The owls were flying

Okay, back to the holiday – or should I say vacation. I mentioned we picked up our car in Seattle for the drive over to Spokane and then from Spokane, driving on down to Portland.

We have a Nissan Altima with Oregon plates, which helps in fitting in with the crowd. It’s not bad to drive but there is some terrible glare through the windscreen, i.e. bouncing off the rather large dash. The radio is okay and does well at selecting all kinds of music in this area – country or christian. Although we did find one that was original rock, think AC/DC et al.

Staying on the right is not a problem, just those damn windscreen wipers being where the indicator should be.

The first drive was about 4 hours which was very scenic as we drive through the forested mountains but then flattened out to not very much as we got closer to Spokane.

Home » The owls were flying » Seattle to Spokane
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The second trip, well that was the opposite, although at one stage we drove through a dust storm – very windy, very dusty. Especially in one place – Connell – that had a prison and trailer park; and dust and a not so clean rest-stop but when you gotta stop you gotta stop as there aren’t many opportunities and it does add to the fun(?) of the trip. Although we did a detour to stops for lunch at Bacon & Eggs in a place called Walla Walla, which is a bit of a wine area and fantastic food.

And I almost forgot, the trip was that much more exciting as Mr Garmin sent us on Washington side of the river to the older state highway, rather than the Oregon side on the newer interstate – still got to the same place just a different view.

Home » The owls were flying » Spokane to Portland
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Excuse some of the photos as not easy using a camera while driving and there are the customary bugs on the screen. I’ll stick a map in here when I can remember how to do it … and I remembered

 

APDT Conference: Day 3

Friday and another full-on day where from now you select who you want to see as there are concurrent sessions running – in fact, there is so much to choose from. For instance, in the past I have done the chicken training but decided to give that a miss so I could see and hear something different. So, this morning I started off with another session from Ken McCort titled “Aggression vs Predation in Canids”.

Ken started off by defining aggression and preferred this definition from Edward O. Wilson – aggression is a physical act by one individual that reduces the freedom or genetic fitness of another. Before he got to this he did open with the controversial subject about whether the terms dominance and submission exist in the world of dogs with a view that they are relevant behaviour terms that have a legitimate use but what they are not is, they are not personality traits, which is maybe where we hear it being used.

He then went on and spoke about how many different types of aggression have been defined in the literature and whether all those different types exist or whether we just like creating terms to suit situations. However, the term is handy but McCort suggests there are only two forms of aggression (regardless of whatever title it is known as):

  1. Offensive aggression, which is where the animal uses agonistic behaviour to obtain a resource – the “Attacker”
  2. Defensive aggression, which is where the animal uses agonistic behaviour to keep a resource – the “Defender” or “victim”

When compromised or threatened the dog has three choices: fight, flight or freeze. What is important to the dog is space:

  • Territory = turf (can be anything the dog can sense and is sometimes more breed specific)
  • Flight distance = distance dog will go when frightened – when frightened the distance the animal will go before stopping & looking back; critical to survival
  • Critical Distance = necessary to stay free – distance dog must maintain to stay loose / free; distance varies on experience and physical ability; often tested and retested
  • Social Distance / Personal Space = very close, physical contact – in most cases, it is a violation of etiquette to enter an animal’s personal space without permission. McCort suggests that this is where most people are going to get bitten.

The dog goes through what is known as the aggression continuum, something which most of us are aware of. The continuum goes something like this: Cut off signals / Conflict & Displacement behaviours; Alarm bark / growl; Snap / lunge; Contact bite; Puncture / laceration; Multiple bites / slashing; Tissue loss / amputation of digits; All out attack / Death.

The body language of a dog changes dependent on how close you get to it. Further, pain can change fight into flight (and sometimes quickly). Think of giving a dog a leash correction; however, McCort also stated that he could see no reason why using an aversive was wrong when it was going to save the animal’s life – the example he gave was stock-chasing. (Like many of those at this seminar, they recognise that four quadrants exist and that each has a purpose and we should not be ignorant of this.)

