This blog is a tribute to Belle, and all the dogs who have come before and after. They are my friends, my companions, my teachers and my students. They bring me both joy and heartache, laughter and tears. There is nothing as sweet as the smell of puppy breathe, and nothing as sad as the final goodbye.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sittin' Pretty

Mouzer, aka Mr. Mouse

A Silent Killer

By Tyler Muto
The post is very important to me, and it is likely to upset some people. Those involved will not admit their guilt, will deny every aspect of what I am about to say, and place the blame elsewhere.
There is a silent killer in the dog training world. It is not a virus, not a piece of equipment, not a bacteria.
It is an idea.
It is the idea that all dogs, in all situations, should be trained with nothing other than rewards, and without ever the use of aversives. “Reward what you like and ignore what you don’t” is the mantra that is preached, and all will be well in the world. In the dog training community this philosophy goes by many names, some call it Pure Positive (which is not an accurate description), some call it Progressive Reinforcement, some call it Reward only, but for the purposes of this article I will refer to it as Aversive Free or AF
*Aversive Free (AF) Training can be defined as training which involves only the R+ and P- quadrants of learning. When I refer to Aversive Free (AF) Trainers in this article, I am not referring to those who simply choose this approach for themselves, but I am referring to those who vehemently oppose the use of aversives for any dog in any situation.
Let me be clear, what I am referring to is not the idea that reward only techniques are good, and work in some cases. What I am referring to is the dogmatic belief that this is the ONLY way to train a dog, or deal with behavior problems. The aversive free philosophy is that any type of consequence other than simply removing the reward, is cruel, inhumane, and barbaric.
“Well,” you might be asking at this point. “What does this have to do with death and killing.”
Quite a bit in fact. You see, rewards are used primarily to create new behavior and offer little to no assistance in communicating to a dog that a certain behavior is unacceptable. However, millions of dogs are killed in this country every year because of behaviors that are deemed “unacceptable.”  The AF fanatics have made such a roar that the majority of shelters and rescues have adopted an aversive free philosophy within their organizations. Why? Well probably a few reasons. For one, it sounds great on paper to say that you only reward dogs, and never punish with aversives. Secondly, they have drank the kool-aidThe aversive free proponents have created such a buzz, and are so good at promoting their philosophy that they have many people believing that anything can be accomplished with reward based techniques, and that corrections are always bad and will ruin your dog forever.
Yep, shelter staff, daycare owners, breeders, veterinarians, and many others (most of whom have only trained a handful, if any dogs in their life. And likely have never worked a dog, hands on, through a serious aggression problem.) have been duped into believing this non-sense.
Many well meaning dog owners have also been sucked in, believing that, armed with cookies, hugs, and rays of sunshine they can transform their aggressive, unruly pooch into a well mannered pet.
It’s an easy argument to sell. After all, rewarding dogs is fun, and correcting is not. So when people are told by a professional that they never have to correct their dog again, they are all ears.
Unfortunately, most dogs with serious behavior issues will not be helped with this approach.
And then come the excuses, “This dog needs medication,” “He was traumatized too much as a puppy and will never recover,” or the classic “It’s not the dog, it’s the owner.” the list goes on and on.
When the AF approach fails, the only other option is euthanasia. After all, it would be unheard of to just give a dog a simple correction, to help it understand that there are certain behaviors in life that have consequences. Simple, immediate, consequences.
Dog Aggression training in buffalo ny, k9 connection
Luna the Aussie has a history of biting eight people and dogs, Georgia has attacked several dogs, now they are rough housing together without a problem.
Use a leash and prong collar to create momentary discomfort. . . .Oh no, anything but that. Death is certainly a better option. 
Don’t believe me?
I am a member of many online dog forums, one of which used to be over-run by the AF cult. (For more on the ‘cult’ of aversive free see here). One woman had a young dog who she was having some trouble with. Even though she was using the aversive free techniques that supposedly can fix any problem, she was continuing to struggle with her dog. Several people on the forum advised her that she should try a prong collar to correct her dogs behavior. “No way,” she said, “I’d sooner put him to sleep than do that.”
Well folks, guess what wound up happening to that unruly pup? That’s right, euthanasia.  (Murder if you ask me.)
