Welcome to Canis BLOGus

Canis BLOGus – Dog blogging: making evidence-based fun

A blog about dogs and dog behaviour for critical owners and professionals.

I share news of the dogs I treat, review dog books, explain research articles, and investigate controversial issues. Bursting with pop science, scathing rants, vivid analogies and tongue-in-cheek illustrations.

Who am I

IMG_6610My name is Laure-Anne and I am an English-speaking expat in The Netherlands. I run an evidence-based dog behaviour therapy practice (Canis bonus) and dog training school (OhMyDog!) in The Hague. I graduated in Zoology (University of Newcastle), then specialized in applied companion animal behaviour (postgrad dip). When I am not working on rehabilitating dogs with behaviour problems, I relax by examining ideas in the pet and behaviour world critically. I am also quite a passionate advocate for critical thinking on the human scene.

For more about me, visit the homepage.

What the blog is about

In a nutshell, this blog tries to spread good science about dogs, and relates tales from life in the Netherlands’ dog world.

I am on a mission: spread fact-based and thought-provoking information about dogs. I am relentlessly:

  • busting apocryphal stories, speculation, fallacies and biased tales; and
  • promoting responsible dog ownership.

I enjoy delving into technical subjects and re-surfacing with an article that every dog owner can understand. I am hoping to make specialist subjects like diseases vaccination, genetics, more accessible to a broad audience.

What do I write about?

I share the ups and downs of the dogs I treat and explain the hidden sides of the techniques.

I also break down the finer technical or academic points on:

  • dog training;
  • ethology; and
  • canine first aid and care.

And then of course, I interview interesting dog pros and tell you about my latest dog book review.

Oh, and whatever takes my fancy, as long as it’s mildly dog-related and I think you’ll enjoy it.

To find the articles

  • Click on a category (panel to the right) such as ‘Dog behaviour’ or
  • Enter your search terms in the search bar (top right)

Write a comment

I love comments, no matter how short, off-the-mark, (or contrary). You can leave a comment on each article by:

  • clicking on the title for the post you want to read, and
  • completing the comments form at the bottom of the article.

Order an article

I can also write for your magazine, blog or website on demand. If you want to order an article on a canine subject of your choice,  contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss your needs.

To find out more about my dog writing services, go to my Dog writer page.

Canis bonus in blog directories

Laure-Anne Viselé

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Dog book review: Chaser

Dog book review announcement: John W. Pilley’s “Chaser”
By Laure-Anne Visele, August 2015

About the review’s author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

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Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I can help with your dog’s behaviour questions if you live in The Hague or region.

I am a dog behaviour therapist for Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! dog training school.

I graduated in Zoology and certified as a dog training instructor. I also have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

In short, I am The Hague’s dog nerd. If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, I am your girl.  If you live close to The Hague and have a question about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem here.

Chaser

Pilley Chaser

Pick it up if you’re curious about language learning in dogs, or if you’re a Border Collies afficionado. Or if you just want to relax to an informative and entertaining book about dogs. I for one loved every page!

Check the full review here.

Posted in Dog writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ode to a great dog trainer at OhMyDog!

Ode to a great dog trainer and colleague
By Laure-Anne Visele, 11 August 2015

OhMyDog!’s latest behaviour coach

It’s difficult for me to write Tommaso with any objectivity. In the few months that we have worked together, he has not only managed to become an esteemed colleague, but also a good friend. But let me try:

Tommie & Teddy

 

I want to officially congratulate Tommaso on completing his internship with flying colours. During his official evaluation, he passed every criterion, and more, with brio. Tommaso is now officially an OhMyDog! Behaviour Coach, giving students expert advice and one-to-one attention during group classes.

Tommaso and Teddy, his rescue dog

Tommaso and Teddy, his rescue dog

A few months ago, Tommaso had contacted us from Italy, to just watch one of our lessons. He hit it off with the team, students and dogs like he’d known us all for years. We chatted and found out:

  1. He held a widely respected dog behaviour certification,
  2. Had run his own behaviour coaching business in Italy,
  3. Had collaborated with vet behaviourists on complex cases,
  4. Shared our vision of an evidence-based and ethical approach to dog education and…
  5. Was moving to The Netherlands!

After he came back the next week, we knew we had to ask: would he be interested in a behaviour coach internship? To our relief, he said yes and he has been our trusted colleague since.