When working with aggression it is important that you work with the first step in the continuum and not wait. Observation is so important in not allowing the behaviour to escalate. Also on this point, a dog will never miss the first step – the cut-off signal, but may miss one or more of the other steps.

McCort also spoke about the types of aggression, which are pretty much the classifications familiar to most of us, but the key is that the type is based on what is the motivation. Again, when dealing with aggression – why is the dog doing this?

And then he spoke about predatory behaviours, which is based on the motivation for food. The dog is not hungry or upset, it just wants to catch its prey – or to reach one of the other behaviours in the foraging motor pattern – also known as prey drive (which McCort argues is an incorrect term) or fixed action pattern or instinctive behaviour. Those who have done the NDTF over the recent years this is all covered in those specific lectures.

I enjoyed this lecture and hopefully you will be able to access the notes here – ken_mccort_aggression_vs_predation_notes

So that was the start to the day, more to follow.

That gum you like is going to come back in style

A lot of catching up to do. The dog conference is like going to school everyday and as you know, early nights on school days. I still have a few days of conference to post but I also have a few more photos and tales from our travels. And first off, is some shots from Seattle.

I mentioned earlier that Seattle is built on one hell of a hill, so there was no using the bikes on offer at the hotel, and when walking, we eventually found a way that avoided most of the hill. The bonus, all this hill climbing meant more beer and food drinking.

Did I say beer drinking – some blogs coming on that – just hang in there, for instance up to date I have had in excess of 20 different beers and out of that 20 have disliked none. And the best, tap beers come in pints and only once (from a faded memory) have we paid over $5 – the best was in Spokane (which I will get to later) where Sunday was happy hour all day and we paid $2.50 a pint – yes, $2.50 a pint. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – woo-hoo!

Anyways, back to Seattle. We ventured down to the famous Pike Market, which was kind of over about four different levels due to being built on the side of a hill (it was that much of a hill that in one area not far from the market, and we are talking about downtown, someone was keeping a herd of mountain goats that you could hire out -those crazy Americans).

There were the same arty stalls that you’d find at any market and food, which was so colourful and fresh but our Melbourne Market is much, much bigger in size. But this Pike Market is full of character, I liked the age of the building and the downstairs areas that were a bit like walking into history (no photos down there, sorry).

There were plenty of buskers, plenty of locals, plenty of tourists and it really is worth walking around and buying some cheap food. And if you like, some great looking seafood – we didn’t buy a whole salmon and neither did anyone else so we never saw the salmon catching.

I mentioned before about the first Starbucks being at Pike Market and you should had have seen the queues outside and the people (like us) taking photos. Seattle is the home of Starbucks and we went on a ferry cruise where the guide mentioned that within a 5 mile radius of the ferry terminal there are 136 Starbucks stores (and more than half of that 5 mile is water).

The harbour area has a world renowned aquarium but we gave that one a miss, as we also gave the famous Crab Pot a miss too, as we had already eaten our seafood feast (and the Crab Post is very, very touristy).

We liked Seattle, not as much as Vancouver, but it was worth the trip and there is so much more to do – for instance, it was so damn foggy we never went up the space needle or went into the blown-glass gardens. Actually the fog, never really lifted except on our first day. Oh well, even though it was cold, it wasn’t really cold, except on that ferry.

For your delight, here are some pictures from the ferry ride and another album of shots around the market (there are more shots coming of the EMP Museum – music-sci fi-horror). And like my other posts, I haven’t bothered to title the photos so if you want to know what anything is, shoot me a message or comment.

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APDT Conference: Day 2.1

Ken Ramirez followed by another Ken – Ken McCort. Ken McCort is an experienced dog trainer, lecturer and advisor and has also been involved with training and working with the wolves at Wolf Park in Indiana. For my dog training buddies back home, Ken’s dog training business is “Four Paws” – he must be good.

