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.

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Laure-Anne Viselé

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Latest dog book review: Dogs bite but balloons and slippers are more dangerous

Dog book review announcement: Dogs bite: but balloons and slippers are more dangerous
By Laure-Anne Visele, February 2015

 

Bradley - Dogs biteAbout the review’s author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I run Canis bonus, a behaviour therapy  practice for dogs with behaviour problems. I am also the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a licensed dog trainer and certified applied animal behaviourist. After my day job, I review dog books and write about behaviour for my blog and other specialist websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, drop me a line to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. You can find out more on my training page.

Dogs bite: but balloons and slippers are more dangerous

Janis Bradley has achieved the holy grail of non-fiction writing: she wrote an entire book about statistics, and manages to keep the readers compelled. Don’t be fooled by the punchy style, Janis Bradley has mastered a gargantuan body of research before dipping her pen in ink and sharing her disturbing findings with us.

The book is as unsettling as it is reassuring.  On the one hand, it points a Goldacre-like finger at an abyss of misinformation; on the other hand, it allows us to relax about dog bites.

A great read that I would advise every dog professional to tuck in.

For the full review, click here.

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Gasp! They treat their dog like a child

Blog post on intelligent anthropomorphism
By Laure-Anne Viselé, February 2015
Full illustration credits at the end of the post

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Viselé

I run Canis bonus, a behaviour therapy  practice for dogs with behaviour problems. I am also the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a licensed dog trainer and certified applied animal behaviourist. After my day job, I review dog books and write about behaviour for my blog and other specialist websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, drop me a line to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. You can find out more on my training page.

Dog training clichés: How I resource-guarded my Doritos

I feel a tinge of resource guarding but decide to forgive the finger food faux-pas…

 I was at this party. I’d found THE best spot between the Doritos and the olives. Then this guy pushes me over to get to the prized spot himself. I feel a tinge of resource guarding but decide to forgive the finger food faux-pas so we get chatting – as I sneakily inch myself closer to the Doritos again you understand.

The conversation turns to work and I brace myself for the painful moment. That moment someone asks what I do for a living. It can open a floodgate of misguided clichés, cringe-worthy anecdotes and hasty opinions.

Oh, you’re like that Dog Whisperer right? Oscar or Cesar something’.

I take another sip of my beer before I go for my trusty formula. The formula that keeps people from thinking all I do is teach rich old ladies how to keep their spoilt Yorkies from biting the mailman: “I am a behaviourist. I studied zoology then specialized in dog behaviour. I consult on cases of dogs with disturbed behaviour. I am also a dog trainer and help with straight manners cases.”

Cliche

Dog trainers, when they say what they do for a living, expect a litany of clichés back

My interlocutor, the dog, sneaks a handful of Doritos into his mouth then shares his insights.

  1. “Oh, you’re like that Dog Whisperer right? Oscar or Cesar something’.” (sigh)
  2. “My mother’s dog is so dominant. He jumps up, steals food and barks all the time.” (sigh)
  3. (in a conspiratory tone) “She treats that dog like a child, you know. No wonder.” (another couple of Doritos and a gulp of beer to keep my mouth shut)
  4. “By the way, my neighbour’s dog barks all day. Can I make him stop?” (sigh, and heartbreak)

Raising dogs: Beyond being a ‘benevolent leader’

I see nothing inherently wrong with treating a dog like a child. On the contrary, I encourage it. It beats treating the dog like a prisoner of war

Faced with such a deluge, I decided to pick my battles and go for point three – and another Dorito. I took a deep breath and explained: “I see nothing inherently wrong with treating a dog like a child. On the contrary, I encourage it. It beats treating the dog like a prisoner of war” (thanks to a colleague from the Human Side of Dog Training for coming up with that).

He looked confused, then raised the usual objection: “But you have to be your dog’s leader right?” So I asked him: “Do you see yourself as your kids’ leader?”

Kim Jong Il

‘Be a leader’ they said

You can call that being a leader. I call it being a parent.

The role of dog guardian is similar to that of a parent. You:

  • Keep them warm, fed, healthy, happy and safe.
  • (Try to) keep them from causing trouble, teaching them the manners and boundaries they need to be well-adjusted members of society.
  • Teach them your rules, even the arbitrary ones. You are entitled to read your newspaper in peace and sometimes, just sometimes, you just don’t want to play and yes that means they have to quit it and settle down just because. As long as they live under your roof, they need to follow your rules.

You can call that being a leader. I call it being a parent.

Raising dogs: Be a parent, not a sergeant

“But if you don’t come down on dogs hard they’ll walk all over you,” he says.

You raise dogs and kids, you don’t subjugate them.

Compare this to some fundamentalist religious communities. Communities that value obedience more than compassion and individualism. Communities that expect cookie-cutter kids no matter what. Without a hair out of place these kids seem well-behaved, sure, but are they well-balanced? Are they thriving? What is their quality of life? And how rich is their relationship with their parents?

Toy soldier

If all you want is blind obedience, the authoritarian approach might be for you

I am not suggesting we let our kids and dogs walk all over us, but I am saying that rules and boundaries need to be taught patiently, compassionately and intelligently.

You raise dogs and kids, you don’t subjugate them.

Treating your dog like a SPOILT child

What people mean with ‘treating a dog like a child’ is ‘treating a dog like a spoilt child’. Treating your dog like a child in itself is not the root of all evils. And treating them like soldiers won’t cure all their behaviour problems. To be effective, you need to look at the dog’s history, temperament and psychological/emotional issues. As Monique Bladder, a fellow behaviourist, puts it: if diagnosing and prescribing was as simple as that, we’d be out of a job.

Beer

Raising dogs: don’t worry so much and grab another beer

So the world is not going to end because you treat your dog with a modicum of compassion and respect. Just give them the boundaries to go with it. Do me a favour and stop worrying about treating dogs like kids. And whilst you’re at it, can you please grab me another beer?

Comments

What do you reckon? Are you still worried? Do you think we need to beware of seeing dogs like kids? Or do you often come across this type of blanket anti-anthropomorphism reaction? Don’t be shy and leave a comment.

Illustration credits

No changes were made to any of the illustrations.

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Latest dog book review: Animal madness

Dog book review announcement: Animal madness
By Laure-Anne Visele, February 2015

Braitman Laurel - Animal madness

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

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I run Canis bonus, a behaviour therapy  practice for dogs with behaviour problems. I am also the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a licensed dog trainer and certified applied animal behaviourist. After my day job, I review dog books and write about behaviour for my blog and other specialist websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, drop me a line to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. You can find out more on my training page.

