Jurassic World and Training Dinosaurs

 

You might not have noticed, but there’s been a bit of a reaction in the animal training community to the blockbuster release of Jurassic World. And not just the recreations of actor Chris Pratt’s pose — which I absolutely love, by the way. (No way I’m picking a favorite pic. Go scroll through them.) Continue reading

Perception and Service Dogs

This entry is part 21 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
An incorrectly-worded service dog sign ("Seeing Eye Dog or ADA certified")

Don’t do this.

I stopped on my way into the shop to take a photo of the sign on their door. Then I went in, did my shopping, and then gently mentioned during checkout that they might want to revise the wording on their no-pets sign to be more accommodating (and legally acceptable). The shop owners, two women behind the counter, were not aware that their wording was exclusive to many users of service dogs and also not even feasible — there is no such thing as “ADA-certified” — and were eager to learn more. One took notes as I answered questions.

The clerk at a convenience store smiled as Mindy and I approached the counter to pay for my drink. “Your dog is cute, ” she said. “What exactly does she do for you?”

I explained that I was training Mindy, that she didn’t assist me or anyone yet, but that in general it was considered unmannerly to ask a user of a service dog about their medical issues. The young woman hadn’t realized the implication of her question and agreed that it could be invasive.

Most violations of service animal law are not intentional, or even from a position against service animals. Many people use “Seeing Eye dog” as a generic term, without realizing that the Seeing Eye is just one specific organization training dogs for just one specific disability. Saying “Seeing Eye dogs only” is like saying only persons with a specific brand of wheelchair may enter — but their intentions were probably friendly. Continue reading

The Training Game and What It Teaches: The Rat Is Always Right

Many clicker trainers are familiar with what is almost universally known by the ridiculously simple name of The Training Game. It’s a shaping game played among humans, and most often a learner is sent from the room while the group determines a (physically and socially safe) behavior to shape, and then a trainer shapes the learner with the clicker to perform the chosen behavior.

There are a number of variations on this game, many useful. The trainer (and observers) can learn a great deal by doing this! and it’s a great way to test various training concepts and approaches. There is a variation I have not used in nearly a decade, however, with good reason: It broke the learner.

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Puppy’s First Tornado – Preparedness for Pets

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Storm Watch
Tornado warning

Tornado warning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring came very late to Indiana this year, and I got complacent. With a lot fewer spring storms, I didn’t prep for tornados like I should have. So when the warning sirens went off a few minutes ago and I saw that a tornado had been sighted, I was unprepared.

This is dumb. If you’re lucky, you get up to half an hour of tornado warning, if it’s considerate enough to touch down at a distance and with an observable and predictable path. The average warning time with today’s radar equipment is about 13 minutes, according to NOAA. But you might have just a few minutes, if that.

So I’m writing this post from my basement, waiting for the tornado to pass (it seems to be heading north of us) and making plans to improve my storm preparations. Continue reading

“A Walk in the Park” Is Supposed to Mean “Easy” – When Aggression Isn’t Funny

0529141318bYesterday Mindy and I met some friends at the park for a picnic lunch. I debated and then decided to make it a rare “non-working” outing for Mindy, so she wasn’t in her vest and was free to sniff around and be a puppy. (She gets plenty of puppy time at home, remember, but everyone can take a vacation once in a while!)

Another dog was with us, too, who has spent years recovering from severe fear aggression. She’s remarkably functional now — no one could guess, looking at her, how fearful and reactive she used to be — and she was really enjoying her day, too. Mindy and I respected her space, sitting at the opposite end of the picnic table, but everything was absolutely fine.

Until we started walking. Continue reading

Service Animal Etiquette. Seriously, People.

This entry is part 7 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
Cebus apella group. Capuchin Monkeys Sharing

Capuchin Monkeys Sharing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a restaurant once when a woman was seated at the next table with her service animal, a Capuchin monkey. I was horrified when a man brought his son to her table to “meet your monkey” and pet it.

Seriously, mister, would you bring your kid over and say, “We think your electric scooter is really cool and my son wants to push its brightly-colored buttons”? Of course not. So why would you assume you can handle other medical equipment, which is what service animals legally are?

I’ve heard horror stories from those who use service dogs daily, but still I’ve been really surprised since I started working with Mindy at just how rude some people are around service animals. And while most people are pretty good at not interfering with her or at least asking before reaching for her, there are others which are ruining the picnic for everyone, and I don’t get it. I mean, we’ve had service dogs among us for nearly a century, right?

(Warning: I acknowledge openly that R+ is the best behavior modification option. But this blog post contains P+, in that I strongly criticize. Proceed with caution.) Continue reading

Got a minute? Check this out, please.

Today I’m signal boosting for another post, one which isn’t on this blog because it’s not directly tied to behavior — but it’s important.

I wrote On Today’s Slavery because most Americans really don’t think of slavery as existing any more. True, sometimes we hear about human trafficking, but it’s usually far away and not really relevant. But truth is, there are more slaves — real slaves — today than at any previous period in world history, and they’re in the US too. Continue reading

Cropping, Docking, Political Correctness, Opinions, Animal Welfare, Free Speech, and Dogs

Dobermann Pinscher from 1915

Dobermann Pinscher from 1915 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fair warning: most of my posts I at least try to keep civil and positive. No guarantees today.

As regular readers will know, I have a breed which is in this country normally cropped and docked. Yes, that’s the actual AKC standard: “ears normally cropped.” There is some debate over whether that line should be interpreted “are usually cropped but not always,” or “are cropped in a normal manner.” And when I say “some debate,” I mean wars have been fought over this ground. Continue reading

When You Should NOT Socialize Your Dog — Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series When You Should NOT Socialize
hand reaching for snarling dog

“It’s okay — if enough people pet him he’ll get used to people, right?”
(copyright Fotalia, photo purchased for use)

So all that chat in Part 1 about how to avoid creating problems while socializing a puppy was nice, but you’ve got an adult dog — and whether you made some socialization mistakes or whether you inherited a bad socialization legacy along with the dog, things just aren’t the way they should be. Is there hope?

Yes, of course there’s hope! But again, here is where mistakes happen in the name of “socialization.” Don’t make them.

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