Anyways, Ken’s session was part of a series from four speakers on Behaviour Problems and the Companion Dog with Ken’s talk on “Prey drive”.

This was quite interesting and as with the other speakers, it was based on a real-case scenario. Ken’s was on a wolf-hybrid (he is an expert on wolf-hybrids) and he said that this was one of the actual wolf-hybrids he had come across. The scenario was based on predatory behaviour targeted at the children in the household with an end result that the dog was re-homed. He walked us through a plan (primarily based on incompatible behaviours) and how it was working but the predatory behaviour is always going to be there and on the day the wolf started stalking the children in the backyard enough was enough. I enjoyed this session and followed it on Day 3 with another session from Ken on aggression (another blog coming on that – great session).

This was followed by Malena DeMartini-Price a behaviourist who specialises in separation anxiety. This was captivating and I wrote pages and pages of what she did in the scenario of a 3 year old adopted female border collie called Lucy. When left-alone, Lucy had severe destructive behaviours, anorexia, howling, panting, drooling, pacing and shadowing. The owners recently moved house and the behaviours intensified. Lucy went to obedience classes and was 80% reliable on key behaviours of “Stay” and “Bed”. The owners had never sought help for the SA and Lucy had regular exercise and was on a high-quality diet. When crated, the behaviours were the same as when not crated.

There were two goals to the plan: short term of 1-2 hours absence so the handlers could go to the shops or out for dinner, etc; long-term they wanted 8 hour absences with a dog walker coming in during the day.

And then Malina stepped us through the plan – a four week initial period where everything was re-assessed followed up to week 12. At a little over 5 months the long-term goal was achieved. Malina stressed that any SA plan will take time and there is nothing that can be done about that, you can try medication to make it easier but it won’t reduce the time. There were a lot of key points but I will put them in another blog as I also saw Malina again (and that was an even better session than this one).

This was followed by Colleen Pelar (remember from Day 1) whose session was on “Human-directed Aggression”. Colleen didn’t have any specific case-study of her own but she did have some key points based on others’ experience.

Again, a lot of problems come from the owner – so often it matters who has the end of the leash. Too often people get the wrong dog. And no matter what, you can never promise that a dog is not going to bite (again) – but you can try and manage the circumstances when it may occur.

She had a venn diagram of where aggression comes from with the intersecting circles being: genes, environment and individual character. And for the success of the training plan, well it depends on compliance and non-compliance. And no denial of the seriousness.

This was followed by the three speakers and Ken Ramirez in a panel discussion. These are the points I wrote down:

On problem behaviours: What is the context of where the dog is going to be raised determines whether something may be a problem or not – e.g. killing squeaky toys vs. killing cats.

On handling dogs: It is not about strength, it’s not about power – it’s about being smart.

On diet: We are trainers, not nutritionists; however, a good dog = a healthy dog = a better dog to train (although it was acknowledged some studies have indicated a correlation between poor diet and aggression).

And that was it for the day, as the trade-show opened ($5 Kongs – woo-hoo)

And the doors are open ...

And the doors are open …

 

 

APDT Conference: Day 2

Thursday and we were straight into another day of enlightenment with a kick-off from Ken Ramirez and “The challenge of being a consultant: the things they don’t teach you in animal training class!” Another great session from Ken where he spoke about dog training being more than just training dogs, i.e. so much of it is dealing with the dog’s owner.

Ken had a nine point plan to success and these are some of the key points raised:

