in the dog learning that the sound/touch will elicit the aversive stimulus. In the end, they're as abusive as yanking on a collar, they serve same function.

Having said that, and while I respect a lot Marc Bekoff's work, I believe that the goal shall be educating everyone interested in dogs in dog behaviour. Once folks have a deeper understanding of dog behaviour, they do apply more appropriate training methods, because the need for abusive methods is gone.

Yes, abusive methods work short-term, but only because the dog has no alternative. Try doing that with an off-leash dog, or even better, try assessing the results of someone much less experienced at handling a dog that way. And no, dogs trained quickly that way are not 'cured', they will revert to previous behaviour once the environment changes.

Lastly, I wish we stopped attacking other people, and rather focus on education. It's ironic that we use punishment procedures, as in trying to stop other's behaviour, instead of using what we preach and teach new skills in people- dogs and wolfs would benefit from humans learning about their behaviour.

Disagree

I have to disagree with you. I can say this because I have a 10 year old Labrador myself. All her life she had an Obsession: when she heard the door bell ring or just someone knock at the door, she went crazy, ran to the door, spun around and wouldnt stop barking until the Person entered our home. It even went that far that she got hurt accidently by my mother, who pushed the door over the Dogs toes when she opened the door.

However, next time the doorbell rang and she started barking, I stood before her calmly, touched her shoulder and said "tssh!", and she calmed down. I did this whenever someone rang our doorbell, and now she is more relaxed when she hears it.
I didnt hurt her, I didnt raise my voice at her and instead of actually "putting her down", I pulled her Attention towards myself, away from the door, because she was looking at me with big eyes after I did the touch. When she stayed in that calm stance, I gave her a doggytreat and everything was good.

Same works with the heeling. She used to pull frantically when I walked her, but leading her Attention towards me and away from everything else that was Happening on the streets made her walk nicely by my side, all this without a choking collar.

You see, it is better to be strict and disciplined sometimes before giving affection (which is a positive Stimulus), but to let the dog strangle himself by pulling you along.

Reinforcement vs Punishment

Anonymous wrote:
I don't believe that a "touch" or noise"tsssst" is abuse and if pointing a finger is what you want to do point your fingers at the lawmakers who are not making laws stricter for animal abusers, lets put our minds together on how to get the message out to our lawmakers that we won't stand for animal abuse anywhere under any circumstances.

Well, touching and noises are not abusive, until they're paired with an aversive stimulus which in turn turns them into a conditioned stimulus with same function- in other words, pairing those "tools" with yanking a choking collar will result in the dog learning that the sound/touch will elicit the aversive stimulus. In the end, they're as abusive as yanking on a collar, they serve same function.

Having said that, and while I respect a lot Marc Bekoff's work, I believe that the goal shall be educating everyone interested in dogs in dog behaviour. Once folks have a deeper understanding of dog behaviour, they do apply more appropriate training methods, because the need for abusive methods is gone.

Yes, abusive methods work short-term, but only because the dog has no alternative. Try doing that with an off-leash dog, or even better, try assessing the results of someone much less experienced at handling a dog that way. And no, dogs trained quickly that way are not 'cured', they will revert to previous behaviour once the environment changes.

Lastly, I wish we stopped attacking other people, and rather focus on education. It's ironic that we use punishment procedures, as in trying to stop other's behaviour, instead of using what we preach and teach new skills in people- dogs and wolfs would benefit from humans learning about their behaviour.