Animal Madness

Another fabulous comparative psychiatry book written for the layman. Written by science historian Laurel Braitman, the book follows the journey of Laurel’s dog: Oliver. Oliver is a Bernese Mountain Dog suffering from such profound separation panic that he plunged several storeys out of Braitman’s apartment window rather than staying home alone. Dr. Braitman shares the turmoil and helplessness of living with a mentally disturbed dog.

Upon Oliver’s passing, Laurel Braitman researched the literature and talked to leading figures in animal cognition and behavioural disorders. She came back with a fact-packed but oh-so-human book that you’ll find impossible to put down.

For the full review, click here.

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Dogs and dominance: the fine prints

Counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-apologetics about the dogs and dominance debate
By Laure-Anne Visele, Feb 2015
Full illustration credits at the end of the post.

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I am a behaviour therapist for dogs (Canis bonus, The Hague, Westland, Delft and region) and the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague).

I studied Zoology (University of Newcastle), got a postgrad specialization in applied animal behaviour (dip) and am a licensed/certified dog trainer (O&O).

After mocking around with dogs all day, I spend my nights and week-ends reviewing dog books and writing about dog behaviour for my blog and other websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, get in touch to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. Want to find out more about the behaviour therapy practice? Check my training page.

Dogs and dominance: It’s a bit more complicated than that

“If every dog problem was due to dominance, my job as a behaviour therapist would be so easy. He’s dominant, that’ll be … euros”

I am fresh out of a seminar on dogs and dominance by Monique Bladder, a gifted science communicator on dog behaviour. She was introducing dominance skepticism to an audience of Dutch dog trainers.

She took them through the usual questions:

  • Do wolves form competitive hierarchies or cooperative family groups?
  • Do dogs form packs and collaborate in the hunt? Or are they semi-solitary scavengers?
  • Can we really assume our dogs see us as fellow canines? Really? Isn’t it all a little silly?
  • Can we pin down what we mean when we say ‘dominance’? Can a dog be ‘dominant’? What does it even mean?
  • What in the freaking world do pulling on the leash, jumping up, crossing a threshold ahead of us or resting on a higher spot have to do with dominance?

I liked how she boiled it down: “If every dog problem was due to dominance, my job as a behaviour therapist would be a breeze. The problem is… He’s dominant. You can pay by bank transfer”

I am also a dominance-skeptic, but I’d like to play devil’s advocate on some finer points. Word of warning: this is about to get real technical, real fast. If you’d like a nice easy read check one of my less heady posts for now.

I am about to confuse you within an inch of your life. Are you ready?

I am about to confuse you within an inch of your life. Are you ready?

Right, you motivated person you. Are you still there? Go get a glass of wine, sit back, relax, and dive into the sweet, confusing world of dominance.

Dominance and dogs: but this study said something else

It’s fine to be a skeptic about a widely-believed concept, but you can’t expect people will believe you just like that. One of them is bound to say: “You say that, but these gazillion guys says this. Who died and made you the queen of being right? How do I know who’s telling the truth?”

That’s a fair point. We can’t assume they’ll take our word for it. But not everyone is trained in the fine art of critical thinking, in comparing the reliability of different pieces of information. Best-of-breed critical thinking needs quite a bit of knowledge on research methods and formal logic, and a lot of practice. Can we really expect the man on the street to know how to spot red flags and reliability threats (e.g. spot bias, flawed logic, weak research methodology, etc.)?

skeptic

Digging through the relative merits of a claim is a messy, murky, gruelling job. You need to climb mountains of systematic reviews, read your way through a maze of (invariably misquoted) original references, get a sense of the researchers’ possible conflicts of interest and other sources of bias, evaluate the flaws in the research, etc. etc. etc.

Science communicators do that job for you. Your side of the deal is to have a little bit of faith in what they’re saying unless you’re ready to roll up your sleeve and get down and dirty with the science bit. Which brings us back to square one: “How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Here’s a shortcut to evaluating your science communicator’s reliability:

  • Is the person animated by a passion for truth or do they clearly have another agenda?
  • Do they demand blind allegiance or do they encourage questions and criticism?
  • Do they engage in personal attacks or do they stick to criticizing methods and ideas?

I am not bashing people across the head and asking them to ‘believe me or else’. I invite them to reach their own conclusion with a little bit of help. Monique Bladder did just that, if you’re wondering: she encouraged questions and criticism and didn’t try to brainwash the audience into blindly believing her claims.

I shall stay skeptical of claims of dominant dogs until such a time that the evidence justifies changing my mind. But I am not anti-dominance for the hell of it.

As objective as I try to be, I find it hard not to be blind-sided by loyalty to dominance skepticism and its ramifications in dog welfare. The best I can do is try to keep myself in check and stay critical of my own biases.

My stance? I shall stay skeptical of claims of dominant dogs until such a time that the evidence justifies changing my mind. I try not to be anti-dominance for the hell of it. And it’s a tough job.

Dominance and dogs: what is the academic consensus anyway?

Bear with me if you chuckled at the ‘academic consensus’ oxymoron. Science is the annoying doubting Thomas of our society. It doubts, it prods, it questions, it tests, it says ‘Prove it!’, and then ‘Prove it better!’ and then ‘Prove it some more!’. I defy you to name one idea in science that enjoys complete academic consensus

Bear with me if you chuckled at the ‘academic consensus’ oxymoron

Even gravity has its academic enemies. And don’t get me started on evolution. We’re not just talking local fundamentalists here. A handful of card-carrying evolutionary biologists claim to reject Darwinian evolution. So expecting complete academic consensus before getting behind a claim is setting the bar impossibly high. I settle for rejecting ideas that have failed to meet reasonable standards of evidence, and ignore the loud cries of disenfranchised fringe groups that cling to it.

If you want people to walk in line, don't pick scientists

If you want people to walk in line, pick the Navy, not Academy

Some academics support the idea of dominance playing a role in interpreting dog behaviour, some even claim it plays a role in the dog eating before you do, etc. I have checked these claims in the research literature and am unimpressed by the evidence, but these objections are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the question is settled.

The pro-dominance research if you’ll excuse the simplistic generalization tend to put forward these lines of argument:

  1. Many fall into pre-suppositional circular reasoning: Dog A withdrew from Dog B out of submission. Therefore Dominance exists. That’s like saying “X is like this because God, therefore God exists”. Right, but you still haven’t demonstrated the existence of God, nor have you defined the concept in a way that it can be tested.
  2. So then they come up with weird proxies to measure dominance, but all require the presupposition that dominance exists, and require an ever-shifting definition of the concept.
  3. That’s like saying “X is like this because God, therefore God exists”

    They prop up the idea of dominance by pointing out methodological flaws in anti-dominance papers. The thing is, as Goldacre would say: “Flaws in aircraft design do not prove the existence of magic carpets” (from his scathing book Bad pharma), aka the burden of proof is on you. Betrand Russell had a nice analogy along the lines of ‘You wouldn’t believe me if I said there was a teapot orbitting the moon would you? Yet you can’t prove it’s not true”

To wrap this section up: things are a mess and there is no clean consensus but pro-dominance research is wobbly as it gets and can be rejected until they come up with something that holds water.

Dominance and dogs: What is the position in clinical practice?

…many modern veterinary behavioural medicine textbooks are lousy with references to ‘rank reduction’, ‘dominance aggression’ and their various euphemisms.

Veterinary behaviourists enjoy the top position of authority on dog behaviour. They studied veterinary medicine, then specialized in clinically relevant behaviourism and ethology. I refer my clients to these guys if we start stagnating. Think of vet behaviourists as the shrinks of the canine world, the big cheeses.

Here comes the twist: for some dark and unknown reason many veterinary behavioural medicine textbooks are lousy with references to ‘rank reduction’, ‘dominance aggression’ and their various euphemisms.

Clinical veterinary behavioural medicine books: one giant exercise in pinch-of-salt'ing

Clinical veterinary behavioural medicine books: one giant exercise in pinch-of-salt’ing

No self-respecting vet behaviourist would push for confrontational methods but some treatment protocols are direct throw-backs to the Alpha-super-wolf-labrador idea. 

No self-respecting vet behaviourist would push for confrontational methods but some treatment protocols are direct throw-backs to the romantic idea of the Alpha-super-wolf-labrador.

Don’t dig into behavioural medicine textbooks if you’re hoping to find a uniformly anti-dominance stance or you’re in for a few disappointing mega-reads (these heavy lifters average five hundred pages… Am still recovering from the last one I read).

I would love to say that the research-savvy vanguard of our profession take a uniform position on the concept but that would be wishful thinking. The concept is divisive even in the highest rungs of  the professional ladder.

As an aside, if comparative psychology and cognitive ethology played a larger role in veterinary behavioural medicine we wouldn’t be where we are right now. Let’s look at underlying emotional states and not double-guess profound ethological origins. As Tinbergen would have said, “Keep it proximate dudes”.

Dominance and dogs: But Mech says it, right?

I reject the layman’s idea of dominance and dogs for many reasons, but not primarily because of ‘the Mech argument’

Mech is a behaviour biologist specializing in wolves. He wrote a seminal book about wolf behaviour in the seventies. The book looked at Second World War research by R. Schenkel on a group of previously unacquainted wolves who had been thrown together in captivity. The wolves formed a brittle power hierarchy primarily with tons of conflict. We later found out that any species would react in the same way given the circumstances, and that these guys were hardly representative of typical wolves in the wild.

The Alpha-poodle idea had opened a door of abuse in dog training that we are still trying to close today.

Subsequent studies on wild groups increasingly shed doubt on the Schenkel conclusions, but it was too late. The romantic concept of the Alpha wolf had been popularized by David Mech’s book and caught on like wild fire. Before you knew it, dog owners fancied Fido a wolf-in-pooch-clothing and trainers were telling you to ‘alpha-roll’ your pup into submission among other horrors. The Alpha-poodle idea had opened a door of abuse in dog training that we are still trying to close today. A nasty chapter in our history with dogs.

wolves

Good pro-sciencer that I fancied myself, I followed the bandwagon and shared the popular Mech’s video where he retracts the alpha concept and talks of wolves forming small nuclear families, not large hierarchical packs. 

Good pro-sciencer that I fancied myself, I followed the bandwagon and shared the popular Mech’s video.

Here comes my pinch of salt moment. David Mech doesn’t claim to represent all wolf biologists in the video, and his filmed remarks are often taken out of context. Some wolves do aggregate in large groups and do adopt social structures akin to a dominance hierarchy. Granted, these hierarchies are fluid, rely on affectionate bonds, and fluctuate with season, climate, food resources, etc.

The point is this: not all wolf groups are a nuclear family. Once again things turned out to be… a little bit more complicated than that.

Dominance and dogs: What about the dominant aggressive dog?

Many vet behaviourists still use the ‘dominantly aggressive’ diagnosis aka ‘status-related aggression’ (and countless euphemisms) to describe a pushy, controlling dog using offensive aggression to control their human family.

We are not talking of a dog who is defensively aggressive, here, or exuberrant. We are not talking of a dog who has some seizure-like neurological condition. We are talking of a ‘dominant’ dog. Gasp. I’ll go wash my mouth now. Let’s call them ‘temperamentally domineering’ or even ‘jerks’ if you prefer the technical term.

I haven’t seen many of them but they exist. Just like humans, dogs are distributed on the jerkiness spectrum and not every one of them is a conciliatory angel. I have had to perform intellectual tap dancing not to use the D-word on some of them, despite ‘temperamentally domineering’ being such a good fit for their personalities.

My diagnostic criteria for the jerk-dog are:

  • Think that life is a zero sum game and that if they don’t get to it first, someone else will; and
  • Fight off attempts at getting them to cooperate and just please do as they’re told; and
  • Protest by threatening and aggressing, rather than sighing or slowing down; and
  • Claim resources or space they don’t even want. Just like that, out of habit. Because they can.
grumpy

And then some dogs, like people, can just be jerks. But like people, in 99% of the cases there’s a reason behind it.

Before you burn my name in effigy, let me clarify a couple of things:

  • I am not implying their ‘jerkdom’ is driven by some status-related idea. But Freudian explanations about ‘Everything is ultimately driven by anxiety’ or ‘He is just asking information about his environment’ don’t do it for me. Not without more supporting evidence.
  • I am STILL not condoning confrontational methods. Nope, not even for Mr. Entitled Jerk. I treat these cases like you would the human equivalent. I use cognitive and behavioural methods to teach:
    • the dog refined social/emotional skills
    • the humans how to set clear boundaries.

In plain English, I teach the family to make it rewarding for the dog to be nice, and to remove any kicks for being a nasty piece of work.

My point? Trigger-happy entitled brats with big teeth occasionally pop up in the behaviourist’s case load. When they do, let’s not be blind-sided by our anti-dominance sentiments. Let’s not plug in fear in the diagnostic vaccuum we caused ourselves by rejecting the notion of ‘dominance aggression’ en bloc. Let’s not.. throw the baby out with the bath water, as Patricia McConnell puts it.