Needless to say, she was subsequently kicked off the forum, and other members stopped listening to the AF nonsense.
More recently, I was brought a foster dog by a rescue volunteer. The dog had been showing some fear aggression and no one had been successful in making any progress in the months that he had been with the rescue. The volunteer had been a client of mine with her own dogs, and seen success with similar issues, she had also been to the AF trainers that the rescue recommends, and seen no success. The rescue coordinator had already made it very clear that this dog was “running out of time.” (That means either he will be euthanized, or dumped on another rescue.) Several of the rescue’s volunteers had pleaded with the coordinator to let them bring the dog to me, because it is well known that I have a very high success rate working with aggression cases. “Out of the question,” they were told. Simply because I apply a Balanced Training Philosophy. In other words I apply both reward and consequence (beyond the removal of reward) to help create understanding. Yep, the rescue would rather give up on the dog, than send it to a trainer who doesn’t conform to their religion. Then, in subsequent emails, they blamed the volunteers. The very people who reached out to help this guy, took the blame for his failure.
dog Socialization, pack, dog psychology
Over 50% of these dogs have histories of aggression to people and dogs. By enforcing rules and leadership, every one can be together peacefully. (At our Pack Socialization Class)
Unfortunately, this dog’s fate is likely doomed now.
The other unfortunate thing is that these “trainers” who claim to be so positive with dogs, are often not so positive with people. The same trainer who yesterday recommended euthanasia to a dog, today will publicly bash me and call me cruel and inhumane for rehabilitating the same dog, all because I gave a small correction. I save the dogs life, but I’m the cruel one! Myself and thousands of other Balanced trainers have had to deal with name calling, accusations, slander and defamation by the AF. I even had another local trainer say to a client of mine “I recommend euthanasia for him, but whatever you do, don’t go to K9 Connection.”
As Josh Moran The Barefoot Dog Trainer has said, “The Aversive Free mantra should be ‘Death Before Discomfort!’”
dog aggression, dog pack, dog behavior, buffalo dog training, dog training in buffalo
The Black dog in the back had been told by other trainers that he should be euthanized due to dog aggression. After ONE correction, he is able to exist happily.
Of course if you talk to any Aversive Free trainer, they will never admit this. Why would they? It would put an end to their reign of terror.
Even in the situations were an AF only approach can work, it often takes a very long time. and time is something that many shelter dogs just don’t have. If they don’t show quick improvement, then off to the chopping block they go.
This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of dogs in this country.
Let me say that a bit more clearly: Aversive Free dog training is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of dogs every year.
I am tired of this issue being pushed under the rug. I am tired of clients coming to me in tears after being told by positive dog trainers that their beloved pet could never be helped. And I am sickened to think about the numbers of innocent dog owners who actually took their advice. 
The Aversive Free Trainers say they never punish, I guess capital punishment doesn’t count.
dog aggression, buffalo ny dog trainer, dog trainers in western NY
Gracie the Pit Bull would have died in the shelter if a volunteer hadn’t pulled her out and brought her to me.
Again, I must restate. I have nothing against positive, rewards based dog training (I myself use positive dog training every day, it is a necessary component of a balanced approach), or those who choose the positive approach for themselves. It is the dogmatically Aversive Free mentality that I am speaking against. Those who force this philosophy on everyone around them, believe that it is the only way, and bash other techniques.
We need to wake up and realize that there is a balance. Using corrections does not mean you must cause pain, fear, and intimidation. Aversive free training has a place in the dog training world, but it is not the only place.  We need to return to open-mindedness in dog training. After all, lives are at stake.
Please read the articles linked at the bottom of this post, and if you love dogs, share this article. It is time for a change.
Relevant links:
Video of me introducing a prong collar to a foster dog. (If anyone can call this abuse, I’d be shocked.)
The Power of Balanced Training. By Sean O’Shea of The Good Dog
Love. By Jeff Gellman of Solid K9 Training
An Interesting Article on the direction of dog training from the Toronto Sun
Cults In Dog Training by Roger Hild
Last but not least, A Great Article by the very provocative Terrierman Patrick Burns.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Noah RIP

Sweet journey my sweet baby boy. I'll always love you.