A dog-man relationship only possible with a cognitive approach to dogs

Tommaso and Teddy enjoying the dog-man relationship that only a cognitive approach will allow

Throughout his internship, Tommaso has impressed us with his grasp of the theory and technique, with his keen eye for improvements, with his quick reactions to dog body language, and with his unfailing sense of initiative.

But what makes Tommaso Tommaso is his respectful-yet-cheeky approach to dogs and owners. He knows how to keep things light and fun, even when coaching on serious problems. And I always look forward to his official lesson segments, which he gives in his typical “I did my background research preparation perfectly, but nobody said it had to be boring” delivery.

We have offered Tommaso to use his theoretical, technical, practical and human skills to lead his own puppy classes, and are proud to announce that Tommaso will join the ranks of OhMyDog! Head Trainers as of September 2015.

Welcome to the team, Tommaso! And I am proud to count you as a colleague and a friend.

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I help with dog behaviour problems around The Hague (Canis bonus). I am also Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a certified dog trainer and applied animal behaviourist. If you live close to The Hague and are getting worried or annoyed about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem. I’ll get back to you within two business days. You can always read up a little on how it works first if you’re not sure.

Posted in Dog behaviour | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog book review: Animal rights

Dog book review announcement: David de Grazia’s “Animal rights”
By Laure-Anne Visele, June 2015

About the review’s author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I can help with your dog’s behaviour questions if you live in The Hague or region.

I am a dog behaviour therapist for Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! dog training school.

I graduated in Zoology and certified as a dog training instructor. I also have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

In short, I am The Hague’s dog nerd. If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, I am your girl.  If you live close to The Hague and have a question about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem here.

Animal rights

de Grazia - Animal rights

Animal Rights is a short review of the academic framework surrounding animal rights issues. It gives you a quick lay of the land on the hairy ethical issues around our use of animals, animal suffering, and other critical points. Warning: the focus is more ethical than cognitive/neuroscientific.

Check the full review here.

Posted in Dog writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dog trainers and plumbers: Is day training such a big no no?

A food-for-thought blog post questioning the implicit ban on day training by force-free trainers
By Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I help with dog behaviour problems around The Hague (Canis bonus). I am also Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a certified dog trainer and applied animal behaviourist. If you live close to The Hague and are getting worried or annoyed about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem. I’ll get back to you within two business days. You can always read up a little on how it works first if you’re not sure.

Are dog trainers plumbers?

Mario

Maybe we can take a lesson or two from Mario’s business model

I was at a Nando Brown seminar the other day and he said something that stuck with me: “If we were plumbers,” he said, “and a client called in a panic with water running down their wall, how crazy would it be if we told him it would take a few weeks, as we needed to first show him how to fix it himself?”

He went on to say this: “We want to make a mini-me out of each client, we try to make dog trainers out of them.”

Sure they should have called before water came running down their walls, but that’s the nature of our job. We are crisis workers. That’s the nature of our industry. Our clients tend to wait until a problem is deadly serious before they call. That’s just how it is. In these cases, a quick fix isn’t some dodgy marketing tool; it’s the only thing standing between the dog and the euthanasia needle. It’s ugly and it’s unfair, but it’s true.

Training transparency comes at a cost

Trainers who come from my cultural corner – force-free and evidence-based – go through great pains to be transparent about their work. Speaking for myself, I am obsessively worried that I could be suspected of using compulsion-based methods. So I feel obliged to invite my

Absolute transparency is laborious and doesn't always add value

Absolute transparency will bloat your project

clients to watch every moment of training.

But this is more of a PR gain than an efficiency one: ever tried to demonstrate something AND look at an animal’s micro responses at the same time? It’s hard, it’s slow, it’s inefficient.

I used to do it all the time because of this implicit ban we have on day-training (when the trainer, rather than the owner, conducts the majority of the training). Imagine teachers refusing to look after your kid alone in case they get accused of something untoward?

And how about this: have you ever put a serious behaviour case in the hands of an amateur? Because it used to be my modus operandi. I have since come to realise that laying down the foundations myself gives these cases a boost and improves the dog’s chances. So more and more often, I start by patching the major leaks myself before handing over the training reigns to the owners. Sure I give behavioural first aid advice on day 1 (to prevent things from getting even worse, and to manage welfare/safety concerns); and of course I’ll hand over the necessary knowledge to the owners once I’ve pre-trained the dog. But I am doing more and more of the technical training myself.