Dogs and dominance: confused yet?

That closes my ‘it’s a bit more complicated than that’ chapter on dominance. Thanks for sticking through the obscure bits. I tried not to get technical, but it’s tough when you’ve called your blog post the ‘fine prints’

So what do you reckon? Do you have some answers to these questions yourself? Do you think we should include even more ‘pack theory’ elements back into training? Why? If you disagree, don’t sulk and share your points, leave a comment so we can explore the issue together. If you agree, let me know. It’s always nice to hear I am not totally insane.

confusion

References

If you want to read a little more on this nastily complicated subject, check these out:

  1. Benal – 2011 – Dog trainer’s guide to a happy, well-behaved pet – Practical but pithy dog training manual with one of the most honest, transparent, well-written chapters on the topic of dominance.
  2. Bradshaw, Blackwell & Casey – 2009 – Dominance in dogs: useful construct or bad habit? – Journal article. A little bit partisan, but well written. Focus on a research project with criticized methodology, but a good place to survey the relevant literature.
  3. Eaton – 2010 – Dominance: fact or fiction? – Short book for the layman. Quite partisan but gives you a simple overview of the main dominance-skeptics points.
  4. O’Heare – 2008 – Dominance theory and dogs – Extremely technical book, but you will gain a very very very thorough understanding of the research landscape on dominance.
  5. Schilder, Vinke & van der Berg – 2014 – Dominance in domestic dogs revisited: useful habit and useful construct? – Journal article. Rather partisan, weakened by many logical flaws, but a great source of balanced references on the subject and food for thought on small pro-dominance points.

Photo credits

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Do as I do: introducing a revolutionary dog training technique

Shout out about latest dog training article on Art for Barks
By Laure-Anne Visele, Jan 2015

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I am a behaviour therapist for dogs (Canis bonus, The Hague, Westland, Delft and region) and the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague).

I studied Zoology (University of Newcastle), got a postgrad specialization in applied animal behaviour (dip) and am a licensed/certified dog trainer (O&O).

After mocking around with dogs all day, I spend my nights and week-ends reviewing dog books and writing about dog behaviour for my blog and other websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, get in touch to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. Want to find out more about the behaviour therapy practice? Check my training page.

Do as I do: a quick introduction

My article for Art for Barks is fresh off the press. In it, I give you a quick history of the concept, and the toolbox to try it at home. Go amaze your friends and family by teaching your dog thousands of tricks in one fell swoop.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Do As I Do.

 

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

Review of Monique Bladder seminar on dogs and dominance

Review of Monique Bladder’s 22 January seminar about dogs and dominance in Maasland, The Netherlands
By Laure-Anne Visele, Jan 2015
Full illustration credits at the end of the post.

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I am a behaviour therapist for dogs (Canis bonus, The Hague, Westland, Delft and region) and the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague).

I studied Zoology (University of Newcastle), got a postgrad specialization in applied animal behaviour (dip) and am a licensed/certified dog trainer (O&O).

After mocking around with dogs all day, I spend my nights and week-ends reviewing dog books and writing about dog behaviour for my blog and other websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, get in touch to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. Want to find out more about the behaviour therapy practice? Check my training page.

Introducing Monique bladder

Monique bladder photoMonique is a Dutch canine behaviour therapist. She has years of dog training experience, is certified in the most modern techniques, has a double behaviour therapy qualification AND haunts every science conference on dog behaviour. Her science communication blog about dog behaviour is widely followed in The Netherlands – and widely respected. She also co-runs Annolurna, a training institute for dog trainers, with the two other Dutch dog training giants: Jolein van Weperen and Erica Brokelman.

Our paths crossed when one of Monique’s articles caught my eye a few years back. It was, as  it happens, an early criticism of the pack theory. We were both ugly ducklings on the local dog training scene with our rejection of the pack theory, so we got chatting. We found we had a lot more in common: we both train force-free and are both passionate about keeping up with the latest technical and academic insights on dog behaviour. We have been in touch all that time and Monique has been a tremendous help and support when I was transitioning towards full-time training. In fact, she is the one who convinced me to get my Postgraduate in Applied Animal Behaviour

Not normally a fan of dog lectures

So I know of the quality of Monique’s work with dogs and writing about them, but I’d never been to her lectures. I am a little nervous of the seminar scene as it can be tough to sort personality cults from genuine information before you’ve bought the ticket. And if you’re not careful, you can spend your next mortgage on seminars that don’t really bring you anything.

I have to sit on my hand to stop myself constantly interrupting the lecturer about their inaccuracies/loose ends. Turns out I had to resort to the hand thing again, only to fight the urge to jump up and high-five her. 

But I knew of Monique’s serious credentials, so that wouldn’t be an issue. I did hesitate for another reason: I am an infamous idiot-savant/lecture-heckler. After years of offending lecturers with my facial expressions and constant questions, I taught myself to keep it to ‘maximum’ five (okay, or six-seven) interjections’ per lecture. I implement this by practically sitting on my hand between “turns”. But when I heard Monique was giving a lecture near The Hague, I figured I’d show my support and “pack up the girls” (our interns at OhMyDog!). At least they were going to hear modern dog behaviour ideas from someone other than their bosses.

So I got to the lecture dreading another night where I have to sit on my hand to stop myself constantly interrupting the lecturer about their inaccuracies/loose ends. Turns out I had to resort to the hand thing again, only to fight the urge to jump up and high-five her. Count this science pedant duly impressed with yesterday’s seminar. This is my review of the evening whilst it’s fresh!

Rookie dog: Introducing dominance

Monique opened the scene by laying solid foundations: the concept we were going to examine critically was ‘the layman’s dominance': the idea that every dog wants to climb to the alpha spot in your house.

When she asked the audience for examples of ‘dominant’ behaviour, we had to cringe through the usual litany: crossing a door threshold in front of me, resting on an elevated place, eating before I do, etc… My colleagues and I hear these ideas so often that we played along and added a fair few to the dreaded list ourselves.