I had to put Noah down this am. Burst tumor, internal bleeding. Very sudden. Very, very sad.
He was such a sweet, gentle, loving boy. 

From Suffolk Virginia, to the shores of Long Island, and finally to the Ohio Valley, he was my faithful companion, my special friend.

From the Spring/Summer 2003 LILRR Newsletter...

Why Rescue???
M. Knapp, LILRR
- From Spring/Summer 2003 Newsletter "Rescue Update" -
 Friends, family and well meaning acquaintances frequently ask me the question…why do you do rescue; how can you let them go after letting them into your home and more importantly, into your heart?  My answer has always been simple - they give me so much more than I could ever give back to them.  Each of the dogs I have fostered is special and unique.  Each owns a piece of my heart and will forever have a special hold on me.
The two Suffolk, Va. labs I am fostering now, Tar and Noah will, I imagine, have more of a hold on me than the others. While all the dogs entering rescue have a special, often sad story of betrayal attached to them, Tar and Noah, like all the Suffolk labs, have an even more compelling tale.  I was part of a three-woman group that made the first trip to VA that cold, snow stormy Friday in January.  We had a vague idea that what we were going to see would not be pretty but none of us were prepared for the horror that awaited us.  Dogs double chained to trees with no water or food, standing in mud; or the more unlucky ones, standing chest high in feces infested swamp water chained to trees with no escape.  The stench made me gag. I stayed back from the group, speaking to each dog I encountered, promising each that we would get them out of there.  

Tar was the first I saw on that endless walk down the long dirt driveway as we made our way to the hell we had yet discovered.  He was a sweetie, a genuine lover-boy.  I looked into his big brown eyes and promised him that he would not spend another night chained to that tree.  I took it upon myself to free a female almost too weak to stand, a bitch with sores covering her emaciated body.  Her eyes too, pleaded for help.  I found some kibble for her and again made her the promise that she would be going somewhere safe and warm.  I promised many dogs that they would be leaving.
At some point I think my brain shut down and instinct took over.  All focus was on getting the dogs to safety.  Safety meant getting those in high water onto knee-deep mud, getting those in the mud onto the truck.  Getting the starving bitches onto the truck … doing whatever was humanly possible to get those dogs out of immediate harms way.  We were tired, we were cold and wet and we were hungry.  The breeder had built pens in the rental truck large enough to accommodate 4-5 dogs each.  None of us realized some of these dogs would seriously harm each other if confined together.  They needed to be separated.  Other dogs were waiting at the bottom of the truck to be loaded on. We housed them the best we could but a few had to stay with us outside the pens if they were to leave.
I can still see the faces of the many other dogs we had to leave behind, and it still makes me cry.  It was getting late.  A man arrived and introduced himself to us as part of a VA rescue (A.R.T.).  His team would come back tomorrow morning to start moving dogs from the swamp to dry ground and safety.
We had originally intended to arrive NY that afternoon.  I don't think we left Va. until about 5pm and didn't arrive in NY until 5am.  Returning with a dozen fewer dogs than anticipated, plans for LILRR to accept Labs from this 1st transport were dropped.  LILRR was already orchestrating a 2nd trip to Va. and other rescues were waiting to accommodate these.

Over that one week, A.R.T. had gotten most of the others off that g-d-forsaken property and they were being housed safely in a sheltered barn.  We brought 19 back with us on the 2nd trip. These were dogs that were not accepted by any of the other Rescues.  These were the ones that had minimal if any human contact in their lives.  These had no names.  This was the group of dogs living way back in the deepest swamp, living in the worst filth, fending for what little food was thrown or floated their way.  These were the sickest and the meekest. Yet none has ever showed any signs of aggression - ever.
Since Tar was so easy (just a few minor necessary adjustments) I asked to foster one from the 2nd transport who required special care.  I had seen a young black male but never touched him, as he wouldn't let me near enough. He was skittish, timid and so very frightened of everything human, everything outside his former world in the swamp.  As I reached into his kennel I could smell the putrid odor that permeated the VA property and remembered how he had lived. I looked into his eyes, gave him my heart, and vowed to him that he will learn to feel safe, secure and confident with people.

