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happy birthday, Gallivan Burwell! - a great teacher of dogs, a great role-model for humans

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by leashedForLife, Jun 20, 2018.

  1. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    Gallivan owns Upward Dog in N'Awlins [New Orleans, La.] - he's a strong advocate for pos-R training, & an excellent instructor.
    for his birthday, I thought I'd share his "How to choose a trainer" post -

    Some years ago, I posted an ad for an upcoming group-class under the heading, 'Training Your Dog Should Be Fun!', an idea I borrowed from Dr. Ian Dunbar, one of the world's pre-eminent Veterinary Behaviorists.
    The first reply I received was from another dog trainer, who wrote:
    "Training dogs should NOT be fun! All dogs know is dominance, until we show them otherwise. Training dogs is dangerous, serious business, and people like you shouldn't be in it."
    I replied, 'Thank you for your interest in our upcoming class. I look forward to meeting you and your dog. You'll both learn a lot, and have a lot of fun!'

    Unfortunately, my profession is dangerously unregulated in the United States. Anybody can hang out a shingle claiming to be a dog trainer. The field abounds with self-anointed 'Master Trainers' (there is no such credential or certification) who've watched one too many Dog Whisperer episodes - and, ignoring the "Don't try this at home" warning, thought, 'I can do that.'

    The response of the trainer who wrote to me revealed a great deal about their lack of education, & lack of knowledge of dog behavior and ethology. More importantly, it waved a red flag about the techniques that would be used to train YOUR dog, should you choose to train there.
    Hint: It won't be fun for your dog: He is basically Cujo-in-waiting and needs to be shown who's boss, before he tears out your throat in the night.
    This is nonsense, of course, & it's dangerous nonsense for your dog and your relationship with her or him. It's one of the things that drives me crazy when I hear people say things like, 'we all have different philosophies when it comes to training dogs.' This is not philosophy. Philosophy is about people - dogs have no philosophy; discussing their opinions about something. If you express your opinion & I grab you around the neck and choke you to the ground, we've wandered far-afield from philosophy.

    But choking dogs with what I like to call 'punitive neckwear' (choke, prong, or shock collars) is part & parcel of how traditional, dominance-theory dog trainers train dogs. Science is very clear about the damage done, both physically & behaviorally, by these methods, & also the advantages of training animals without force or fear.

    If the trainer who wrote to me had actually received an education, & understood the nature of the damage they inflicted when they punished animals, a large number of dogs and their owners could have been spared the well-documented behavioral fallout (including fear & increased aggression) that results from these techniques.

    Recently a number of trainers, at the behest of Jean Donaldson, took what was called the 'Transparency Challenge', and made videos describing in clear terms (no buzzwords like 'energy' or 'calm-submissive') what they would DO when training a dog when:
    1. He gets it right.
    I will let him know with a single word, 'Good!', and follow it with a food reward. Why food? Why not just tell him what a wonderful dog he is? -- Because there's never been a dog in history who, if lost in the woods, thought , 'Boy! I wish I had some PRAISE!'
    2. He gets it wrong.
    I will let him know with a short, 'Too bad!' and withhold the reward. No soup for you. I might have to make the step I just attempted a little easier, because we want to have as close to error-free training as possible. Then we can increase the difficulty, in a next step that he can handle. Success breeds success.
    3. Are the techniques I'm using the least aversive & intrusive available?
    Absolutely. In fact, I'm required by the organization that certifies my credentials to take part in verifiable continuing-education programs to maintain my standing. As a result, I keep up on the most recent research in my field, attend seminars, & take webinars with people involved in the research.
    Thanks to my education at the Academy for Dog Trainers ('The Harvard of dog training schools'), I've been educated in HOW to evaluate information that I receive, & to recognize empty rhetoric of the 'pack leader' variety.

    So, if you train with me, we won't be pushing or pulling your dog, we won't be swatting or yelling, or poke him with dowels, or choke him with punitive neckwear. Instead, we'll be motivating, luring, & reinforcing the behaviors we want to see repeated.
    Also, it will be a lot of fun."


    I hope U had a marvelous birthday, Gallivan - & I wish U a happy, rewarding year until the next. :)
    - terry


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