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Animal Training—When Doing Nothing is Doing Right

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Years ago, my friends in the US asked me to go with them and see a horse they were considering buying for their daughter.

A couple of hours drive thru Illinois countryside, roads surrounded by never-ending cornfields, took us to a nice, clean and modern kind of an equestrian center where we found the horse and met the owner.

I liked the horse right away, a young, paint, quarter mare. The American quarter horse got its name from being particularly fast on distances up to a quarter mile. Paint horses are white with spots of black, brown or reddish. The American Paint is now a breed of its own. Most paints are levelheaded, versatile and friendly horses. This mare was no exception. She had the looks of being approachable and curious, eager to learn. I don’t remember exactly how old she was, but she couldn’t have been more than three years old. She looked young to me to carry a rider on her back, and I remember asking the owner if they had trained her to it.

“Oh, yes, she is broken to ride, all right,” she answered.

That was not what I asked, but I reckoned I couldn’t get a better answer. What I wanted to know was whether the horse had gone thru any particular groundwork to develop the right muscles and movements necessary to carry the extra weight of a rider. By the way, I don”t know about you, but I dislike immensely the term “horse breaking.” If you really break the horse, you shouldn’t even come close to a horse, and that’s my opinion. If you don’t, but instead train it stepwise, wisely and patiently, you should consider using another term all together—and that’s again my opinion about that.

The young mare was beautiful, but then again I might have been terribly biased, for my heart always beats a tad faster when I see a gentle, paint quarter (or a friendly English cocker spaniel). These are things of the heart that I can’t explain, and don’t feel I need to either.

The owner proceeded to give us a demonstration of the horse’s abilities under saddle. It was a sad showing. The mare trotted and cantered all right, and turned right and left, and stopped and continued, but she looked miserable.

After having finished, the owner invited my friends’ daughter to go for a ride, but she declined, showing the typical shyness of a teenager of her age.

“You go, Roger, take a ride and tell us what you think,” her mum said to me.

“Yes, uncle Roger, please do it,” my niece begged me with that “horsey” expression only teenagers who have been long around horses can give you. I couldn’t refuse her.

And so, I went for a ride, even though, in my opinion, she was a bit too young and untrained. We trotted and cantered right away and, then, we did figure eights and turns. The young mare was entirely different from earlier. She had regained her spirit, and if not completely, then closer to the spirit of her ancestors, the proud horses roaming the plains of the new world.

“Wow,” my friends said almost in a choir, “that was impressing.”

“What did you do?” they asked me, “She behaved totally different with you! It was like a different horse altogether.” The owner pretended not to hear that.

“I did nothing,” I answered, and I was entirely honest. After mounting, I started by having a long talk with the horse, a silent one, that is, for horses don’t understand English and what I had to say was as much to her, the mare, as to myself.

“Ok, horsey, here we are the two of us. I’m sorry, we haven’t even been introduced properly,” I said, “Just do what you feel like doing. I’ll try to be as imperceptible as I possibly can.” And she ran, she trotted and cantered, and I did nothing besides trying not to be a burden, just syncing my movements with hers.

“Go for it, honey,” I thought, “run as much as you fancy, turn whenever you like. You lead, I’ll follow.” And she ran and turned, ears forward one moment, back the next, her mane flying in the wind. “Go, baby, go,” I thought, and she went faster and freer.

After a while, I began “leading the dance,” never used the reins, only changed, slightly, my position on the saddle. I looked left, and she turned left, I looked right, and she turned right, her ears for a moment turning back to me like asking, “Am I doing well?”

Sometimes, doing more does less, doing less does more, and doing nothing does right—and I suspect this is true more often than we reckon.

Featured image: To earn the trust of a horse is the first step toward a good relationship. It takes time to earn it and only one moment to lose it.

