Staff and volunteers of the Elmbrook Humane Society will be blogging about what's going on at the society, as well as other observations about life in Wisconsin.
The mission of the Elmbrook Humane Society is to promote the human-animal bond through adoption and education, to provide shelter to homeless animals, and to prevent animal cruelty and neglect. EBHS services the city of Brookfield, the villages of Butler, Chenequa, Elm Grove and Nashotah, and the towns of Brookfield and Delafield. EBHS shelters unwanted pets and strays, and rescues injured domestic animals and wildlife, provides resources for individuals with companion animals and provides Humane Education to schools and civic groups.
Visit our web site at www.EBHS.org.
The other day I was driving down North Avenue when I saw a woman walking a beautiful German Shepherd. Readers will recall how much I love the breed, so I watched them walking while I was driving by, admiring this beautiful dog when all of the sudden the lady kicked the dog.
I have seen this same kick administered on the controversial show "Dog Whisperer". Seeing Caesar Milan kick a dog on TV, and seeing a lady in Brookfield kick a dog is two entirely different experiences. Whether I agree with Caesar or his training techniques is not at issue here. It is just jarring to watch someone kick a dog and to not know why. At least you know why Mr. Milan is doing it, as he explains why he does what he does. I do not know what the dog did to deserve this kick, as I had been watching it before the kick, but for someone to kick their dog on a busy street is really hard to watch or understand. I would also like to point out that his show recommends not trying his techniques on your own. Especially on North Avenue.
Which brings me to the subject of my blog today. It is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and I have just read an article about how dominance-based training techniques increase the incidence of dog bites and aggression. I am hypothesizing that many of these bites occur during these training sessions. Is that the reason for the increase?
My own personal opinion is that dogs react the way they are treated, and violence begets violence. Sure, you can beat a dog into not doing something wrong, but in another situation with another person, the dog still may do the unwanted behavior because they are not afraid of the person who did not beat them. Dogs are still animals with instincts, including self preservation, and if they are threatened with harm, they will protect themselves. Either by retreating, becoming submissive, or retaliating. You teach them by your own behavior appropriate responses. From the article:
A 2008 American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) position statement on the use of dominance in animal training. The AVSAB recommends veterinarians not refer patients to trainers who adhere to dominance hierarchy theory and the confrontational training that typically results. The society went on to recommend the use of positive reinforcement to safely train animals.
There is a temperament test done with puppies where you can roll them onto their back and see how they react which is supposed to give you an idea of their future behavior. This test is not recommended for adult dogs, and if given to the wrong dog you will be bitten. I even have family members that think when a dog does something bad they should hold the dog down to make them submissive, or roll them over to show who is boss. The understanding of companion animal behavior, especially in dogs, has really grown and there are many resources out there to help you. You just have to ask.
We recently had a family adopt a puppy that was in foster care for a few weeks, was well-adjusted, stayed with it's littermates for the recommended amount of time and left our shelter a happy little dog. This dog was returned a month later and the surrender profile read like this was a vicious, food aggressive dog, and should be euthanized immediately. We were stunned and found out that in this home the dog was exhibiting normal puppy behavior of chasing kids, and play nipping, but the parents let this escalate and the kids would take things away from the dog without giving the dog something in trade (i.e. do not chew my shoe - take this bone) which encouraged resource guarding.
This puppy will need behavior modification, and will only be able to live in an adult home for now. It is young, and otherwise has no other temperament issues, so we should be able to rehabilitate it. But why did this happen? These people never called for help or training, and in fact, totally skipped training class.
People just do not understand how important the proper training and socialization is to all dogs. Dogs cannot train themselves. They rely on us for everything, including on learning how to live in our home (or pack, as Mr. Milan would say). When we fail them, they are the ones that pay the price.
If you do not understand dog behavior, please find a trainer that is experienced with your dog's breed, behavior issue, and has a training style that makes you feel comfortable.
Five million people will be bitten by dogs this year, with 1,000 needing emergency medical attention each day. Please train your dog. Please teach your children to be respectful of animals and involve them in the training process so they understand why they should not do certain things that encourage rough play. Please as an adult use your judgment when training your own dog, or handling someone else's dog.
If you would like to watch a great positive based trainer on TV, check out "It's Me or the Dog" starring Victoria Stillwell on Animal Planet. She has great techniques for training, and while she does not have the warm fuzzy personality of Mr. Milan with people, she is great with animals and really helps people understand the training process from the animal's perspective.