Big Brother

I would love to be nanny-cammed while I work.

To address the transparency thing, I am more than willing to be nanny-cammed while I work.

Mmmmh… Come to think of it, am not sure I can take the ridicule of people finding out how much I talk to their dog when I think no one is watching…

Illustration credits

No changes were made to any of the illustrations.

Posted in Dogs and society | Leave a comment

Dog behaviourist column: a day in the life

Fly-on-the-wall view of a dog behaviourist’s life
By Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

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Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I help with dog behaviour problems around The Hague (Canis bonus). I am also Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a certified dog trainer and applied animal behaviourist.

If you live close to The Hague and are getting worried or annoyed about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem. I’ll get back to you within two business days. You can always read up a little on how it works first if you’re not sure.

Dog training admin

In case you’re wondering what the day of a dog behaviourist is like, here’s what I did today:

Admin

A bloody mountain of paperwork

I wake up with a bad throat and a runny nose. Seriously? Again?! It’s the month of MAY for crying out loud. Note to self: get an allergy test.

My husband is doing over the school run today, and the dog walker is due any minute. Which means that I get to hit snooze a couple of times for once before the usual dash begins.

I start out by sorting out a mountain of paperwork for the dog training school (OhMyDog! in The Hague.) Sure enough, there is more than I thought and I get caught up.

So much for my hope that I could cycle to work. Ah well. I put the finishing touches to the admin and jump in the car. I make it for just a few minutes to spare for my briefing ahead of my Friday consults at the vet’s. Mmmh, no cycling means that I will need to find time to jog today if I want to get some exercise.

A Chihuahua liking the sound of his own voice

Chihuahua

“Seriously? You don’t just bark for the hell of it? You haven’t lived”

My patient at the vet’s is a beautiful chihuahua mix with a barking problem. A bunch of evaluations later, and we know that he’s not scared, angry, or over-excited. We go through the episodes, his history and his routine and all is revealed:…

… It is self-rewarding barking. In plain English, Mr. Chihuahua likes the sound of his own voice. And he is a tad under-stimulated in his daily routine. Once we have a good grasp of what is reinforcing the behaviour, designing the training plan is a breeze. We’ll teach an alternative response to whatever makes him bark, and amp up his mental stimulation.

We go out on the street looking for stimuli (i.e. people, dogs, bicycles) so I can demonstrate the technique. He seems to be catching on very quickly, a good sign.

I just need to write a “short” report for the vet’s, then it’s off to my next consult. That sounds right in theory, but short reports are not… my forte. So I have to skip lunch with the vet techs if I want to be on time for my next appointment. Man! I was really looking forward to it… Note to self: remind J. to give me back my watch. My time management is shot without it.

Charming an introverted dog

My next consult is for a shy rescue dog with a shady past. Her owner got my number when she told how desperate she was: the dog is so scent-driven that, whenever it’s offleash, it shoots off for hours.

The owner has tried quite a few things, and does not hide her doubts that I can help. I am a last resort, she says. I deal with skepticism often in this line of work. You’d think that it’s discouraging but on the contrary, it boosts my determination to get her results. Am stubborn like that.

First things first, let’s see how that dog’s ‘checking in’ ability is (i.e. making eye contact with the owner regularly). Mmmmmh, not great. She’s scared of looking people in the eyes, even her owner. “Challenge accepted,” I think to myself.

Shy

Shy dogs are extremely rewarding to work with

I start off by inviting the dog in play – one of my favorite moves to break the ice with the shy ones. The owner warns me that the dog doesn’t play but, miracle of miracles, I tap the floor (the universal doggie play invite) and she tentatively paws my hand. Yes! We have contact!

I make sure I move fluidly, leaving her lots of space and not making direct eye contact. You have to be VERY careful with the flighty ones or it’s quickly back to square one again.

A couple of minutes of paw-play later, and the dog is stuck to my side, asking “What’s next?” That’s where I wanted her.

Now I test out her reaction to the various goodies I have in my treasure chest. After a few samples, we narrow down the reward du jour to:

  • Stinky dried offal served tumbling down for a good chase, interspersed with
  • Normal kibble.

Now that I have a connection, and know the dog’s favorite thing on the menu, we start playing basic recall games using a brand new recall sound.

She does so great that I get to introduce distractions on the first session. She does brilliantly, ignoring my temptations to join her calling owner. And that’s when I I get greedy – my usual mistake. Sure enough, we soon hit ratio drain (when you ask too much of your students, they lose interest) and the dog start under-performing. I fix it quickly, leave some exercise to practice through the week, and then am off.

Looking for a dog training field

OhMyDog! wants to open a new training location in The Hague, and finding a suitable spot in Europe’s most densely populated city can prove challenging. We’ve been scouting the green areas for months and months, but it’s getting urgent.

And today, I think I’ve found it!!! I fall in love with the location instantly. It’s in beautiful dune territory, but very close to parking facilities. And Oh-So-Quiet! I start taking measurements, inspect the local park rules, talk to the locals, document it on my map.

I haven’t felt this excited about a location in a long time. Could this be it? Note to self to contact the municipality, other local businesses, and talk to my colleagues about this one. I am excited! But it’s time to go again.

Getting a high-on-life dog to take it down a notch

Uncharacteristically, I have three whole minutes to spare by the time I ring the doorbell for my next appointment. It’s a rescue dog from Spain – I get a lot of these. His biggest problems are exuberance, a little growling around food, and a bad recall.

Last week, I’d left instructions to practice the default sit – where the dog has to spontaneously sit in order to ask for stuff, kind of like a doggie please. It works great to keep excitable dogs out of trouble, as they switch from snatching things from you to asking for them politely. To test his progress, I pull all the stops. I act all excited and encourage him to jump. But no, he’s having none of it! He sits his excited butt down the whole time he wants to be greeted. Result! I LOVE it when my clients do their homework.

Because no, boxes are not just for cats

Because no, boxes are not just for cats

Last week, I had also started teaching him to be ‘free-shaped’, i.e. to guess what we want out of him, rather than wait to be guided. Dogs trained in this way learn in a fraction of the time, and, more importantly, become training addicts.

We had started with the ‘101 things to do with a box’ game, asking him to show any interest in an empty box. He didn’t get it at all last week, so I left instructions. This week, when we start again, he noses the box like it’s going out of fashion. Yes! Kudos again to his owners who clearly did their homework!

The next game mission will be: ‘find my keys’, so I show them how to teach him that one. I can’t wait to see next week’s results. I love to teach sniffing games to dogs as it burns tons of energy, and it mentally stimulates them. Just what the doctor ordered for a smart, energetic dog like this one.

As we get started on the next exercise, the recall, the dog gets scared of my usual “happy recall” sound. Mmmmh. A quick little brainstorm later and we settle for a soft “stinky, stinky, stinky” call. I had caught the owner calling him that as a joke, and my brains are fried. It’s as good a recall sound as any I guess.

A quick look at my phone’s clock dial and, man, I overran. Another fifteen minutes. So I leave some exercises for the week, and finally… Go home. I am exhausted, but I am determined I will jog today. It WILL happen.

Nine til five? Not so much

My to do list just has a couple of things left on it, among which clearing up my two mailboxes (behaviour practice + the training school). I start, but then I get interrupted for dinner because, according to  my husband, “People need to eat.” To be fair, I had to skip lunch so I was starting to feel peckish. So, a quick dinner, putting the kid to bed, and finally finishing my mails.

The marathon is nearly over. There is just that one teensy little thing to check off my list before I can start the week-end…

Relax

That’s all folks. Enjoy the week-end! Am off for a jog

… Write this blog post.

Done, and done. Happy week-end everybody.

Illustration credits

No changes were made to any of the illustrations.

Posted in Dog behaviour | Leave a comment

Dog behaviour problems: It’s always the owners’ fault, right?

Blog post busting the ‘blame the owners’ stereotype
By Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

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Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I help with dog behaviour problems around The Hague (Canis bonus). I am also Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a certified dog trainer and applied animal behaviourist.

If you live close to The Hague and are getting worried or annoyed about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem. I’ll get back to you within two business days. You can always read up a little on how it works first if you’re not sure.

From business consultant to dog behaviourist

It was a beautiful, crisp Dutch morning and I was psyched. I was catching up with an old friend. We hadn’t seen each other in years but it was like we’d shared our last beer yesterday. She was still chatty, smart, easy-going, and genuinely interested.

