APDT Conference: Day 4.1

Day four of the APDT conference and another day of selections. I took a bit of everything this day – scientific, behavioural, and something different.

First up I did two sessions with Simon Gadbois who could be considered an expert in canid behaviour. Simon’s first session was: “Canine Neuroscience”, which was followed by “Aggression and Aggressiveness in Context”.

To save me having to take copious notes, which I would have, here are the two powerpoints –  apdt-2013-gadbois-aggressio apdt-2013-gadbois-canine

What I have done is jotted down some of the notes I took and included is the slide that they were relevant to or when mentioned. I’ll start with the neuroscience talk, which I found captivating and it was interesting to hear some of the thoughts from someone who actually researches and bases his theories on science.

Here the points to add to the notes:

  • There is a direct link between the brain and behaviour [10]
  • The brain learns well to punishment [13]
  • Is there a Fixed Action Pattern? Maybe there are action patterns but they can be loose or rigid (i.e. not fixed) as there are so many variables [13]
  • Social stress is stress coming from the environment [25]
  • Play is a real buffer for stress [32]
  • The animal needs to know there is more than +R. It must have a contrast for learning to occur. Those who say they only use +R will be using from elsewhere in the matrix – they may not know it but they will be [39]
  • Feedback must be given [40]
  • Play can be one of the best forms of motivation but how it is used is important – switched on or switched off [45]
  • The cue / anticipation becomes more important than the reward [45]
  • Lack of feedback creates frustration – give them information.

And that was a great session followed by the one on aggression. Again, here are the points to add to the powerpoint:

  • Aggression is not a still picture it is a movie – what happened before and after [7]
  • Personality is made up of: temperament (always there); and character (can change) [7]
  • In wolf packs it is not the higher status wolf that eats first, usually the others will eat, the higher status will see that the food is edible and then move in and the subordinates move out
  • The tone you use when communicating makes so much difference
  • Smelling v Sniffing [20]
  • There are two types of aggression:
    • Reactive – difficult because you don’t really know why; more classical conditioning
    • Proactive – you know why and this is generally very self-rewarding; more instrumental
  • Dominance hierarchies do exist [34]
  • The point of a dominance hierarchy is to avoid conflict – if there is no DH then there would be chaos [35]
  • Panksepp [41]

Hopefully you can take something away from this. It was great to listen to someone with such an academic background.


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 …