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The Power of Positive Dog Training

Dog Training and Behavior

Twenty years ago, the prevailing method for training dogs involved the use of force and physical punishment. We used choke chains, prong collars, commands and corrections to impose our will on our canine companions. Times have changed.

In the late 1980’s, a dolphin trainer named Karen Pryor introduced the dog-training world to a gentler training method in her landmark book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. This unassuming little paperback explained the scientific principles of behavior and learning developed earlier in the 20th century by behavior scientist B.F. Skinner, and suggested that with the help of a “clicker” – a small noisemaker used to mark the instant of rewardable behavior – dogs could be trained without the use of verbal and physical force.

The application, which had been used with animals like dolphins and whales for decades, is simple. Teach the dog that every time he hears the “Click!” of the clicker, he gets a treat. Then teach him that the “Click!” happens when he does a specific behavior, such as “sit.” He soon learns that he can make the clicker work by offering to sit without being asked. Once he figures that out, add the cue (not command) – the word “sit” to teach him that the behavior he is offering you is called “sit.” Apply the clicker technique to all of the things you want the dog to do, and he quickly learns to do the behaviors you want – the ones that make good things – Click! and treat — happen when he does them.

When Pryor wrote her book, you could count the number of positive dog trainers in the country on one hand. Today there are thousands, all over the world. The use of old-fashioned punish-based methods is fading as dog owners rejoice to learn that they don’t have to hurt their dogs to train them. There is even an organization with over three thousand members – The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) – that promotes the use of positive training methods and encourages the ongoing education of dog trainers. The APDT offers a trainer search list on its website at http://www.apdt.org, where you can look to find APDT member/trainers near you. Since even APDT members may use a variety of methods, the website also offers suggestions to help you find the trainer best suited to you and your dog’s needs.

Happy positive training!

Pat Miller

Posted:  Just One More Pet

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , | Leave a comment

Can Cats and Dogs Catch Swine Flu?


Pet parents of dogs and cats can relax for now, say ASPCA veterinarians. While the 2009 H1N1 virus—a faster moving and possibly more debilitating strain of influenza than the typical seasonal flu—has become an international concern, the virus, referred to as swine flu when first identified, appears to present little risk of infecting dogs and cats. However, viruses can mutate quickly and taking important preventative measures remains essential.

“Many species can become infected with influenza viruses, but the current 2009 H1N1 virus, which is a mixture of genetic material from different species, has not been identified in animal populations in the United States to date,” says Dr. Miranda Spindel, Director of ASPCA Veterinary Outreach. “These viruses are notoriously unpredictable, though, and it is important that we remain vigilant.”

In terms of other animals who are susceptible, Dr. Spindel warns that influenza or flu viruses are occasionally transmitted from people to pigs, and the 2009 H1N1 virus has also been identified in turkeys. Pet parents of Vietnamese Potbellies, African Pygmies and other pet pigs should monitor their animals’ health closely, notify their veterinarian of any signs of illness and speak to their veterinarian about influenza type A vaccines. And ferrets are susceptible to most human flu viruses, so pet parents should take extra care to prevent exposure of pet ferrets to people or other ferrets with flu symptoms.

Meanwhile, flu season is upon us and pet parents should take common-sense preventative measures to keep their dogs and cats healthy:

  • If your dog is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including coughing, nasal discharge or fever (normal dog and cat temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees), play it safe and avoid taking him to places like dog parks, where he can pass on germs or come into contact with unvaccinated or sick dogs.
  • Avoid letting your cat roam freely outside.
  • If your dog comes into frequent contact with other dogs or is kept in a kennel, the ASPCA recommends that you discuss with your veterinarian whether vaccination against canine influenza may be appropriate. Note: canine influenza and H1N1 are not the same virus.
  • Talk to your vet about what flu vaccines are currently available, and be sure all your pets get vaccinated!
  • Don’t let your pet share water bowls, food dishes or toys with other animals.
  • Make sure your pet is eating, drinking and playing as he normally does each day. If you notice your pet behaving unusually, or if he has flu-like symptoms, check in with your veterinarian immediately.

Read the ASPCA’s official statement on swine flu.

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Posted:  Just One More Pet

October 4, 2009 Posted by | animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment