Is Your Toolbox Balanced?

"But I like to keep a balanced toolbox!"

I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard or read that one. It’s undoubtedly a big number. It’s usually the end or near the end of a trainer discussion on tools or techniques, and is intended to indicate that while a trainer (at least claims) to be primarily using tools and techniques that employ positive reinforcement, they also still like to use tools and techniques that rely on positive punishment/negative reinforcement. And they make this claim to open-mindedness with a brilliant rhetorical flourish! Or at least it probably seemed brilliant the first time it was used. I’m guessing around 1986.

But hey, what’s more open than reserving the right to use a leash pop or some electrical current when the going gets tough?

But really, we shouldn’t find this shocking (heh) when we still treat each other like this:

If pointless and gratuitous physical coercion to a kid is routine family TV (he really needed to sit in that chair NOW!) than how much sympathy do you think we can get for any non-human animal?

The fact is that human society is chock full of coercion and retribution. Last week I didn’t want to veer too far off into politics and I don’t want to go off on a philosophical tangent here, but consider how we treat each other. Coercion, whether it’s physical (most often with children) or not, is a big part of our society. Rewards are for frequent customers, credit cards, and bounty hunters. So it’s quite natural that our handling of non-human animals is even worse.

I’m currently enrolled in Dr. Susan Friedman’s Living and Learning with Animals course and just two weeks in I can see how this course is going to have a tremendous impact on how I work with both humans and dogs, and with how I solve problems. From the course description:

The philosophy of behavior underlying this course is that captive and companion animals, like all learners, must have power to operate effectively on their environment, in order to live behaviorally healthy lives.

Having the science of Applied Behavior Analysis carefully explained and also seeing it applied to a variety of different species has made it clear: it works.

But let’s look at more visceral example of how much someone can get done with a "closed toolbox:"

The elephant in this video is hanging out at the edge of the pen, happily responding to cues to move into different positions. (The electronic "beep" seems to be an event marker similar to a clicker.) If you watch the whole video you’ll see him lift his leg, allow the trainer to examine his ears, and respond to a variety of different cues. These are behaviors they use to care for the elephant with some fun stuff mixed in. Let’s review the zoo’s options for handling elephants.

  1. Restrain the elephant and force him to submit to handling. This is often where we end up with our children and our pets. Of course it’s easier to physically restrain a child or a dog than it is an elephant. (In Asia people do restrain elephants and treat them quite badly. They generally start out when the elephant is very small.)
  2. Sedate the elephant. This is risky, for both the elephant and the vet staff. It’s also of limited usefulness, since moving a sedated elephant is still a, pun intended, big problem. An awake cooperative elephant is a lot easier to work with.
  3. Don’t provide care for the elephant that requires cooperation. There are undoubtedly zoos that still choose this option.
  4. Do what we see here – convince the elephant that working with the trainer is a good thing.

Some would say that comparing this activity to working with a dog isn’t fair. The elephant is in a pen with steel columns protecting the trainer! I would tend to agree. Many people restrain their dogs so they can’t flee. This elephant has a choice the entire time – he could walk away from the bars any time he wants. But he stays. The trainer gave him a reason to.

This dog doesn’t have that choice:

I see two collars and some kind of head harness. And in case you missed the irony: one of the first steps in "teaching" a dog named a "Retriever" to "retrieve" is by forcing his mouth open by pinching the ear. Poke around Youtube some more and you’ll see video of a "well-respected" trainer needing to use a shock collar for the same procedure.

Yes, we need to shock dogs to get them to hold things in their mouth. I’m sure they’d say it’s complicated and we wouldn’t understand since we’re not professionals.

How did we get here? Where does the idea that when a dog (or child, or employee, etc.) doesn’t behave the way we want that meeting it with coercion and punishment (in the colloquial sense) isn’t just correct but virtuous?

Dr. Friedman refers to this phenomenon as "cultural fog.", based on a oft-cited quote from Gunnar Myrdal. The idea that rewards are "bribes" and the dogs and people should already be motivated to do the "right thing" as we define it is embedded in our culture. Dogs should work for praise. An employee’s reward for good work is more responsibility — which is corporate-speak for more work. And of course any popular artist seen taking money is a "sell-out."

So it’s not surprising that a "balanced toolbox" is seen not just as a necessity but as a badge of honor.

But I don’t accept that. If someone can convince a 15,000 pound elephant to cooperate with a physical examination without restraint or sedation, than there really is no excuse for needing coercion to get a dog to walk nicely on leash….let alone retrieve a bird.

I’ll take the smaller toolbox. Every time.

Is Your Toolbox Balanced? is a post written by . You can see the actual post at Dog Training in Bergen County New Jersey

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A Lazy Sunday Walk

The shih-tzu in the distance is called Billy – even though she’s a girl.  She was named for Billy Jean King.  The part-Husky is called Lucky and the Beagle is Caillou.  Billy belongs to my friend Carla and Lucky and Caillou are staying with her.

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May 23,

Please see the international dog shock incidents on StreetZaps; please disseminate this vital public service to preclude more injuries or tragedies. Many
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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How can I free my dog of ticks for good?

Question by Jessie: How can I free my dog of ticks for good?
I switched from Frontline to Advantix II, but she still gets ticks, I’ve tried the shampoos, dip, powder, Advantix, and Frontline. I feel as if I am running out of options. My dog is a Corgi with a thick under coat, she is also an indoor dog who only goes out for walks to use the restroom, never longer than a 30 minute walk.

Best answer:

Answer by Paige
it depends on what environment your in if there are pine trees then your dog will just keep getting them

What do you think? Answer below!

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MWD-PTSD-336x220In Honor of September’s National Service Dog Month, animal advocate Wendy Diamond, founder of Animal Fair Media, will be hosting a patriotic breakfast and fundraiser as part of’s Bark Business Tour on Monday September 30th at the Omni Berkshire Hotel in New York to benefit K9’s For Warriors. To date just over $ 130,000 has been raised – 26 lives Saved! 13 dogs 13Veterans!

Halo Purely for Pets, co-owned by Ellen DeGeneres, is proud to be a major sponsor of the nationwide tour. In addition, is feeding Halo Spot’s Stew to every service dog sponsored in the tour.

Along with the stars of Law and Order Danny Pino and Richard Belzer, actress/comedian Jane Lynch, Fox’s Raising Hope star Garret Dillahunt, Supermodel Tyson Beckford, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton and business magnates, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark, Ingram Industries’ John Ingram and more…

The Bark Business Tour will stop in 10 cities, and won’t “roll over” until at least $ 150,000 is raised. Join us and help us save the life of a vet and a dog.

For more information about the event visit


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This adorable Jack Russell Terrier was at the next table to me at the fabulous Beausejour Restaurant in Gorbio.  In the last photo, you can see how he managed to wind himself around the table leg when I wanted to take his photo, but he was soon untangled. He’s called Eliot and he’s 3 years old and lives in Nice.  Nice to meet you Eliot!


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Get $10 Coupon for Quick Survey!

We know firsthand that pet health care costs are on the rise. Two of our cats, Felix and Linus, are on daily medication. We’ve seen medication prices rise over the past couple of years that…

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Nice Pet Itch photos

Check out these Pet Itch images:

China soothes an itch
Pet Itch

Image by Autumnsonata

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Dogster Hero: Guide Dog Saves a Boy from Being Hit by a Car

David Furukawa, a veteran who is legally blind, was walking his son William to school in Atlanta on Monday, when tragedy struck. 

A red Chrysler sped through a stop sign and hit Dave’s guide dog, Simon, an 80-pound Boxer. Then the car hit Dave. And then Simon did something miraculous — he stayed on the job, even with injures that would later prove fatal.  

“What people have said is that Simon either got up or jumped out, and pushed my son out of the path of the car,” Furukawa told 11 Alive from his hospital bed.

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But that's not all: After witnesses picked up the boy and ran him down the street to his home and his mother, Simon followed, to make sure the boy was safe.  

"In spite of having a broken leg and a gash in his side and internal bleeding, he managed to hobble home to make sure that my son was okay, because obviously, I'm sure the dog is thinking, ‘Who are these strangers taking my boy?'" Furukawa told Fox 5 News.

"Once he was sure Will was okay, he laid down," he told 11 Alive.

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By the time family members were able to rush the dog to an emergency vet clinic, it was too late. Simon died on the way.  

"He's been my eyes and my buddy," Dave said from his hospital bed. "He loved my son." 

The man who hit them, Calvin Armour, was cited with running a stop sign and failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. We don't know what other charges will apply. The organization that provided Dave with Simon -- Pilot Dogs Inc. of Columbus, Ohio -- said that it would get Dave a new guide dog. 

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Dave suffered a broken knee, elbow, and foot, while his son fared better, with just cuts and bruises.

"He sacrificed himself to make sure my son was okay," he told Fox 5. "His legacy will live on ... forever."

Via 11 Alive and Fox 5 News

The Scoop | The Scoop

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Bizarre — Australian dog is stolen, shaved and returned

If the dog had been an unkempt Poodle we might understand the motivation, but Gypsy is a Border Collie, a dog of the low maintenance variety. On Monday Bill Simeon, 74, realized that Gypsy was missing from his gated yard while he was working in…
The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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