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September 3rd, 2009
By Eric Letendre
I dreaded this time of year…
As a kid, I hated this time of the year. You see, this is the week before I had to go back to school. School was more than a chore for me – it was hell.
I spent most of my school life in "special" classes and at one point went to a technical school to learn a trade – disaster.
I was worse with tools than I was with spelling and grammer. Funny thing is, I love to learn (I actually signed up for a college course yesterday) and I love to teach, especailly dog training.
The best part of my job is to help people train and develop better realtionships with their dogs.
How can it get better than that?
Anyway, all of this back to school talk got me thinking. Why not do something really special for all the readers of this blog.
Check it out:
All the best,
September 4th, 2008
By Eric Letendre
A lot of people email me and ask for a good book recommendations. It’s a difficult question to answer, I have bookshelves loaded with books on dogs, dog training, behavior, nutrition, breeds, agilty, schutzhund, etc.
So, in my never ending quest to serve dog owners I have decided to do periodic book reviews. In this one I have done a written and audio review for you. I hope you enjoy it and please post your comments as I always look forward to hearing from you.
The Culture Clash Book Review
Listen to the audio book review here:
My dog-eared, worn-cover, beaten up copy of The Culture Clash, signed by Jean Donaldson Oct. 5, 1997, is one of my most prized books in my dog training library. I’ve had the great opportunity to attend her seminars and listen to her speak on a few occasions. It’s a book that is required reading for any serious student of dog behavior. It’s also great for anyone just interested in learning more about dog behavior and training. Let me explain why:
1. The book opens with “Getting The Dog’s Perspective – Walt Disney vs. B.F. Skinner” and goes on to explain that dogs are amoral animals, that they have no understanding of right and wrong. She adds that dogs don’t spite us, get back at us or feel guilty for doing “bad behavior.” When we believe that our dogs are getting back at us, or trying to spite us, they end up getting a lot of punishment.
Think about it, you come home after a long day at work only to find your favorite $200 pair of shoes chewed to bits. If you think your dog did that to “get back at you” you would dole out a nice big dose of punishment. In reality, your dog was stressed at being left alone and chewed to relieve the stress. The next day you leave for work and your dog feeling stressed again, chews your kitchen chairs. You walk in the house and think, “He did it again to ME!” Severe punishment follows.
If this happens again and again the behavior is likely to get worse. In reality, your dog is not associating the chewing with his behavior. The chewing is a direct result of your behavior. Your dog associates the punishment with your homecoming. You walk in the door and pound him – this sets up a behavioral history. When you walk out the door there is a good chance that when you come back in a beating will follow.
Everyday you leave and your dog learns that when you come home he is going to be punished. It’s all very stressful. How does the dog relieve stress – CHEWING!
Jean Donaldson explains this process so well and really gives you insights into why your dog is behaving a certain way.
2. Chapter 2 continues with the fact that dogs are predatory animals, that they are hard wired to search, stalk, rush, chase, bite/hold/shake/kill, and to dissect and eat(prey). This chapter is particularly important because of the writing on tug-o-war, the most misunderstood game in “dogdom”.
In addition to tug-o-war, she discusses alone training, chew training and a lot more.
3. Chapter 3 on Socialization, Conflict Resolution, Fear and Aggression goes on to give some of the best advice for new puppy owners. The sections on bite inhibition, timid puppies, dog-dog socialization, food bowl exercises, object exchanges, and the bite threshold model is a must read for any new puppy owner.
4. Chapter 4 – Its All Chew Toys To Them, starts off with the story of The Gorns. The Gorns is an excellent story of putting us in the position of dogs. Humans are kept as companion animals to a more intellectually sophisticated species.
Imagine living on a planet with a Gorn and this Gorn punishes you for doing normal human behavior like: Shaking hands, sitting on couches, eating anything but “Human Chow,” etc.
Think about dogs, they get punished for sniffing each others butts (human equilevlent to shaking hands), sitting on the couch, trying to eat anything other than the food from a bag that we feed them. This is a very eye-opening chapter.