I am pleased to report that he, now called Noah, has learned to ignore the every-day sound of the television, radio and coffee maker.  His tail wags and his rear shakes into a dance when he sees me.  He's been on my bed and snuggles regularly with Mr. Kitty.  He doesn't bolt from the room anymore when my daughter's walk in.  He hates the mop, the vacuum but is OK with the dishwasher.  We have taken a few baby steps and have so far to go.  That is OK too.  I get kisses from him and he gets long, long hours of massage.  He adores being touched and I adore rubbing his soft, sweet smelling coat.  He rests his head on my leg and I hold him tight, with Tar and my own Labs at my side, and I promise them again, that they will always be safe and loved. 
Editor's note:  delayed to completion of necessary repeat medical tests,
a healthy & happy Tar will become available for adoption consideration late June.
Noah will remain in Foster assessment and rehabilitation awhile longer.


K-9 Heroes of 9-11

These are the dogs that worked the trade center that are still alive but retired. 

They are heroes too…

Their eyes say everything you need to know about them. Just amazing creatures.
True heroes of 9/11 that are still with us today...

Moxie, 13, from Winthrop, Massachusetts, arrived with her handler, Mark Aliberti,
at the World Trade Center on the evening of September 11 and searched the site for eight days.

Tara, 16, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived at the
World Trade Center on the night of the 11th.
The dog and her handler, Lee Prentiss, were there for eight days.

Kaiser, 12, pictured at home in Indianapolis, Indiana, was deployed to the World Trade Center
on September 11 and searched tirelessly for people in the rubble.

Bretagne and his owner Denise Corliss from Cypress, Texas,
arrived at the site in New York on September 17, remaining there for ten days.

Guinness, 15, from Highland, California, started work at the site with Sheila McKee
on the morning of September 13 and was deployed at the site for 11 days.

Merlyn and his handler Matt Claussen were deployed to Ground Zero
on September 24, working the night shift for five days.

Red, 11, from Annapolis, Maryland, went with Heather Roche to the Pentagon from September 16 
until the 27th as part of the Bay Area Recovery Canines.

Abigail, above, was deployed on the evening of September 17, searching for 10 days
while Tuff arrived in New York at 11:00 PM on the day of attack to start working early the next day.

Handler Julie Noyes and Hoke were deployed to the World Trade Center
from their home in Denver on September 24, and searched for five days.

Scout and another unknown dog lie among the rubble at Ground Zero,
just two of nearly 100 search and rescue animals who helped to search for survivors.

During the chaos of the 9/11 attacks, where almost 3,000 people died, nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their brave owners scoured Ground Zero for survivors. Now, ten years later, just 12 of these heroic canines survive, and they have been commemorated in a touching series of portraits entitled 'Retrieved.' The dogs worked tirelessly to search for anyone trapped alive in the rubble, along with countless emergency service workers and members of the public.
Traveling across nine states in the U.S. From Texas to Maryland, Dutch photographer, Charlotte Dumas, 34, captured the remaining dogs in their twilight years in their homes where they still live with their handlers, a full decade beyond 9/11. Their stories have now been compiled in a book, called "Retrieved," which will be published on the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
Noted for her touching portraits of animals, especially dogs, Charlotte wanted "Retrieved" to mark not only the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, but also as recognition for some of the first responders and their dogs. "I felt this was a turning point, especially for the dogs, who although are not forgotten, are not as prominent as the human stories involved," explained Charlotte, who splits her time between New York and Amsterdam. "They speak to us as a different species and animals are greatly important for our sense of empathy and to put things into perspective."