Nerd dog: On wolves and dog ethology

Monique then took the audience through the classic Bradshaw-Mech-Miklosi arguments:

  • Wolves aren’t dogs: a nifty review of seminal research on the many impacts of domestication and the respective cognitive and communicative abilities of both species with regards to humans. 

    the ‘top spot’ is more pater familia than alpha male

  • Wolves do not necessarily form packs, but family units.
  • In many wolf packs, the ‘top spot’ is more pater familia than alpha male, and the cubs are no more likely to usurp him than your own kid is to take your spot as bread winner.
  • We have no valid reason to assume that dogs see humans as fellow dogs, and there are known differences between dog-dog versus dog-human relationships and communications.
Fighting wolves

Using only wolf behaviour to design dog training techniques is like observing chimps to learn about child pedagogy

If you weren’t familiar with our fantastic three, here’s a run down:

  • John Bradshaw is a huge name in anthrozoology – research into man-animal interactions.
  • David Mech is a leading wolf ethologist, and arguably the one who popularized the concept of alpha wolf in the first place.
  • Adam Miklosi runs one of the most influential research labs on dog cognition.

Not exactly blundering amateurs, thus.

Greedy dog: It’s all about resources

I still count my lucky stars that the first dog book that made it through my hands was The Culture Clash. I was thus primed to be critical of the concept of dominance from the word go. Monique, having a lot more experience than me, started in the dark old days of choke chains and leash jerks. The dominance panacea didn’t gel with her, and she found it inconsistent, but rejecting it left a massive vacuum. The only ‘treatment’ options were, at the time, rank reduction programs.

This very vacuum is what prompted Monique onto the journey of discovery that now places her among one of the best read professionals on the topic. She allows her audience to experience this ‘vacuum angst’ only for the briefest moment, until she reviews the list of ‘dominant’ behaviour from a new angle. For each of the behaviour that was labeled dominant by the audience at the start of the lecture, she offers a simpler, more elegant, less far-fetched answer. A lot of the simpler explanations revolved around Resource Holding Potentials.

The RHP is a well-established idea in ethology. Animals are constantly churning risk calculations to see whether something is worth fighting over or not. The background theory gets a bit complicated, but you can boil it down to two questions:

  1. Does my opponent care enough about this to fight me over it?
  2. Do I care enough about this resource to fight him over it?
being bad

Rex, trying to take over the world one couch at a time

So she could settle most people’s concerns about: “What if my dog crosses the door in front of me?” and “What if he growls at me from the couch” with either: 

It’s nothing to do with plotting to gain status over you in the long-term. It’s just about that comfortable couch right here, right now

  • It’s not a conflict: He’s just curious about what’s behind the door, he’s keen and it’s bugger all to do with domineering you.
  • It’s to do with RHP: It’s nothing to do with plotting to gain status over you in the long-term. It’s just about that comfortable couch right here, right now. It’s not healthy and it needs to be addressed, but it doesn’t need dominance to be explained and rank reduction program won’t help.

Honest dog: Approaching a controversy with honesty

I was particularly impressed with how much she encouraged critique. All she focused on was what people were making of these ideas, whether they could start to process them. It wasn’t about being right or showing off, it was about giving people the tools to think critically about dog behaviour. She didn’t turn the lecture into the so manieth intellectual dictatorship, she didn’t turn a single idea into a personal crusade. This rigorous intellectual honesty was music to my ears.

Monique also showed an honourable reluctance to get into diagnostics on specific cases. She wasn’t tempted to show off and just said, where warranted: “This is too complex to get into meaningfully right now. It depends on too many factors like x, y and z.” Daring to say “I don’t know” is one of the greatest virtues in my eyes. It’s a sign you are talking out of reason, not ego. 

Hard dog: Making complex stuff clear, tangible and entertaining

An experienced speaker, Monique seemed to have a compelling analogy up her sleeve for every possible question. I am going to unashamedly recycle some of them with my own clients, actually. She has this knack of bringing the point home with analogies that people can relate to. A great gift for a science communicator. Here are some examples:

  • Take food guarding: “If you hadn’t had your favorite meal in ages, and the waiter kept taking your plate away as you’ve about to eat, you wouldn’t be too happy to see him come near, right? And how about a waiter who keeps bringing you more and more succulent tidbits? You’d really be looking forward to seeing him each time, right?”
  • (about criticizing the study of wolves to inspire dog training techniques) “Imagine a bunch of aliens came down to earth to study our culture, and based all their conclusions on their observations of chimps. Sure some of it would be accurate, but how much would they be off the mark?”
Daisy

Dominance as one-size-fits-all explanation to dog conflicts? I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The quirky touches of humour that sprinkled the lecture really contributed to the open atmosphere. There was a lot of back and forth between Monique and the audience, and even the most hard core pack theorist couldn’t resist her conviviality.

And here’s another powerful thought she shared with us: If as many dog problems boiled down to dominance, my job would be so easy. No diagnosis, no choice of treatment. Just always the same: “He is being dominant so we need to put him back in his place”. These snippets will, hopefully, lodge themselves into people’s brains and will make them think critically next time a ‘trainer’ ‘diagnoses’ their dog with ‘being dominant’ (overusing quotation marks much, Laure-Anne?)

I was happily surprised that she didn’t pussy foot around the New Agey ‘energy’ and ‘natural’ concepts. As a skeptic, nothing makes my skin crawl more than hearing them branded about by pack theory proponents (some call themselves ‘naturalistic dog trainers’).

The words ‘energy’ and ‘natural’ get thrown around a lot. But they’re so vague they are as good as meaningless

Her no nonsense answer was spot on “The words ‘energy’ and ‘natural’ get thrown around a lot. But they’re so vague they are as good as meaningless. What does it mean the dog’s ‘energy’?” Well, she knocked that one on the head before it could lead to the usual rounds of unproductive rhetoric. In case you’re wondering, this was one of the toughest “resist the urge to high five” moments for me.

Dominance: Why it matters?

Lest the audience begins to suspect we are splitting hair, she laid down very elegantly why it mattered not be lured by the easy explanation:

  1. Quality of life: The dogs’ freedom is compromised severely when every initiative they take is considered a bid for power. This has an impact on the dog’s quality of life – which, I might add, is a great source of behaviour problems, perversely.
  2. Abuse: The pack theory philosophy can easily slip into physical punishment and confrontational methods.

Pulling ranks

You could hear the audience was still with her, but was anxious about “how do you get there,” how you get a dog who still listens to you reasonably well and doesn’t have tons of boundary issues and behaviour problems. Her answer is three-pronged:

  • Get the training side right, know your learning theory inside out.
  • Establish a bond and work on it: there is no goodwill in a relationship vacuum.
  • Think of how to use resources to avoid, rather than create, problems – that bit about RHP.

Perhaps the most important point she made in this segment is to urge people to  make a distinction between pure obedience, training problems, with underlying emotional problems. She explained a little that we, behaviour therapists, are mainly concerned with changing problematic emotional association and not so much with the obedience side.