“Life of Pi” — Read the Book, Watch the Movie

LifeOfPiMovie

I read Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” many years ago. I took the book to bed, my intention being to read 10-12 pages before falling asleep. This was one of the few books I’ve read from one end to the other in one go. I went to sleep at five in the morning.

The other day, I revisited “Life of Pi,” not the book from 2001, but the movie from 2012 directed by Ang Lee with screenplay by David Magee.

The movie gets my five stars. It’s a near perfect screenplay adaptation of a book. It misses a bit of the first part of the book that would be too cumbersome to render in pictures anyway, but it presents the second part magnificently. It’s a beautiful 3D movie, a thrilling adventure, an experience for afterthought—you can take it as you wish.

“Life of Pi,” book and movie, is not intrusive, does not force you to think or accept anything in particular. It leaves you with your freedom to draw your conclusions, or ask your questions, as the case may be.

Take a break, read the book and savor it. Yann Martel succeeded in writing a book that you want to read word by word, not by paragraphs.

The following quotations indicate “Part.Chapter.Paragraph.”

“Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.” (1.8.4)

The most dangerous animal in the zoo is the human being maybe because of the relationship of danger with unpredictable evil.

“Rank determines whom it can associate with and how; where and when it can eat; where it can rest; where it can drink; and so on. Until it knows its rank for certain, the animal lives a life of unbearable anarchy. It remains nervous, jumpy, dangerous. Luckily for the circus trainer, decisions about social rank among higher animals are not always based on brute force.” (1.13.3)

Here, Pi is (between lines) talking more about human relationships than human-animal relationships, one suspects. He’s also thinking about how to train Richard Parker.  Throughout his misery, Pi comes to see cleverness and willpower as two remarkable human skills, but the question is, do not these skills also bring about evil?

“There are many examples of animals coming to surprising living arrangements. All are instances of that animal equivalent of anthropomorphism: zoomorphism, where an animal takes a human being, or another animal, to be one of its kind.” (1.32.1)

Zoomorphism (in a way, the opposite of anthropomorphism) means that animals treat another species (almost) like their own. Our dogs are great zoomorphists.  This is more philosophical that it may seem and definitely more obscure in the movie than in the book, which, as I’ve mentioned, is more elaborated in its first pre-boat part. One suspects that Pi is talking about his own struggle: Pi the Hindu, Pi the Muslim, and Pi the Christian all in one and the same Pi, not only tolerating one another but living in harmony.

I leave you with one last quote without any comment. Read the book, watch the movie.

“I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me.” (2.57.8)

As always, I wish you a great day.

Canine Maternal Behavior

Cocker and Pup (Canine Maternal Behavior)

Watching dog mothers take care of their pups continues to fascinate me, and the large populations of village dogs in Africa and Thailand, where I spent and spend a great deal of my time, provides me with plenty of opportunities to do it. Village dogs are domestic dogs, not wild dogs. Often classified as stray dogs by the inept, ignorant eye of the western tourist, these dogs perform an essential task in their communities of humans and their domestic animals.

Maternal behavior is behavior shown by a mother toward her offspring. In most species, it is the mother that primarily takes care of the youngsters, and the dog is no exception. Natural selection has favored the evolution of this particular behavior of the females.

In wild canids, although it is mostly the female that takes care of the puppies, the father (also called the alpha male) and other adults do become interested in the feeding and raising of the puppies when they begin emerging from the den. In the studies my team did in the 80s, our dogs showed the same pattern in a domestic set-up.

Maternal behavior is, thus, almost identical in wild canids and domestic dogs. Immediately after birth, the mother dries the puppies, keeps them warm, feeds them and licks them clean. Hormonal processes control maternal behavior right after birth, and problems may occur if the female gives birth too early. On the other hand, pseudo-pregnancy causes females to undergo hormonal changes, which may elicit maternal behavior in various degrees. The maternal behavior seems to be self-reinforcing. Studies show that the levels of dopamine increase in the nucleus accumbens (a region of the brain) when a female displays maternal behavior.