  1. People skills are so important – the animals can take care of themselves
  2. It is important to identify what is the actual problem – does everyone see the same problem? before going down any training plan everyone must agree on a common goal. And as Ken said, this requires the dog trainer to be a good negotiator
  3. Discuss priorities – before implementing any plan, determine where achieving the plan fits into the priority list and is that priority list the same for everyone? Remember that a problem that is low on the priority list may not be easily solved and the dog owner must ask themselves: are you willing to sacrifice something to fix the problem?
  4. Speak the client’s language – for instance, forget about the scientific jargon
  5. Unlearn long-held beliefs, half-truths, myths and excuses – they just get in the way of finding solutions, such as it’s the breed or he just hates children. The dog trainer has to shift their thinking and get them to accept responsibility: instead of what’s wrong with the dog, ask why can’t I train it?
  6. Find acceptable behaviours – everyone focuses on the unwanted behaviour: “My dog jumps on me when I come home?” “What would you like it do?” “Stop jumping on me” … well, “Instead of jumping on you what would you like it do?” “Sit nicely.” Bingo!
  7. A flow-chart or something similar for problem solving is a valuable tool
  8. Consistency – make sure everyone agrees on the plane and everyone approaches the training the same way. It’s about the animal, not the ego
  9. Positive reinforcement for the owner – understand what motivates them and help them get something out of it. Stroke their ego, gain their trust and never betray it.

To sum up the session, a behavioural consultant needs to know and understand animal behaviour and training but they will never be successful unless they also have people, observational and organisational skills.

Ken Ramirez session

Ken Ramirez session

Jacques’ back in Canada

Okay, so we left Canada a little while back – actually I’ve lost track of time but I think it was a week . . . or was it? But it doesn’t matter because I’m on holidays – woo-hoo!

Vancouver was a great little city that reminded me very much of Sydney and Melbourne – and it was more than just because we both have colourful money with the Queen’s head. But it was clean and everyone was so polite and the food was good and there was plenty of things to do.

It was easy to get around downtown and we especially liked the cycling – as previously mentioned we had free use of bikes from our hotel which was in downtown across the road from the hospital but you wouldn’t have known it – The Burrard. Only gripe the rooms weren’t real big and as this was an old hotel that had been done-up and the doors leaked noise from anyone walking past.

Courtyard of the Burrard Hotel, Vancouver

Courtyard of the Burrard Hotel, Vancouver

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Note the bike lanes out the frontl

There’s quite a bit to do in Vancouver and we didn’t have time to see and do everything, especially with the day trip to Whistler but that was worth it. On a list of the top ten things to do in Vancouver we did two of them. But the bike ride around the sea wall was fun, even though we didn’t see everything there either, and we rode to the Amtrak and saw a bit of the downtown area by bike – even if we did get lost at one stage. There are plenty of different neighbourhoods, especially for dining and everything was within walking distance (or at least everything we saw).

Jimi Hendrix shrineI liked this tourist attraction – shrine to Jimi Hendrix as this was a cafe his grandmother used to run and young Jimmy sometimes used to call in. You need to read this link from tourism Vancouver to see how famous this little shack is/was.

Down by the harbour reminds me a bit of circular quay and docklands without the wind. Great place for wandering and enjoying the sunshine. This is also where the seas planes take-off and these are recommended – not by us as we didn’t go on them but our tour guide to Whistler said they were good fun and a great way to see things.

Anyway here are some more pictures (I haven’t titled them, maybe one day).

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APDT Conference: Day 1.2

To round out day one we had a series of short 20 minute sessions on a variety of topics.

First up was Lauren Fox with “The best marketing you never paid for.” This session was about how to market your business by getting engaged with rescue shelters. Maybe some got something out of this but not relevant to me.

Next was Colleen Pelar with “Your role in reducing dog bites“. Colleen specialises in dogs and kids and has written several books on the topic. There was some interesting food for thought from this session, I particularly liked the comment that society is keen on legislation for safety but is it the answer, does it stop the problem? She said that some of the problem (or maybe most of the problem) is us and the relationship we have with our dogs. For instance too many people do not recognise the problem – my dog gets grumpy sometimes, or he doesn’t like children … but he will never bite.

Unfortunately, we tend to categorise dogs into either aggressive or non-aggressive but Colleen prefers a traffic light categorisation of: green, yellow, red. The green is enjoyment; the red is for enough already; and the yellow is the middle ground – tolerance – was it good for you. It is this behaviour continuum we need to look at and not the two category approach.