The verdict

Tiny pedantic points aside, the lecture had it all: the contents were rigorous and clear, the delivery was entertaining and confident. Monique managed to bring academic points to life and make a difference in how dogs are treated every day.

My initial question was answered: turns out Monique Bladder is not only great at writing about science, she rocks at talking about it too.

Contacting Monique

Note all presentations and articles are in Dutch.

Photo credits

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Canine McCarthyism – Dog owners on an anti-vaccination witch hunt

Anti-antivax opinion piece about dog vaccinations in The Netherlands
By Laure-Anne Visele, Jan 2015
Full illustration credits at the end of the post.

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I am a behaviour therapist for dogs (Canis bonus, The Hague, Westland, Delft and region) and the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague).

I studied Zoology (University of Newcastle), got a postgrad specialization in applied animal behaviour (dip) and am a licensed/certified dog trainer (O&O).

After mocking around with dogs all day, I spend my nights and week-ends reviewing dog books and writing about dog behaviour for my blog and other websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, get in touch to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. Want to find out more about the behaviour therapy practice? Check my training page.

Dog training clients don’t want to vaccinate?

Two clients at OhMyDog! (our dog training school in The Hague) refused to show proof of their (adult) dogs’ vaccinations the other day. “Oh?” I thought. Canine anti-vaxxers?

We are funny about vaccinations at OhMyDog! because we also teach VERY young pups. So young they haven’t had their third vaccination round. We looked at epidemiology research – i.e. huuuuuge numbers of dogs – to compare behavioural and medical risks.

  1. Behavioural risks: How many dogs get put down due to behaviour issues, and how much of this can be traced back to delayed socialization?
  2. Medical risks: How many pups catch the diseases between rounds 2 and 3 of their vaccinations (see notes on puppy vaccination for details)?

The conclusion is: bring your pups to school early.

But here’s the rub: for that calculation to hold water, we need ALL our adult dogs FULLY vaccinated (and squeaky clean training grounds).

Because somehow people listen more when I show a pup picture

Because somehow people listen more when I show a pup picture

I was intrigued by my clients’ reservations so I asked them and other anti-vaxxers what worried them. It boiled down to three beliefs:

1. Vets push for unnecessary vaccinations for profit.

2. Dogs don’t need so many boosters. 

3. Vaccinations have dangerous side effects, sometimes giving the disease itself.

I wanted to dig into this before I dismissed the objections, so I read a couple of review papers and a few pop science articles. I then took it to our local veterinary clinic (Huisdierenziekenhuis in Honselersdijk – great staff, check them out if you’re in the Westland). Below is what I’ve found on my journey through the world of canine anti-vaxxers.

A big thank you to Dieneke Jongepier (my vet), who took time out of her gruelling schedule to help with the medical aspects. I have simplified the information Dieneke gave me, but I hope I respected the original message. I have marked Dieneke’s contributions with ~.

Human anti-vaxxer theories gone to the dogs

My clients’ worries reminded me of Jenny McCarthy’s campaign against human vaccines. McCarthy is a TV presenter trying to convince the world that childhood vaccines cause autism. She bases her claims on thoroughly discredited research about the MMR vaccine by Dr. Wakefield. Jenny McCarthy’s son being autistic, she followed sloppy ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc‘ reasoning. She blamed the vaccine because her kid first got the shot, then was diagnosed. By this logic, anything that had happened in her son’s life, no matter how unrelated, could be have been blamed.

Yet more irrefutable evidence that MMR vaccines cause autism

Yet more irrefutable evidence that MMR vaccines cause autism

Ms. McCarthy isn’t the only celebrity playing doctors. Charlie Sheen and countless other scandalously untrained A-listers see fit to spread disinformation about the dangers of vaccines. Results? More and more kids go to school unprotected, and measles is on the up in the US (and in religious fringes the world over, including the Netherlands).

Jenny McCarthy and her son: The immunology faculty of good looks and strong suspicions

Jenny McCarthy: Graduate from the Immunology Faculty of Good Looks and Hasty Conclusions

In case you can’t tell, I am a staunch anti-anti-vaxxer on the human scene. And I am not about to budge on the canine side without some evidence.

So let’s examine that evidence, shall we?

Dog vaccinations: All for profit?

Claim 1: Vets push for unnecessary vaccinations for profit

Your unvaccinated dog will only set foot in our school (or any reputable pet establishment) if you show an up-to-date antibody titer (‘titerbepaling’ in Dutch). ~The titer proves the dog took a blood test that confirms he has adequate levels of immune protection (i.e. antibody concentrations) against specific diseases.

Many see it as a get-out-of-vax-free card but, to use Ben Goldacre‘s words: “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”

  • The vet gets the blood by… taking a blood sample from the dog. I would argue that is at least as invasive as an injection, no? A needle is a needle is a needle.
  • Expired titer certificates are worthless. The point is to demonstrate your dog is CURRENTLY protected. That’s potentially MORE vet visits if you don’t coordinate your paperwork between your dog walker, training school and, say, dog pension.
  • ~The titers don’t test for every vaccinated-against disease. Kennel cough, for example, isn’t on the pannel. So you need to 1/ Do the blood test; 2/ Have the dog vaccinated against kennel cough. More cost, more discomfort.
  • ~Like for like, titers cost more than vaccinations. Three reasons: (1) They are more labour-intensive for the vet (drawing blood then interacting with a computer screen for thirty minutes); (2) Each kit costs the vet more (economies of scale: they get ordered in smaller bulks as they are less in demand); (3) Vets make a larger margin on titers.

But base cost considerations aside, I get VERY tetchy when people accuse vets of greed. They work grueling hours for peanuts (relative to equally educated professionals). In my own circle of worn out moneyless nerds, my vets friends come out the worst by a mile: always broke and never home.

Let’s say that being broke doesn’t make vets honest, that it could even make them keen to scam (for the sake of pushing the argument). If that were true, wouldn’t they push for titers over vaccinations?

If vets were in it for the money, they wouldn't be vets.

If vets were in it for the money, they wouldn’t be vets.

I would like to close this sorry vets-are-greedy-scrooges chapter by planting a seed in your mind. Isn’t it a downside more reasonable – and less twisted – to assume that vets maybe, just maybe, have our pet’s best interests at heart?

Dog vaccinations: Life-long?

Claim 2: Dogs don’t need so many boosters. 

This one gets a little trickier because – typical conspiracy theory – there’s an element of truth. The misconceptions stem partly from the erroneous ideas that 1/ human vaccinations are lifelong and 2/ therefore so should dogs’. Let’s shed some light on this.