When the puppies become older, the mother begins to educate them. She gives them the first lessons in dog language about the time weaning begins. Growling, snarling, and the various pacifying behaviors are inborn, but the puppies need to learn their function.

When the puppies become older, the mother begins to educate them. She gives them the first lessons in dog language about the time weaning begins (Illustration by Alice Rasmussen from “Dog Language” by Roger Abrantes).

The canine mother has three main tasks: (1) to feed the puppies, first with her milk, then by regurgitation, (2) to keep them clean and warm, especially when they are very young, and (3) to educate them.

A good canine mother is patient and diligent. When the puppies grow, dog owners often misunderstand the mother’s apparently more violent educational methods. She may growl at them and even attack them, but she never harms them. Muzzle grasping (see illustrations) is relatively common. Without the mother’s intervention, the puppies would never become capable social animals and would not be able to function appropriately in a pack (a group of wild dogs living together is in English a pack). When the puppies are about 8-10 weeks old, the mother seems to lose some of her earlier interest in them. In normal circumstances, the rest of the pack, then, takes over the continuing education of the puppies, their social integration in the group (which mostly consists of relatives) and their protection.

Dog owners sometimes report problems, e.g., that the mother has no interest in her puppies, or is too violent towards them. These problems are mainly due to our selective breeding (we select for beauty and utility while nature selects for overall fitness, including adequate maternal behavior) and to our lack of understanding of the mother’s needs during and after birth, which often results in the female showing stress, insecurity or aggressive behavior.

The Maternal effect is the mother’s influence on her puppies. It can have such an impact on certain behavior patterns that it can be difficult to distinguish between the maternal effect and the effect of genetics. For example, observations have shown that a female reacting too nervously or fearfully toward certain sounds may affect her puppies into developing sound phobias beyond what we would expect given the puppies’ particular genotype. The strong influence of the maternal effect on the behavior of her puppies is the main reason why it is complicated, if not impossible, to assess the hereditary coefficient for particular traits.

Bottom-line: Do not breed females that you suspect will not show reliable maternal behavior. Do not disturb a female with pups more than necessary. A good canine mother knows better than you what’s best for her pups.

 

Related articles

 

References

  • Abrantes, R. 1997. The Evolution of Canine Social Behavior. Wakan Tanka Publishers.
  • Abrantes, R. 1997. Dog Language. Wakan Tanka Publishers.
  • Coppinger, R. and Coppinger, L. 2001. Dogs: a Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. Scribner.
  • Darwin, C. 1872. The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. John Murray (the original edition).
  • Fox, M. 1972. Behaviour of Wolves, Dogs, and Related Canids. Harper and Row.
  • Lopez, Barry H. (1978). Of Wolves and Men. J. M. Dent and Sons Limited.
  • Mech, L. D. 1970. The wolf: the ecology and behavior of an endangered species. Doubleday Publishing Co., New York.
  • Mech, L. David (1981). The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species. University of Minnesota Press.
  • Mech, L. D. 1988. The arctic wolf: living with the pack. Voyageur Press, Stillwater, Minn.
  • Mech. L. D. and Boitani, L. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. University of Chicago Press.
  • Scott, J. P. and Fuller, J. L. 1998. Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog. University of Chicago Press.
  • Zimen, E. 1975. Social dynamics of the wolf pack. In The wild canids: their systematics, behavioral ecology and evolution. Edited by M. W. Fox. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York. pp. 336-368.
  • Zimen, E. 1982. A wolf pack sociogram. In Wolves of the world. Edited by F. H. Harrington, and P. C. Paquet. Noyes Publishers, Park Ridge, NJ.

Featured image: Canine maternal behavior is more than just feeding the pups (by Cinoclub).

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Time for Those You Love

My blog, today, is short, just to share with you some questions that appear to me the more pertinent, the older I get.