Colleen was followed by an excellent session from Virginia Dare who is a nationally recognised clicker trainer and the co-producer of the Bow-Wow series of DVD (recommended by Jim). Virginia’s session was titled “Stimulus control“.

Stimulus control is achieved when the expected behaviour is performed reliably when cued, only offered when given the cue, and not offered on a different cue.

We need to be precise and consistent but we also need to define exactly what is the behaviour and also: what is our starting position; are we reinforcing tag-alongs (extras); be clear about what is the exact sound/look of the cue. We need to use the cue consistently to avoid guessing from the dog or confusion. When achieving consistency we also need to make the extras irrelevant. Another important point was that when trying to be consistent everyone has to use the same cue.

We have to train the dog to understand the cue and then wait for the cue. We start off with single trials. Avoid repeating the cue as this provides an opportunity for guessing. If the dog gets it wrong, Virginia prefers to pause and then give a different cue. And don’t laugh or make a fuss at the wrong behaviour as this can sometimes be reinforcing for the dog. And if using props, eliminate them – this was demonstrated using a dowel for commands of touch, take it, paw and down. Virginia also rewarded when the prop was presented and the dog offered no behaviour as this demonstrated to her that the dog was responding to the cue and not the prop.

She then recommends adding distractions, then to take it on the road and begin cueing in novel contexts and when the dog is not expecting a training session. Then mix up the new cue with established cues but pair them carefully giving the dog a high chance of success. Ping-pong between opposites and pause between cues. Don’t let the dog drive the speed and don’t establish a pattern as that then becomes what the dog learns as opposed to learning the cue.

Overall, I enjoyed this session, which was followed be Teoti Anderson who gave an insightful session on how proper communication – written and verbal – is important to your professionalism, credibility and acceptance: “When grammar attacks.”

And to run out the day we had Veronica Boutelle talking about business – I didn’t take notes so I have no prompts.

So day one ended, with a walk around the river – Spokane is an old, quiet city with a beautiful river and waterfall. I’ll post some pictures elsewhere as I think of what to write for Day 2, which ended today (Thursday my time). But here is a picture of the 20th Anniversary cake. (… and it was good too)APDT 20th Anniversary cake

APDT 20th Anniversary cake

 

APDT Conference: Day 1.1

Ken Ramirez was only one third of the first day, his session was followed by Denise Fenzi who is a 30 year veteran of training, competing and titling in schutzhund, obedience, tracking, agility, mondioring, conformation and herding – www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com Denise’s talk was “Developing alternatives to food and toys: personal play!”

I kind of liked this session in that so many times we focus on everything else except us as a reward, yet what is the one thing we always have! Through video and talk, Diane demonstrated how to get a dog motivated and how to moderate dependent on the hardness or softness of the dog.

This was interesting as I think sometimes we expect that a dog will enjoy play but body language and what is acceptable makes so much difference. For instance, when you say play with your dog how many handlers turn and automatically confront the dog face-on and wonder why sometimes the dog is not interested. And what do you do with the dog that gets over stimulated and becomes mouthy.

I spend most of my time at off-leash dog parks watching interaction and learning about play so there maybe wasn’t anything overly knew for me but I did like the key message: why bother with play? – because people have dogs to enjoy them!

I’d never heard of a man who murdered by the rules

Did I tell you about the vagrants in Vancouver and Seattle? These cities have a myriad of homeless who live on a bed of cardboard under a blanket or whatever else they can find and spend their day pushing a trolley with all their belongings or hanging around where the tourists do holding a sign or waving an empty cup looking for change.

They aren’t aggressive but in Vancouver they seemed to be everywhere but as soon as you didn’t hand over any money they politely said, “God bless you,” or “Have a nice day” or some other nice thought. In Seattle they were more of the sign holder with some story of why they needed money.

I never handed over any money except in Vancouver on our last night when I gave the last of my Canadian coins to the guy who was outside the 7-11 next to our hotel every night – it appears they have corners, a bit like buskers or drug dealers.