5. Chapter 5 is the one chapter that I think makes a lot of people upset – “Lemon Brains But We Still Love Them.” The first paragraph of this chapter she states:
“The enmeshment between dog owners and Walt Disney has been too tight to allow behaviorism in. We’ve been clinging to the wish that dogs might just have big, convoluted, melon brains like humans and have a natural desire to please. The fact of the matter is dogs have little, smoothish lemon brains and are looking out for number one. I personally still like them.”
It’s an excellent chapter that goes on to explain how behaviors are taught. Much of what has been taught on dog training is false. For years dog owners have been told that when a dog does NOT do the command the dog is being dominant. The dog owner is then instructed to be “The Alpha” and apply appropriate force, setting up a negative situation between dog and owner. If we truly believe that the dog has a natural desire to please, then the dog should want to do it for us.
On the other hand, if we take a realistic view and understand that as Jean states, ‘They are looking out for number one,” we figure out what the proper motivation is to teach the dog to do the command.
6. The final chapter finishes up with instructions on how to teach your dog obedience commands starting with kindergarten levels and working up to PhD levels.
The relationship between dogs and humans is a long one. It’s time that we stop expecting our dogs to think like us and learn to think like our dogs.
Is it any reason that we have 56 million dog bites every year in the United States? The only way were going to make that number go down is to read books like Jean Donaldson’s book, The Culture Clash.
All the best,
Eric Letendre Amazing Dog Training Man
July 31st, 2008
By Eric Letendre
I would be on drugs.
There would be no doubt about it. If I was in high school today some guidance counselor would have suggested and strongly recommended that I be put me on some type of drug therapy to get through high school.
You see, I barely, and I mean barely, squeaked out with a diploma. I was really just pushed through my junior and senior year of high school. When I look back on my school days, I was really just pushed through most of my schooling.
I was “diagnosed” as having a learning disability in the third grade. Today I would would be classified as ADHD.
Some of my teachers would literally fall out of their chairs if they knew that I had written a book called The Amazing Dog Training Man.
It’s not that I couldn’t learn, I just had a very active brain and I was BORED out of my mind. I could not concentrate on what was being taught but, when I had a subject and a teacher that was interesting, I was at the top of my class.
You see, I love to learn but for some weird reason, it has to be on my terms. I have traveled all over the United States and sat for days at a time to learn from some of the best dog trainers in the world.
So why do I share all of this with you?
I am asked by a lot of people if it is possible for their dogs to have canine ADHD. My honest opinion is that I have NEVER come across a dog that I felt had any kind of learning disability.
What I have found is that the dog that is having a difficult time learning obedience is usually a dog that cannot pay attention. I worked with a dog, not too long ago, that had so much pent up energy that he truly could not focus. The dog was kept in a crate every day, sometimes up to ten hours.
I tried and tried to explain to the person that owned the dog that no amount of training can overcome an exercise problem. I won’t go into it today but the story had a very tragic ending.
One of the big influences on my training career was a British dog trainer, John Rogerson. I had the great opportunity to attend his seminars in New Hampshire and Memphis, TN.
Mr. Rogerson made a very simple but profound statement that I have never forgotten. He stated: The Amazing Dog Training Man, – M.O.B. Rules which stands for Management of Behavior.
Step #2: Give your dog enough exercise. There are two forms of exercise that every dog needs. Physical and Mental. Your dog needs to exercise his body and his brain.
Step #3: Become the leader. Dogs do respond to structure. Structure your relationship so your dog understands that you are in charge.
Step #4: Learn about behavior. Learn when to reinforce behavior and how to stop behaviors.
By following those four steps you’ll develop a great relationship with your dog and your dog will become much more responsive to your training.
And remember that all training starts with attention. Your dog has to be paying attention to you before they will respond to any of your commands. It’s your job to get and keep your dog’s interest when you are training.
P.S. If you find this blog helpful and interesting please pass it along to your dog loving friends and family. They’ll thank you for it!