We spend one third of our lives turning in our sleep, one third dwelling on the past, and one third worrying about the future. Think about it: you are probably worrying right now about something that you can’t do anything about or that you can resolve in due time, crying about something that can’t cry back.

Life is a countdown, every moment counts, don’t waste it. Take time off and spend it with those you love—no worries, no schedules, no deadlines. All the rest can wait, the world will continue spinning round and the sun will rise again, I assure you. Do it now, for time is what you never have enough of when you realize how much you have wasted.

And so, as ways to setting a good example, I took a day off and went sailing with my wife Parichart, my sister Nor and my son Daniel. It wasn’t really planned. It was more a “let’s go and sail.” We grabbed some supplies and to the sea we went—and we spent a delightful day as four spoiled and naughty kids cutting class and giggling the day away—and that, my friends, it what life is all about.


Featured image: Time is what we never have enough of when we realize how much we have wasted (Picture by Elias Vidal).

Facts and Morality: Tail Docking and Ear Cropping—is it Right?

PeopleSavingAnimals

Whether something is morally right or wrong depends on what you and I or anyone thinks, and it is not imposed on us by any scientific discovery. We need to distinguish between science and morality, between descriptive and normative statements.

Science is a collection of coherent, useful and educated predictions. All science is reductionist and visionary in a sense, but that does not mean that all reductionism is equally useful or that all visions are equally valuable or that one far-out idea is as acceptable as any other.

Greedy reductionism is bound to fail because it attempts to explain too much with too little, classifying processes too crudely, overlooking relevant detail and missing pertinent evidence.

Science sets up rational, reasonable, credible, useful and helpful explanations based on empirical evidence, which is not connected per se. The connections happen via our scientific models, ultimately allowing us to make reliable and educated predictions. A scientist needs to have an imaginative mind to think the unthinkable, discover the unknown and formulate initially far-fetched, but testable, hypotheses that may provide new and unique insights. As Kierkegaard writes, “This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think.”

Morality and science are two separate disciplines. I may not like the conclusions and implications of some scientific studies, I may even find their application immoral; yet, my job as a scientist is to report my findings objectively.

Cutting off parts of the body of an animal for our vanity is and will always be wrong for me independently of what science may discover.

Stating a fact does not oblige me to adopt any particular moral stance. The way I feel about a fact is not constrained by what science tells me. It may influence me but, ultimately, my moral decision is independent of the scientific fact. Science tells me men and women are biologically different in some aspects, but it does not say whether or not they should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Science tells me that evolution is a consequence of the algorithm “the survival of the fittest,” not whether or not I should help those that find it difficult to fit into their environment. Science informs me of the pros and cons of eating animal products, but it does not tell me whether it is right or wrong to be a vegetarian.

If you think that the safest is to base your moral stances on factual events, you are walking on moving sands (and, probably, committing a fallacious appeal to nature).

Let’s say someone asks you, “Why do you believe tail docking to be wrong?” If you answer, “Because it inhibits the dog to communicate adequately since dogs use their tails to communicate,” you are getting into trouble. Say again, the same person asks you,  “Why do you believe ear cropping to be wrong?” You cannot answer, “Because it inhibits the dog to communicate adequately since dogs use their ears to communicate,” for upright ears allow the dogs to display more and easier detectable expressions than drop ears (though no study has proven that cropped ears are better to communicate than uncropped).

That is the hidden danger we run when using matters of fact to validate our moral statements: we may easily run into inconsistent argumentation. Even though seemingly that does not bother some, it certainly bothers me and other fellow thinkers with a certain degree of intellectual integrity.

You could avoid this problem by answering, ”Because I don’t like to cut off parts of an animal.” That would do it because nobody can argue with what you like or don’t like. Even if you neuter your male dog (which means cutting off the testicles of the animal), you are still off the hook because you can say, “I did it, and I don’t like it.” There is no logical contradiction in doing something without liking it. It is only logically contradictory if you infer the premise “we only do what we like.” “I don’t like diets and I’m on a diet” is perfectly all right. You may have a goal, which requires you to do things you don’t like.