Helpdesk jerks used to be the most dangerous thing in  my job. Those were the days...

Helpdesk jerks used to be the most dangerous thing in my job. Those were the days…

Inevitably, we started playing career catch-up: last she’d seen me I was soaring up the corporate ladder, travelling all over the world with my fancy suits and priority/privilege/platinum/insert-self-indulgent-idiotic-word-here cards. I had frequent flyer miles coming out of my ears and spent more time in hotels than in my own bed.

Yet there I was, wearing manky jeans and a comfortable sweater, getting down and dirty with the local dogs. My work anecdotes had jumped from helpdesk jerks to neurotic poodles. Her own work stories had shifted from tourism to… psychiatry. Interesting catch-up ahead.

So she was asking pointed questions about my job to get a feel for my new life. That’s when it happened: “It’s always the owners’ fault though,” she said. “You have to rehabilitate the owners, right?”

Dog training stereotypes

Convenient as they are, stereotypes rarely match reality

Convenient as they are, stereotypes rarely match reality

My job is lousy with eye-rolling, toe-curling, teeth-grinding stereotypes like “They treat their dog like a kid” or indeed “It’s the owners’ fault.”

As she picked up on my facial expression (I am not exactly gifted in the poker face department), I explained. “Look”, I said, “That’s what many people think but I don’t necessarily agree.” Without the tact filter, that meant I disagreed with every fibre of my body.

Dog training rant

“Dogs are complex beings. They can suffer from mood and cognition disorders that are jack-all to do with their owners. Some of them are ticking time-bombs before they even set foot in their new owners’ door: under-socialized and pre-traumatized. And dogs come in a whole spectrum of temperaments, each with their predisposition to particular quirks and sensitivities. ”

Because some problems can't be solved by the charismatic TV 'experts'

Because some problems can’t be solved by the charismatic TV ‘experts’.

“By the time they come to me,” I continued, “the owners have exhausted every resource. I see dogs with complex and profound behaviour problems. Not obedience things that can be fixed with the latest clichés from Google university or the self-appointed TV expert du jour. This self-taught approach can do more harm than good.

Fair enough, some people some break every sound education principle. But these aren’t the people I see. People who contact me for help have tried all the commonsense measures, and then some. They have jumped through every hoop. They are exhausted and vulnerable from countless people putting them through the It’s the owner’s fault stereotype.”

Dog training and psychiatry

My friend had inadvertently hit a nerve, poor thing. She thought she was making small talk and she got the mother of rants instead. So I pushed myself off of my soapbox and tried for a soft(ish) landing: “It’s just that this kind of assumption is unkind to the owner, and doesn’t reflect what I see. I see them stand by their dog through thick and thin. I would sooner erect a statue to their competence and dedication than lay blame on them.” So much for bringing it down a notch… Note to self: work on the intensity thing.

A cloud of uncomfortable silence hung above our heads, so I tried to move to safer conversational waters. “So,” I light-heartedly asked: “what have you been up to the last few years?”

And guess what she replied…

Let's move on to a breezy topic: psychiatry

… “Psychiatry”

Okaaaaaay then, so much for safer conversational waters.

Illustration credits

No changes were made to any of the illustrations.

Posted in Dogs and society | Leave a comment

Guest post by Amber Kingsley: Dog training Infographic

Guest post by Amber Kingsley, pet writer, to accompany her great infographic on modern dog training
By Amber Kingsley, pet writer. Hosted by Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

Amber’s dog training infographic caught my attention, so I asked if she would share it with my readers, and write a little article to go with it. Enjoy!

About Canis bonus: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I can help with your dog’s behaviour questions if you live in The Hague or region.

I am a dog behaviour therapist for Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! dog training school.

I graduated in Zoology and certified as a dog training instructor. I also have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

In short, I am The Hague’s dog nerd. If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, I am your girl.  If you live close to The Hague and have a question about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem here.

About the author: pet writer Amber Kingsley

Amber has donated countless hours to supporting her local shelter Karma Rescue within operations and outreach. She attends regular seminars, including Dr. Ian Dunbar, and 50 Shades of Bark in Burbank. She has spent most of her animal research in food-related subjects of health and training, and has tried numerous methods of training with local Southern California trainers.