In Seattle we went to a part of town known as the Pioneer Square neighbourhood. This used to be very run-down but they moved in the artists and have done a lot to make it more “people-friendly” if you like. It was a pretty place (if pretty is the right word – maybe intriguing or interesting is better) and they have excellent tours of what they call the underground. This area of Seattle was the hive of activity when first settled but the early settlers also built on the tide plain and when a fire burnt a lot of the city to the ground (happens a lot to cities over here) they rebuilt but the orders were to build on top of the existing buildings.

It really was an interesting piece of history and a recommended area to visit and tour (although our tour guide did say to avoid any further than a block or two from where we went). It was also extra interesting because the food kitchen was out serving breakfast and the park was full of the homeless but no-one bothered us, not even one I saw who might have been a bit of a Fagan as he was counting out a roll of dollar bills with a small group around him watching and waiting?

We had some coffee here at a great bakery and I knew we were safe when I checked for a wi-fi and came across the following:

FBI

And here are a few more photos from this area –

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APDT Conference: Day 1

No quotes just straight into the conference.

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First up was what I considered a key-note with a key-message as Ken Ramirez delivered his session on “Tales from the Field: The Diverse Faces of a Professional Trainer”. I have heard Ken before and if ever you get the chance he is highly recommended.

This session included Ken’s thoughts on professional dog trainers, ethics and philosophy, balancing science and practical application, skills beyond training, finding your niche, and the future of training. Actually before I get into this, the opening included some pretty good stats on this conference, for instance there were close to 800 people at the opening session and from countries including USA, Canada, Australia (yay, me!), Chile, Brazil, Venezuala, UK, and Finland.

The APDT in USA has recently changed their name from Association of Pet Dog Trainers to Association of Professional Dog Trainers. This is more than just training for a paycheque but more about how one represents oneself in the industry. Practical experience is a valuable asset but so is a knowledge of the science and a familiarisation with the current trends. I strongly believe in this, which is why I continue to go to these conferences. Learning should never stop.

Ken also spoke about the importance of an ethical foundation. The end goal should be the animal’s welfare not just reaching a goal. I think this sometimes goes past us, which is why I am not a fan of say fading out a lure because the curriculum says we should do this after one or two sessions – who says this, the trainer or the dog?

And talking about methods in dog training, Ken’s experience is in zoology not dogs but in any training program a positive regime should be first; however, there needs to be acknowledgment that there is more to training than positive reinforcement. Ken is disappointed that so many poo-poo any other method of training and if we are truly professional then there must be acknowledgment and there must be knowledge so that a trainer can explain why they may use a specific method over another.

Teaching is training – training an animal how to live in our care; how to live in our world successfully. The cornerstones of any animal care must be: health program, nutrition program, environment and behavioural management. The primary reason for training (for the benefit of the animal) is: physical exercise, mental stimulation and cooperative behaviour.

A professional trainer must be well-read and well-practised. They must understand various techniques, they must know when and how to adapt, they must be versatile and be able to speak about the myriad of techniques. Ken was quite critical of trainers who call themselves positive trainers, yet they spend their time criticising any other method or trainer without any acknowledgment that those methods are based on science and do work. You don’t have to use them but you have to be able to explain why you are using what you are in any specific situation and why it is the best for that particular session.

Training is successful because we adapt to the needs of the animals and the needs of the situation.

Ken also gave some practical experience of where his niche lies – as that is what we should do, find what you are good at, where your skills can be best used and be passionate.

Ken’s practical examples are based on “exotic” animal training for a purpose and they are great, he also spoke about his mimicry training with dogs (I have heard the full session on this before and it is fascinating to watch and hear – he is drafting a scientific paper on this). If I get around to it I might add some to this blog, otherwise come to one of my NDTF lectures as I have spoken about some of Ken Ramirez’s training in the past and now have some new examples.

Highlight of the day without a doubt.