Another aspect of this hidden danger of basing your morality on facts is that if science uncovers some new fact relevant to your morality, you’ll be compelled to change it. One moment right, the nest wrong applies to scientific theory, but not necessarily to morality.

For example, if I use the seemingly good argument, “for me, it is wrong to inflict unnecessary pain and distress to any living creature, independently of species,” my morality is at the mercy of scientific discovery.

Thus, the only way I can make my moral rule stick appears to be the subjective argument: for me, it is wrong to cut off parts of an animal’s body because I don’t like it. And if science uncovers some painless, undistressing procedures of docking and cropping, so be it. I still don’t like it and won’t do it. Period.

Do You Know What the Dog’s Twist Behavior Means?

CanineTwistBehavior

Canine twist behavior — the puppy twists as a pacifying response to the adult’s growling (illustration by Alice Rasmussen from “Dog Language” by Roger Abrantes)

 

The canine twist behavior is a curious behavior that few dog owners recognize, let alone know what it means.

It is a characteristic behavior shown by any canine, (wolf, dog, African wild dog, and dingo at least) when it twists one hind leg out to the side. Most frequently, the dog shows it from a sitting position, but it can also do it from a standing position. In cases where the dog appears very insecure, a half roll culminating with the dog lying on its back and showing its belly may succeed the twist. Laid-back ears, semi-closed eyes, champing (at times with the tongue protruding out of the mouth) and paw lifting (or vacuum pawing) in various degrees depending on the situation and the level of insecurity, usually follow the twist. It’s a fairly common behavior mostly seen in puppies and youngsters, but insecure adults can also display it.

The function of the twist is to pacify an opponent. As always, behavior happens by chance (or reflex), and if it (the phenotype) proves to have a beneficial function, it will tend to spread in the population, transmitted from one generation to the next (via its genotype).

The origin of the twist is most certainly related to the typical canine maternal behavior of the female overturning her puppy by pressing her nose against its groin, forcing one of the puppy’s hind legs to the side. The puppy will then fall on its back, and the mother will lick its belly and genital area facilitating the puppy’s urination and defecation. To start with, this appears to be a rather unpleasant experience for the puppy but becomes pleasurable once it rests on its back and its mother’s licking achieves its function.

Later on, the puppy will perform the same twist movement in the absence of any physical contact with the mother or any other adult. It will do it when it feels threatened or insecure and with the function to pacify both itself and its opponent, rather than to invite to belly licking.

The transition from urination/defecation to pacifying is a classic of the development of behavior. It happens almost exclusively via a classic conditioning process. In the beginning, being overturned is unpleasant but lying on its back, belly up, becomes pleasant (due to the puppy relieving itself). After some repetitions, the puppy will associate lying on its back with ending discomfort and will readily display this behavior whenever necessary.

The strength of the twist behavior (a general characteristic of pacifying behavior) is its double effect of pacifying both parties. The puppy relaxes by doing something which has produced desirable results earlier. The threatening adult relaxes by being met with behavior that it recognizes as infantile behavior.

I first described this behavior in the original edition of my book “Dog Language” in 1987. The behavior had no name at the time. I coined it the twist behavior thinking of the famous dance of the sixties, very popular in my teen years. “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles* immortalized it. The Twist, the dance, featured a particular step, where the dancer’s legs made a twisting movement reminiscent of the puppy’s pacifying behavior.

 

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* “Twist and Shout” was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell and first released in 1961 featuring the Top Notes. However, it achieved its fame first when The Beatles performed it in 1963 with John Lennon in the lead vocals.

Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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I’m Alive and I Have Only One Option

It dawned on me the other day at sea, one of those days with scattered clouds on the horizon and a fair wind barely sufficient to keep the boat sailing. Simplicity, that’s what it makes it so soothing and scaringly beautiful. The sea invites you to dream, but does not make promises, it is what it is, no more and no less, be wise and it will reward you, be foolish and it will punish you.

You can’t hide at sea, you’ll meet yourself whether you want it or not, the only viable strategy being honesty and integrity. It’s all so simple. The sea has this power, I discovered—the pertinent appears suddenly as frivolous, and the complex reveals itself in all its simple parts.

I felt absolutely ecstatic like something major was happening, and yet there was nothing particularly noticeable. As far as the eye could see, the world was an endless blue, only slightly interrupted by a thin line, far, far away. Sea and sky, a few clouds on the horizon, the sun to the west, no birds, no fish, no sounds bar the slight, rhythmic splashes of the boat gracefully cutting thru the water, almost as silently as the flight of the owl.

Simplicity—I guess, is what fascinates me most in Darwin’s brilliant concept, evolution by means of natural selection. The algorithm the survival of the fittestis the simplest idea one can conceive, and yet so powerful that it cuts thru everything our understanding touches.

I come to think of the principle of simplicity as a good old friend, standing by me as long as I remember. From my young student days to the times of book writing or when on practical commissions, my friend Simplicity has been there, unobtrusively muttering, “seek the simple…”

The principle of simplicity, as such, was first propounded by the English philosopher, William of Occam (1300-1349). We know it also as Occam’s Razor: “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem,” which is Latin for “Entities should not be multiplied more than necessary,” or “If two assumptions seem to be equally valid, the simpler one should be preferred.”

Simple is beautiful and simpler is beautifuller—and the sea has this influence on you. Thus, I took the liberty to apply the principle of simplicity to the definition of the principle—and the three following corollaries emerged.

Thus, my principle of simplicity reads:

If you have more than one option, choose the simplest.

  • First corollary: “If you have only one option, you don’t have a problem; don’t waste your time complaining, just take it and keep smiling!”
  • Second corollary: “If you don’t like to have only one option, work to create more; then you’ll have the problem of choosing one.”
  • Third corollary: “If you don’t like to have a problem, don’t create options.” Return, then, to the first corollary, don’t complain and keep smiling!

And so it is that I keep sailing this immense sea of blue, my heart beating for every, ever-so-slight splash of the hull in the water. I am but a ripple in the vast ocean. I’m alive. I’m alive and I have only one option, to enjoy life fully—and I wouldn’t want it any differently.

Featured image: A few clouds on the horizon and a fair wind, barely enough to keep the boat sailing.

Laughter is the Shortest Distance Between Two People

Laughter is the shortest distance.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” Victor Borge once said. As you have figured out by now, I enjoy finding proof that humans are not that different from other forms of life. We share many characteristics with the other living creatures with whom we share our planet. Today, I have one more example for you—laughter.

Laughing is an involuntary reaction in humans consisting of rhythmical contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system. External stimuli, like being tickled, mostly elicit it. We associate it primarily with joy, happiness, and relief, but fear, nervousness, and embarrassment may also cause it. Laughter depends on early learning and cultural factors.

The study of humor and laughter is called gelotology (from the Greek gelos, γέλιο, meaning laughter).

Chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans display laughter-like behavior when wrestling, playing or tickling. Their laughter consists of alternating inhalations and exhalations that sound to us like breathing and panting.

Rats display extended, high frequency, ultrasonic vocalizations during play and when tickled. We can only hear these chirping sounds with proper equipment. They are also ticklish, as are we. Particular areas of their body are more sensitive than others. There is an association between laughter and pleasant feelings. Social bonding occurs with the human tickler, and the rats can even become conditioned to seek the tickling.*

A dog’s laughter sounds similar to a regular pant. A sonograph analysis of this panting behavior shows that the variation of the bursts of frequencies is comparable with the laughing sound. When we play this recorded dog-laughter to dogs in a shelter, it can contribute to promoting play, social behavior, and decrease stress levels.*

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Maybe, it is simply the shortest distance between any two living creatures.