Amber is a BFA graduate of a liberal arts university. She majored in art history and is now traveling as much as possible, working as a freelance writer. She has a Yorkie puppy named Charles (“Charlie”) Xavier.

Amber2

Amber introduces her dog training infographic

With the advent of the internet, social media and YouTube, we’ve all seen our fair share of cats playing the piano and dogs riding skateboards, but even those viral videos didn’t propel those animals to the status of being a household name. Dogs like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin had a notoriety matched by few other canines throughout history.

Other dogs gained national and even worldwide recognition for living in the White House, think of Bo Obama for example. There was also Rex Reagan, Millie Bush and Buddy Clinton, who ironically didn’t get along with Bill and Hillary’s cat Socks, and they were kept in separate quarters. As presidential pets go, none received the same fame as Fala Roosevelt.

Campaigning for presidency in 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his famous “Fala Speech,” responding to critics claiming his dog was costing taxpayers money. FDR stated, “I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself, but I think I have the right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog!” FDR had the last laugh since they are both immortalized in a statue in Washington D.C., Fala, a cute little Scottish Terrier, is the only presidential dog to be given this honor.

LAIKA THE SPACEDOG

Many have heard of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik, but few remember Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Russia, who was trained to be the first animal to orbit the earth in 1957. No provisions were made for the safe return of this heroic astronaut, and the Soviets reported the dog was euthanized painlessly a week after take-off. The truth didn’t surface until 2002, when it was revealed that Laika had actually died just a few short hours after launch from being overheated.

SINBAD THE SAILOR

Sinbad, a mixed breed puppy, was meant to be a gift for the Chief Boatswain’s girlfriend, but her apartment didn’t allow pets, so the dog enlisted into the Coast Guard instead. Putting his pawprint on the appropriate enlistment paperwork, Sinbad was given his service identification number and even his own uniform. He joined the crew of the Campbell cutter in 1938 and faithfully served for eleven years, most notably during WWII, where he was a battle veteran and received the following commendations:

  • American Defense Service Medal
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Navy Occupation Service Medal

THE SAR DOGS OF 9/11

Within minutes of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders and over 350 SAR (Search and Rescue) dogs were on scene. These highly trained dogs worked grueling sixteen-hour days with their handlers in a relentless search for survivors.

In a moving tribute on the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, Animal Planet honored these heros by stating, “It became evident that the dogs were nearly as distraught as the human rescuers when there were so few survivors to be found. For the human rescue workers, the lack of survivors made the attacks feel ever more horrific and tragic. For the dogs trained to find survivors, though, it felt like a personal failure.”

These brave canine warriors have shown us that successfully trained dogs can hold down a number of different careers, service animals, sheep herders, security and police dogs are all good examples. Even playful, family pets need discipline in order to be happy and healthy. The following infographic points out the best training tips for using positive reinforcement through rewards and praise.

The dog training infographic
PositiveTraining

Posted in Dog training, Dog writing | Leave a comment

Latest dog book review: The bark stops here

Dog book review announcement: Terry Ryan’s “The Barks Stops Here”
By Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

About the review’s author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I can help with your dog’s behaviour questions if you live in The Hague or region.

I am a dog behaviour therapist for Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! dog training school.

I graduated in Zoology and certified as a dog training instructor. I also have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

In short, I am The Hague’s dog nerd. If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, I am your girl.  If you live close to The Hague and have a question about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem here.

The bark stops here

Ryan - The bark stops here

The bark stops here is a brilliantly condensed little manual on how to resolve nuisance barking.

For such a tiny book, it is extraordinarily rich in useful tips. Nicely illustrated, written by a star trainer, and well-structured.

I totally recommend it.

Check the full review here.

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Latest dog book review: Pit bull placebo

Dog book review announcement: Karen Delise’s “Pit bull placebo”
By Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

About the review’s author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I can help with your dog’s behaviour questions if you live in The Hague or region.

I am a dog behaviour therapist for Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! dog training school.

I graduated in Zoology and certified as a dog training instructor. I also have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

In short, I am The Hague’s dog nerd. If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, I am your girl.  If you live close to The Hague and have a question about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem here.