Human vaccines can be lifelong. Aherm, nope. Not all of them are. Remember hauling your butt to the clinic every ten years for that mortifying tetanus shot? And the flu vaccine – which, by the way, is as humiliating as the tetanus one as they send me to the “fainters’ queue” every year…

Dieneke and her long-suffering colleagues will testify that I am as undignified when it comes to my dog getting his shots. Needles + me = baaaaad bed fellows. So believe me, if there was any reasonable way I could squirm out of vaccinations I’d be there in a shot – ‘scuse pun.

If long-acting vaccines work for humans, why not for dogs? Because… Dogs aren’t humans? The duration of immunity [DOI] depends on a lot of factors including the respective species of the host and of the pathogen. Expecting exact parallels between dogs’ and humans’ immunology is like measuring dogs in catnip.

But it IS possible to make long-lasting dog vaccines. ~Vet pharma makes a fraction of the profit its human counterpart does. So they run shorter trials on the vet side. Human pharma trials are the fat cats of the pharma industry. They can run ten years or more and cost millions, but there’s a fat return on investment. In constrast, the average vet trial takes roughly thirteen months. All  you can say about DOI one year in is how many dogs are still adequately covered after… one year. If the trial is one year long, you don’t have data going beyond that.

old dog

“What Old Yeller here? He’ll don’t need no booster. He got his puppy shots 12 years ago, he’s covered” – Please note the caption is dripping with sarcasm

But ‘they’ know ‘the’ vaccines are protective for six years on average: True. The average DOI distemper, parvovirus and rabies vaccines hovers around five-seven years (Vet. Am. An. Hosp. Ass., Veterinary Practice Guidelines, 2011) yet they are on a three-year schedule. What’s up with that?

~When you test a large population of vaccinated dogs, quite a few of the dogs are still protected even after a few years. But even if that number is, say, 50%, would you gamble that your dog falls in the right group? At what number would you gamble? 60%? 80%? Vets aren’t big risk takers when pets’ lives are in the balance either, so they set the bar at 95%. If 95% (or more) of the dogs are still protected after n years (and if the research was registered and run according to regulations), then you can say that n years is the DOI. You don’t determine the DOI on a measly (excuse the pun) average, but on the overwhelming majority.

They managed long protection for rabies, so why not for the others? ~The DOI from the rabies vaccine lasts three years, fair enough. It’s partly because rabies can be transmissible to humans so it got more research funding. Who says funding says longer trials. The rabies vaccine is also ‘modulated': immunologic adjuvants are added so antibodies circulate and are produced for longer.

The ‘cocktail’ vaccination (i.e. distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis) also benefited from longer trials, and boasts a three-year DOI.

But vets still vaccinate yearly: They do, but not against every disease. Like the human flu, some canine diseases are vaccinated against yearly (leptospirosis), whilst others are on a three-year cycle (rabies, cocktail). You are taking Rover to the vet’s every year for his shots, but they rotate the kind of vaccination he gets. ~A typical scheme in The Netherlands is:

  1. Cocktail (distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis)
  2. Leptospirosis
  3. Leptospirosis
  4. Cocktail,
  5. etc.

~If you want information about pet vaccination schedules in the Netherlands, check the Landelijk Informatie Centrum Gezelschapsdieren (in Dutch). They have a section for people who want to vaccinate less often too “als u toch minder vaak wilt inenten”.

This infographic gives you a visual idea of a typical vaccination. It is a US schedule so it differs slightly from the Dutch one, but you get the gist.

Print

Dog vaccinations: Dangerous?

Anti-vax claim 3: Vaccinations have dangerous side effects, sometimes give the disease itself.

Let’s open up by reminding you that vets swear an oath of non maleficence (Do – no – harm). Even the most cynical of conspiracy theorists cannot seriously believe that every single vet in the country is willing to put all their patients at risk?

evil doctor

Meet Dr Death. He’d signed the wrong oath

But enough about double-guessing intentions. Let’s look at hard facts.

Severe adverse effects are not the norm: Severe post-vaccination reactions do happen, but it’s rare (exact numbers in Veterinary practice guidelines, 2011). If your dog is worrying you after his shots, call your vet’s pronto because something is not right.

I heard some dogs developed the very disease they were vaccinated against ~I am going to barely paraphrase Dieneke’s words here: There is ABSOLUTELY no correlation between receiving a vaccination and the onset of that disease. None, zero, nada, zilch.

Mild adverse effects do happen: Pups may feel a little poorly two-three days after the shot. They might be sleepier, sensitive around the injection area, or a mild fever. But they should perk up quickly, or, again, something is awry and you should pick up the phone, like, now.

It takes two to fear-monger: I can play the fear mongering game too, and something tells me I’m going to win. So you play the “mild or impossibly improbable adverse effects” card, right? Here’s my card: the ugly, stinky, painful reality of your dog’s intense suffering – or death – from an avoidable disease.

For most of these diseases, the dogs who make it “get away” with invasive, painful, long-lasting (and expensive) treatment. If they make it at all. ~The not-so-lucky one who died in my neighbourhood (just back in August 2014) was four years old. He died a painful death – organ failure – after contracting the scandalously preventable leptospirosis. He was just… three months late on his vaccine.

Fear mongering: I can play that game too

Fear mongering: I can play that game too

Let me tear you away from the comfort of abstraction and ask you to really imagine your dog suffering the following list of symptoms. Please don’t cheat, the whole point is to shock some sense into you if you’re still contemplating leaving your dog unprotected.

~Distemper:

  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Infected eye and nose lining
  • Nervous system can be affected (lack of coordination and all that charming stuff, seizures, etc.)
  • ~Painful swelling of the nose and soles of the feet can happen
  • ~Sometimes, despite intervention, death

Parvovirus:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting blood
  • Dehydration
  • ~Invariably long, expensive and invasive treatment.
  • ~Vulnerable to a host of other infections
  • ~Often life-long sequels, despite intervention
  • ~80-90% die

Hepatitis:

  • Compromised liver function
  • ~Can’t be detected early so can be lethal
  • ~Can become chronic so your dog will be on meds… lifelong… because you didn’t vaccinate

Kennel cough:

  • Weeks-long dry intense cough
  • Vomiting
  • ~Can develop into pneumonia, which requires costly treatment and can be lethal.