Keep laughing, my friends!

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* Panksepp & Burgdorf, 2003, Laughing rats and the evolutionary antecedents of human joy?; Simonet, Versteeg & Storie, 2005, Dog-laughter: Recorded playback reduces stress-related behavior in shelter dogs.

 

Related Articles

The Biggest Difference Between Humans and Dogs

The Single Most Damaging Belief of Ours

We Talk Too Much and Say Too Little

Do Dogs Understand What We Say?

Featured image: We laugh, but we are not the only ones.

Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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How Difficult Can It Be to Be a Dog Owner?

How Difficult Can It Be to Be a Dog Owner?

You don’t have to excuse yourself or your dog for the way you are. As long as you’re both happy, and you don’t bother anyone, you are entitled to do what you like and be the way you are.

You don’t need to be good at anything, whether it be Obedience, Agility, Musical Free Style, Heel Work to Music, Flyball, Frisbee Dog, Earth Dog, Ski-Joring, Bike-Joring, Earthdog, Rally-O, Weight Pulling, Carting, Schutzhund, Herding, Nose Work, Therapy, Field Trials, Dock Dogs, Dog Diving, Disc Dogs, Ultimate Air Dogs, Super Retriever, Splash Dogs, Hang Time, Lure Course Racing, Sled Dog Racing or Treibball; and you don’t need excuses as to why not.

We are over swamped by labels because labels sell, but they only sell if you buy them. Should you be a positive, ultra-positive, R+, R+P-, balanced, naturalistic, moralistic, conservative, realistic, progressive, clicker, force-free, or an authoritarian dog owner?

Labels are not a guarantee of life-quality or scientific correctness. They are trademarks, devised by people who want to sell you a product and control you.

Stop caring about labels. A label is a burden; it restricts you; it limits your freedom. Labels are for insecure people who need to hide behind a mask. Harmony and serenity don’t need labels.

Be skeptical of everything that spreads like fire on the step. Be suspicious of anything with a broad mass appeal. Think, question everything, control your emotions, be open-minded but constantly use your critical reasoning. Believe in yourself, be yourself. Be the person and the dog owner you want to be, and you won’t need labels.

Forget labels and focus instead on knowledge, empathy, reciprocity, and respect. These are the pillars of any healthy relationship you may develop with any individual, independently of species.

Life is great—enjoy it!

Featured image: Just do whatever you and your dog enjoy, whichever way you like it so that both of you feel good. It’s as simple as that!

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An Invaluable Lesson—a Relationship is a Natural Thing

Relationship Child Dog (ChildDogPuddle-600x326.png)

Do you think they fight about what positive and negative reinforcers or punishers are? Do you think they waste precious time arguing about dominance and submission? Do you think they care about collars, leashes, harnesses, target sticks, clickers, kongs—or looking fashionable?

As I have said oftentimes, a relationship is a natural thing. Plagued by the sins of the past, the madness of the present, obsessive with political correctness, inebriated by the gizmos of the cybernetic revolution and brainwashed by consumerism, we have forgotten how to create a genuine relationship. If we wish peace and harmony, it is imperative that we regain this lost ability of ours. These two in the movie can teach us all a priceless lesson—if we just care to pause for a moment, watch them, and listen to their silent message.

This clip has to be one of my all-time favorites.

Keep smiling!

Learn more in our course Dogs and Children, the course that everyone should take independently of whether one has children, dogs, both or none. It is our (adults) duty to protect them, who need it most, our children and our animals. Dogs and children are wonderful together when all goes well. Learn how to prevent serious problems from occurring and how to give your child and dog some fun and meaningful activities so they can develop a good and respectful relationship.

Dogs and children—a Natural Relationship (DogsAndChildrenCourse-1-1024x538)