Pit bull placebo: the media myths and politics of canine aggression

Delise - Pit Bull

Pit Bull placebo is another brilliantly scathing book about the mass hysteria surrounding dog bites. The book systematically analyses the circumstances behind severe dog attacks reported in the press, in chronological order. It gives you a sense of the change in journalistic focus from the 1800’s: from looking at the reasons behind the attack to blaming the latest scapegoat breed.

Check the full review here.

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Silence is gold, dog. Teaching a dog to be quiet on request

Blog post about how to teach a dog to be quiet on command
By Laure-Anne Visele, April 2015. Full illustration credits at the end of the post.
Method inspired by Karen Pryor’s Reaching the Animal Mind. Review out soon on Canis bonus 

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I am a behaviour therapist for dogs. I help dog owners in The Hague (and Delft, Westland, Wassenaar, Rijswijk, etc.) fix their dog’s behaviour problems.

Be it obedience issues or dysfunctional behaviour, I give you modern tips on how to fix it. My methods are affordable, evidence-based and dog-friendly.

I am a dog behaviourist for Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! dog training school. I graduated in Zoology and certified as a dog training instructor. I have a Postgraduate in Applied Animal Behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

I am The Hague’s dog nerd. If you want help or tips with your dog’s behaviour, and live close to The Hague, tell me about the problem here.

Quiet boy

Here comes my dirty dog trainer’s secret. I HATE the sound of a dog barking. Luckily, my own dog hardly ever makes a peep. Friends have even asked if he was mute or something. He only barks in two avoidable situations, so I don’t mind so much. I figure if I want a completely quiet dog, I should get a statue.

If you want a quiet dog, get a statue

If you want a completely quiet dog, get a statue

Situation 1: Nightmare at the dog training school

One of my intern at OhMyDog! asked if she could bring my dog to her practical dog training exam. She called me halfway through to say she’d been asked to leave early because of the dog’s incessant barking!

So I attended dog training classes with him, to see it with my own eyes. I surveyed the local schools and picked DogLogix – if you’re not going for our school (OhMyDog!), definitely give theirs a go. Sure enough, he started barking the second he wasn’t working. It was frustration/demand/over-arousal barking.

We got tons of improvement by experimenting with (sorry, it gets technical) capturing quiet, opening/closing training sessions, and, I have to admit it, a couple of extinction bursts.

Situation 2: Party pooping dog

He also barks when I try to relax and have a chat with other dog guardians at the dog beach. He stands at the water’s edge and protests at the dive-bombing Labradors for daring to have a good time. Rodge doesn’t like the water, you see, so Dog forbid anyone else should have fun.

Swimming dog

Other dogs frolicking in the water drive my dog insane. Once a party pooper…

A mild barking problem

So my barking issues were definitely not top of my list of priorities, but hey. He has been showing signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (the doggie equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease) so any new trick is therapeutic. As long as I keep him learning, we’re slowing down the decline.

I started last week and, to my surprise, a couple of two-minute sessions later, and Mr. Oldiepants could bark on request! I am verrrry proud of my old guy. Here’s how I taught him.

Puppy steps

Imagine you are teaching your dog to sit, but he doesn’t yet sit reliably when you try to help him into that position. If you said ‘sit’ before every fumbled attempt, he would take ages to learn what the word meant. He’ll be thinking that it means sitting then bouncing back up; or not-quite-sitting; or lying down; or whatever mistakes he/you made on your way to the perfect sit. It’s always best to wait until you can reliably put the dog into position before you introduce a word for it.

All this to say: please do not say the word ‘bark’ quite yet. Let’s get him to do it reliably for a couple of sessions, and then add the request. Now that I’ve rained on your parade, let’s get started.

  • Put your dog in a situation where you are 150% certain he is going to bark. Please do not make him upset or aggressive in the process (tell me about these problems if you live close to The Hague.) You could have someone ring your doorbell, for example.
  • As soon as he barks, say ‘yes!’ in a jovial voice (or click if you are a clicker trainer) then give him a treat.
  • He has to be quiet to chomp on the treat, so you can click again for him being quiet (and give him a treat again).
  • Keep alternating between clicking for quiet and clicking for barking, to make the dog more conscious of both types of behaviours.

Keep this up for a couple of minutes. Stop way before the dog gets bored or frustrated. We want him to be dying for his next training session, not dragging himself through it.

