Saturday, August 29, 2009

Be a Tree Helps with Neighbour Relations!

Submitted by Joanne Wilk of Setter Sanctuary

The building I live in is full of adults and children who don't know how to act around dogs. Well one day I got tired of the kids screaming in excitement whenever I took the dogs out that I decided to show them how to Be a Tree. Since then, they've been amazing around my boys and, of course, my dogs have been calmer around them. One of the neighbourhood kids actually came up to thank me and said that since I showed her what to do, she hasn't been bitten by her little dog! I didn't even know her dog was biting her! I also showed my new neighbours who are new to this country and are afraid of dogs and she thanked me and was amazed that even she or her kids could tell my dogs to sit and they would. It's amazing how something so simple can make such a difference in improving neighbourly relations, not to mention stopping a dog from biting its child!

More on Dominance as an Explanation for Dog Behavior

We have posted several times in the past about the debunking of the dominance theory. You can find these previous posts by looking in the Keyword List section of the blog (look down the left side) for "dominance theory" and clicking on this.

The reason that Doggone Safe is interested in this topic and tries to spread the word is that we want to discourage dog owners from being rough with their dogs in the misguided attempt to "dominate" the dog, or to punish the dog for what is seen as "dominant" behaviour. Pinning, shaking, alpha rolling or other forms of physical force can lead to retaliation by the dog and result in a bite or in a dog that is more likely to bite in the future if it feels threatened again. Younger and weaker members of the family are more likely to be victims than are the ruling adults.

Karen Pryor, in a recent letter, summarized the results of a newly published study by British scientists in the field of veterinary behaviour as follows:

According to these specialists in companion animal behavior, training approaches aimed at "dominance reduction" vary from worthless to downright dangerous. Making dogs go through doors or eat their dinners after you, not before, will not shape the dogs' overall view of the relationship, but will only teach them what to expect in those situations.

In other words, that stuff is silly, but harmless.

"Much worse, techniques such as pinning the dog to the floor, grabbing the jowls, or blasting hooters [noise makers] at dogs, will make dogs anxious, often about their owner, and potentially lead to an escalation of aggression."
Click here to see Karen's entire letter and for links to the original study and a summary of the study.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Advice for Be a Tree Presenters

This was posted to the Doggone Safe presenters Yahoo group today by Kerry Potter-Kotecki of Doggone Safe. I thought it might be useful to all of you Be a Tree presenters...
My name is Kerry and I became involved with Doggone Safe after my daughter was mauled by neighbor's dogs several years ago. Fortunately she survived and is doing just fine, but I am also passionate about teaching dog body language and safety. I have been presenting for about 6 years. Through the years I have learned what techniques seem to keep the kids the most interested. One of them I got from our educator Jen Shryock:

Right after teaching the "how to be a tree" part I then ask the kids to think of a squirrel.... I say "what does a dog do when it sees a squirrel?" They will respond - he chases it. Then I say - so if you run, move around or make a lot of noise, then you are like a squirrel and the dog will stay interested in you. Instead be a tree ... trees are boring and the dog will lose interest.
To find out more about the Be a Tree program visit

Kathy Sdao Clicker Workshop in Calgary

Doggone Safe member Tammy Brooks of Sit Happens Dog Training in Calgary is hosting an advanced clicker workshop with Kathy Sdao in Feb in Calgary.

The Advanced Clicker Training Workshop is designed for the experienced clicker trainer who understands and can apply this dog-training technique. Created as a follow-up to Kathy’s highly successful “Know Way, Know How” workshop, the “Advanced Clicker Training Workshop” will further your knowledge and training skills, offer insights and guide you to the next level of skill.

Expect lots of dog training and demonstrations, as well as Kathy's cogent lectures using lots of visual aids. Topics include:
  • The Core of Clicker Training;
  • Shaping with Purpose;
  • Technical Breakdowns;
  • Adding the Cue and Stimulus;
  • Chaining;
  • When to Stop Clicking;
  • Reliability;
  • Advanced Concepts Dog Training.
Kathy works with an assistant, Dorothy Turley, providing support, positive reinforcement and an overall excellent learning environment for all participants.

When: Feb 20-21, 2010

Where: Sit Happens Dog Training, Cagary AB

Click here for more details

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kids Learn to Be a Tree at Puppy Pawlooza

Thanks to Melissa Vincent of In Dogs We Trust dog training of London ON for sending us a photo and update. Melissa offered a free Be a Tree demonstration at the Puppy Pawlooza festival earlier this month. Meilssa says...

The children, parents and others in the audience thought that it was an excellent program. As do I, which makes it so easy to promote. I have included some pictures of myself and my helper giving the demo.

Reinforcement - Give 'Em What They Want!

This post was originally posted to the TAGteach blog and is being posted here as well, since there is a lot we can all learn from kids!

What do kids really want for reinforcement? Candy, for one thing; money for another. This according to an article published in the the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of the Latham Letter and written by social worker Lynn Loar and five young co-authors. Parents and other adults need to realize that it is all very well to hope that an innate sense of moral obligation will cause Jimmy to clean his room, but if you want the job done easily and well, then you need to pay with currency that kids value.

Kid authors Hilary Louie, Evelyn Pang, Michelle Ma, Maya Rankupalli and Geoffrey Pott are experienced with clicker training, TAGteaching and the concept of reinforcement and they explain why certain things are reinforcing and in what context. Lynn Loar sums it up as follows:
So, there you have it. Be generous, sincere and specific. Use candy and money as reinforcers, even if you prefer other things. As Maya shows, children move on from candy, pennies and toys to more mature and altruistic reinforcers when they are ready. Clicker trainers know to let the learner set the pace; let your students develop this broader perspective at their own pace and don’t begrudge the candy and pennies in the meantime.
Click here to read the entire article.

Hilary and Evelyn are also the authors of the Clicker Training for Kids pamphlets and the book "Good Dog" that are posted at the Doggone Safe Clicker Training Page.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Case File: Expect the Unexpected

"Mommy, I have to go pee!"... the battle cry of the toddler that is reserved for the most inconvenient of times and is delivered in the loudest of voices. "Maybe there is a bathroom in the house...let's go see", Angela steers the child toward the house, certain that the proprietors of the garden centre wouldn't mind an emergency trip to the bathroom. The door is open and Angela opens it and ushers Susie inside, only to come face to face with the family's two large dogs. Susie starts to scream and the dogs rush towards her, growling and barking and fighting with each other. They push the frantic toddler and her shocked mother out of the way as they rush outside in a frenzy. The dogs have no idea what the screaming is all about and luckily they go outside in their confusion.

Margaret, the lady of the house was baking in the kitchen with the dogs at her feet, when someone came in and the dogs got up to look for the cookies that they customarily receive from visitors. Startled by the screaming they became alarmed and then aggressive with each other. Fortunately they took it outside and no-one was hurt. Margaret was shaken and disturbed by the incident and the thought of what might have happened. She was right there behind the dogs but the whole thing was over before she could even react. Angela was similarly shocked and could not have got her child out of the way of the dogs.

The lesson here is expect the unexpected. Never assume anything where dogs and children (or even customers) are concerned. Margaret has since taken steps to ensure that the dogs have no access to the front door, even when she is with them in the house. Angela, one expects would knock the next time and enter a strange place ahead of, rather than behind her child. Susie is likely even more terrified of dogs than she was previously and this makes her more likely to run away screaming from a dog thus precipitating an attack. We hope that our programs and materials help children like Susie get over their fear as they become empowered with the knowledge of how to tell what a dog is thinking and how to control a situation with a dog by standing still and being a tree.