I am always impressed by people’s blogs.  People are SUCH good writers.  I get motivated and inspired and decide to blog myself, but then I get stuck.  I don’t know what I’d have to say that people would find interesting or useful.  But then I think that doesn’t really matter.  Blogging is about writing for yourself, not for others.  So it doesn’t matter if people don’t read it or people don’t like it.  What matters is that I thought it was important and I feel better for having done it.  Selfish?  Sure.  But is that a bad thing?  I don’t think so.

So what types of things do I want to blog about?  Dog training for sure.  Before we had such easy access to the internet I had no idea how many fantastic dog trainers were out there!  We were such small fragmented groups, and I think each group felt isolated.  Particularly if you were a proponent of positive training methods.  In 1992 I started classes at a typical kennel club and with a private trainer and both were “modernized” for the time because they allowed the limited use of food.  But they also required choke collars (sometimes pinch collars) and corrections for all dogs from the first moment of training.  Back then I was in graduate school in psychology and learning was my specialty.  I was appalled at the very damaging classical conditioning that was going on.  Forget the lack of understanding of operant conditioning as well!

Want to teach your dog to hate training with you?  Put a choke collar on him, tell him to “heel” (even though he has no idea what that means), give him a good strong jerk and take off walking.  That ought to do it!  If your dog didn’t get it you didn’t jerk hard enough.  The failures were never the method or technique, they blamed the dog (he’s too dominant and stubborn), the trainer (you’re too nice, not tough enough, not alpha enough) or the application (do it harder, faster, or more often). What a terrible disservice to treat our best friends this way, and then to make their owners feel bad when it didn’t work!  The amazing part was that sometimes it did work.  But it only worked in that it suppressed behavior.  Some dogs figured out that being passive and doing nothing was the best choice.  That was considered “well-trained”.

I am so glad things are better now.  At least in some cases.  Though I just heard that a local kennel club had a young German Shepherd in a basic obedience class who was “strung up” on a prong collar for being reactive and aggressive.  That’s still their solution in 2013?!  Really?!  You’ve learned nothing about canine behavior, stress signals, reactivity, aggression, management, or learning theory by now with all the fantastic resources that are available?!  This upsets me beyond belief.  It’s not training, it’s abuse.  And can you imagine what the outcome is going to be for this dog?  My guess is he’ll be blamed for having a bad temperament and end up being euthanized.  Someone at that kennel club should be held responsible for this dog’s death because there is likely no reason for it.

This is why I will freely admit that I love dogs.  People, not so much.  People frustrate me with their lack of desire to change when better ways are available. They frustrate me because they don’t follow any sort of logic or reason.  They frustrate me because they are hurting dogs and I think that is unforgivable.  Your ignorance, sometimes willful ignorance, causes suffering to another creature and you don’t seem to notice or care.  That’s unacceptable.  Get a hobby that doesn’t involve other living creatures!  Take up boating, or knitting, or bird watching.  Leave the dogs to people that actually know what they’re doing and that care about their welfare!

And I’d like to apologize to every dog I trained in ignorance, especially my wonderful Katie.  You were too good-natured to hold it against me.  But I still feel guilty about how I treated you and I will always strive to do better for every other dog I encounter during my lifetime.

OK, I guess I DID have something to say.  Surprised me as much as anybody that this is the way this blog turned out :-}