Dogs and Wolves

While I always appreciate alternative viewpoints, I have to comment that I only partially agree with this perspective. It's great when people can be so open-minded about "dogs being dogs" but it's an unfortunate "truth" that the majority probably are not. They may lack the desire to be understanding or have expectations not necessarily fair to the average dog. It's my thought that most guardians want their dogs to blend smoothly into their family and lifestyles. They don't want dogs that, from their perspective, don't "behave", are aggressive, guarding, barkers, anti-social, too big, too small, shedders....the list is endless. They have to relocate, so they dump the dog. Or relegate it to life on a chain. Let's face it, a too large number of humans shouldn't even have dogs. But that isn't reality.
I think Cesar has done a great service for many dogs and their guardians including the tv viewers at home. I have never seen him condone what *I* would consider abusive methods but admit on a few occasions I thought he seemed a bit rough, though he only seems to revert to that when a dog is not responsive to gentler techniques and strategies. What I admire is that often his restructuring of a bad behavior to an acceptable behavior is QUICK! There is no belaboring redundant, mostly ineffective sessions. His method makes sense somehow and I think it may have saved MANY dogs from true, outright and continuous abuse by unsavvy guardians. Who knows how many he may have saved from the pounds or shelters? It seems to be his goal. I venture to guess - many! Too, he is able to take you inside the dogs' minds to whatever degree that is possible; we are only human. While our expectations of our canine companions are sometimes too great, we must, for now at least, meet our obligation to help them become "canine good citizens" to as great a degree as possible. Their lives often depend on it.
Thanks for the review.

dogs being dogs

I'd like to comment on this. I am a professional dog trainer. I have also worked with wolves for many years. I believe that the 'truth' is somewhere in the middle. Yes you must let dogs be dogs, but for the families where the dogs are destroying their home, and acting out, it can be the result of not having consistency, structure and discipline. Like children, mixed messages will create more problems. I feel like with Cesar Milan, although he explains what he is doing and why, it is not appropriate for all or most cases. I also feel like it has the potential to give people a false sense of confidence that could potentially get someone bit. Dogs are aggressive for many different reasons, if you don't know the root of the problem, and you're trying to poke a dog in the neck because it looks like something you saw on a tv show, you could put yourself at risk. I believe the dogs crave that structure and consistency, that's what happens in the pack. The rules stay the same. They will respect you and your relationship will be closer and better if you have consistent rules in your house.

*sigh* how is it "the truth"?

i don't know if i want to read this book bec the title has already irritated me.

unless it's a wolf standing there and saying "okay, humans, it's like this..." then there's no "truth" about any of it - it's one person's interpretations of what she's seeing in a *socialized* wolf pack. if nothing else, cesar has proved time and again that if you get ten ppl watching the same video clip, you'll get ten different "truths" about what was seen.

i tried "positive only" methods, where you ignore misbehaviour. that nearly got my 2yr old daughter's lips ripped off when my dog (who was perfectly a-okay when i got him) went after the hot dog she was eating. he was not, is not, and never has been "aggressive" but he gets so hyper that the end result is the same: ppl were getting hurt.

i tried that horrible "dogfather" person - and found myself looking at my dog like he was the lowest scum on the planet.

cesar was the first trainer that laid it out: my dog was my fault and there's no "fixing" the dog unless i fix myself first. it's not rocket science: being the leader means you take responsibility for your dog. that means you do what is necessary to make things right with your dog.

i should also point out that cesar is not about normal dogs - you don't use cesar's methods to teach your dog to play games, do tricks, etc - his methods are to get your dog up to a basic level of obedience and from there you can switch over to some other methods (right now, i use click and treat with corrections to teach my dog tricks and a leash "pop" involves literally twitching my first two fingers bec that's all i need to hold the leash).

unfortunately, to recoup lost ground and start from a negative position, you have to exert far more effort than if you're starting from ground zero. my dog was in the habit of bolting out the door the split second it was cracked open - there is no "clicking" and "treating" to stop a sixty lb-plus border collie obsessed with getting out! so yeah - i had to use knees, side of the foot, hips, hands, etc to prove to him that i have the ability to stop him. once he got the point, and cesar says this too, there's no need - now i tell him "wait" and i can leave the door open all the livelong day and he won't go outside (well... mostly - it's still all bets off if he sees one of his friends out in the yard).

the "infamous" roll - you know what? i do the same thing to my daughter - when she goes over the top in one of her episodes, i HAVE to physically restrain her until she calms down. it's exactly the same with my dog - sometimes he gets so mental that he's just jumping and scratching and going mental and yes, i have to bring him down to the ground (NOT "slamming" him), work him onto his side, and hold him until he calms his hyper self down and gets back to normal. there's nothing mean or cruel about it when the alternative is yelling, shouting, or whatever - it's just "you need to chill your butt before you can get back up". we put kids in time-outs or send them to their rooms "and you can come back when you're going to be social", this is no different.

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Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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