Give the dog a cue

  • When you can confidently predict he is about to bark, say ‘bark’ in a jovial way just before he does it. It goes something like this: the doorbell goes, you say ‘Bark’, he barks.
  • Click/say ‘yes!’ and give him a treat.
  • He is now quiet, so say ‘shush’ in a whisper. Put your finger in front of your lips (i.e. the universal shush gesture) after the shush for extra effect.
  • Immediately click/treat for his quiet.
  • Repeat the ‘shush -> reward’ thing a few times. You’ll have to be quick on the reward once you’ve said ‘shush’, so he doesn’t have time to start barking.
  • When you feel he’s about to bark again, give the ‘bark’ request. And reward when he barks, then immediately go back to asking for a shush. If your dog barks before you had time to ask for it, take a step to the side and start again. Just try to capture whatever comes next (say ‘bark’ before he barks, say ‘shush’ before he shushes).
His Masters Voice

Learning when to listen, and when to speak.

This is my guy at that stage. That was after two or three tiny little sessions. And this is an old dog with learning issues. So if my dog can learn it so quickly, so can yours.

Husky marathon, not greyhound sprint

To build up duration – no point in a dog who stays quiet for only a split second – start delaying your click after you said ‘shush’. Bring about the increase gradually. The sweet spot, the right duration, is somewhere between demotivatingly easy and frustratingly impossible. It is challenging but not impossible.

Greyhounds

Teaching duration: These guys are short-burst sprinters. We want our dogs to be marathon athletes.

Alternate between the short and gradually longer durations so he doesn’t guess a pattern. You could reward for:

  • 2 (easy) seconds of quiet
  • then 10 (challenging) seconds
  • then 2 (easy) seconds
  • then 3 (easy) seconds
  • then 9 (challenging) seconds
  • then 10 (challenging) seconds
  • then 2 (easy) seconds
  • then 10 (challenging) seconds
  • then 11 (challenging) seconds
  • then 3 (easy) seconds
  • then 15 (challenging) seconds
  • then 2 (easy) seconds
  • then 2 (easy) seconds
  • then 11 (challenging) seconds
  • then 14 (challenging) seconds

You don’t have to be that precise, just play it by ear. But do switch between short and challenging in an unpredictable way, and don’t go up in large increments.

Cosmopolitan dog

Practice in different places so he can generalize what he’s learnt, and learn that it applies everywhere.

Don’t be the dog training fool I was when, after he did it well just one time, I took him home to show it off. I had really oversold the surprise trick and my friends were half-expecting him to start flying a jet engine. So I said ‘Bark’ and he… looked at me quizzically. Total silence – aside from my friend clearing her throat and eventually saying “Aherm. Nice?”.

Traveling dog

Take this show on the road: practice in lots of different places to get the behaviour solid

Oooops. I had broken one of the sacred oaths dog training oaths: thou shall not expect your dog to perform a new skill in a new location if you have never practiced there. So don’t be the moron I was, and practice in a ton of places before take it in front of an audience.

Veteran dog

Lassie doesn’t exist, my good people, and solid dog training is a question of practice, practice, practice. Carnegie Hall and all that. Once you feel you’ve practiced enough, you can try to use it in real life, to really ask him to be quiet at times when he finds that hard. So please take these on the road:

  • The “shush”: Catch him in the act of being quiet in his daily routine. Say ‘shush’, make your gesture, and clicking/treat.
  • The “bark”: Transform moments of excitement from feeling shame at your dog’s embarrassing behaviour to feeling lucky about the training moment.

Fancy dog

And voila! Your dog goes quiet when you ask him, and you didn’t need to get angry or intimidate him to get there – which, by the way, is shoddy dog training and only serves to make the dog more wound up.

You also didn’t need to train for weeks on end. But the most beautiful thing of all is that, whatever used to drive him bonkers no longer does. He is too busy playing bark/shush for treats to bother about the dive-bombing Labradors. In the lingo, we call that a dog who ‘has gone operant’. I told you it would get fancy. I love big words, me.

Cool dog

Get fancy: teach him to do it everywhere, for a long time, and to stay cool throughout

Want to get even fancier? Say ‘talk’ instead of ‘bark’. It’s sure to get a few laughs at the park, and maybe your fellow dog owners at the dog beach can forgive his previous barking antics.

Illustration credits

No changes were made to any of the illustrations.

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