Leptospirosis:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Exhaustion
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding disorders
  • ~Kidney failure
  • ~Intensive, invasive, expensive intervention
  • ~Lethal in unvaccinated animals
  • Can be passed on to humans – maybe that’ll convince you

Rabies:

  • Extremely rare (~because we don’t allow unvaccinated dogs in The Netherlands)
  • Uncontrolled violent bouts of aggression
  • Incredible suffering (horrendous thirst whilst, oh mother nature must you be so cruel, having become extremely phobic of water)
  • Lethal
  • And of course transmissible to humans.

I’ve spared you the more graphic details but if you think you can stomach it, hop along to the vaccination guidelines for owners and breeders by the Veterinary Association (2010). Warning: It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Dog vaccination: last misunderstandings

I have also heard these vague objections, so I thought I’d address them too:

My neighbour’s dog was vaccinated, and he still got sick: He would have been A LOT sicker a lot sooner if he hadn’t been vaccinated. ~The vaccine doesn’t protect the dog from catching the disease, it protects him against developing it full-blown.

My neighbour’s dog was not vaccinated, and he never got sick: Well done him, he dodged a bullet. Want to know what saved his gambling butt? The dog owners who did their civic duty and had their own dog vaccinated. There weren’t so many infected dogs around for your neighbour’s dog to get infected. It’s called ‘herd immunity’. And the less people vaccinate their dog, the more we compromise herd immunity.

herd immunity

My dog is sick, surely I don’t need to vaccinate him? Talk to your vet about your concerns so you can decide from an informed position. Seek a second opinion if you’re not comfortable, but do not make the call based on gut feeling. If the veterinarian’s verdict is to not vaccinate, by the way, thank herd immunity.

Canis bonus comes down on anti vaxxing

I care too much about dogs to take a wishy washy stance on vaccinations. I heard the objections, weighed them up, and came out even more convinced of their necessity. I get that calls to ‘go back to nature’ and ‘beware of big bad modern medicine’ are tempting, but please check the facts before you get sucked in and harm your dog – and our pups – in the process.

would you cross this bridge

In medical matters as in behavioural ones, opinion is best swayed by valid arguments and solid research, not fear-mongering.

Further reading

I am a stickler for evidence and an incurable skeptic, so don’t take my word for this. If you want to take your dog’s vaccination decisions based on solid stuff, check these out:

Photos and art attribution

  1. Sleeping puppy: By daily sunny on Flickr CC. http://bit.ly/1yCs7YB (CC BY 2.0)
  2. A.U.T.I.S.M. poster: by Refutations to anti-vaccine memes on Facebook. http://on.fb.me/1EdlHQ3 (authorisation granted 18 Jan 2015, FB)
  3. Jenny McCarthy: By Steven Depolo on Flickr CC. http://bit.ly/15kjpmJ (CC BY 2.0)
  4. Veterinarian sign: By Celeste Lindell on Flickr CC. http://bit.ly/1udaSwQ (CC BY 2.0)
  5. Old starter dog: By Roveritis on Photobucket. http://bit.ly/1B31prk (under Allow others to copy my media section)
  6. Do my pets really need vaccines: By Hudson Veterinary Hospitalhttp://bit.ly/1Ge97Vf (Sought authorisation 17 Jan 2015)
  7. Mad doctor: By OakleyOriginals on Flickr CC. http://bit.ly/1xgsAvf (CC BY 2.0)
  8. Fear – Graffiti: By Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha on Flickr CC. http://bit.ly/15qmZen (CC BY S.A 2.0)
  9. Herd immunity poster: From Refutations to anti-vaccine memes on Facebook. http://on.fb.me/1wjCE5a (authorisation granted 18 Jan 2015, FB)
  10. Would you cross this bridge poster: From Refutations to anti-vaccine memes on Facebook. http://on.fb.me/14RGwnm (authorisation granted 18 Jan 2015, FB)
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Latest book review: Possibility dogs

Dog book review announcement: Possibility dogs
By Laure-Anne Visele, January 2015

Charleson - Possibility dogs

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

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Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I run Canis bonus, a behaviour therapy  practice for dogs with behaviour problems. I am also the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a licensed dog trainer and certified applied animal behaviourist. After my day job, I review dog books and write about behaviour for my blog and other specialist websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, drop me a line to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. You can find out more on my training page.

Possibility Dogs

Possibility Dogs (2014) is a smooth read. As smooth as it gets, in fact. I found it so impossible to put down I barely slept for two nights just so I could get through it.

Written by Susannah Charleson, a broadcast journalist by day and search-and-rescue dog handler by night, it follows the world of psychiatric service dog and their handlers. It also follows the first step of her project to recruit shelter dogs for service training.

Susannah’s style is at once intimate and professional. She gets the technical stuff right, but sheds an oh so human light on it all. The book feels like a This American Life portrait that will make you understand the life of a service dog and his handler a tad better. And I don’t just mean cognitively understand. It will help you relate.

A fabulous read if you’re interested in the world of service dogs, particularly psych dogs. For the full review, click here.

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Latest book review: The Science of Consequences

Dog book review announcement: Schneider’s The Science of Consequences
By Laure-Anne Visele, January 2015

Schneider - Science of consequences

 

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

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I run Canis bonus, a behaviour therapy  practice for dogs with behaviour problems. I am also the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a licensed dog trainer and certified applied animal behaviourist. After my day job, I review dog books and write about behaviour for my blog and other specialist websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, drop me a line to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. You can find out more on my training page.

The Science of Consequences

The Science of Consequences (2012) is another whopper of a book. The bibliography alone runs 52 pages… It was written by biopsychologist Susan M. Schneider. Dr. Schneider takes a system-wide view of consequences not only in the light of operant conditioning, but looks at it through the lense of neuroscience, economics, cognitive psychology, evolutionary biology, (immune response!) and then some.

A fascinating but tough read. Check out the full review here.

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Latest book review: Domestic animal behavior

Dog book review announcement: Houpt’s Domestic animal behavior
By Laure-Anne Visele, December 2014

Houpt Domestic animal behaviour

 

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

IMG_6639

Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

I run Canis bonus, a behaviour therapy  practice for dogs with behaviour problems. I am also the co-founder and head trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a licensed dog trainer and certified applied animal behaviourist. After my day job, I review dog books and write about behaviour for my blog and other specialist websites.

If you are near The Hague and have dog behaviour issues, drop me a line to make an appointment. I work in English, French, or Dutch and only use animal-friendly methods. You can find out more on my training page.

Domestic Animal Behavior

Domestic Animal Behavior is a 2011 text book about the behaviour of production and companion animals. It is aimed at academics looking to get a grip on the scientific body of knowledge on the behaviour of these animals. It reads like a systematic literature survey, with the full citations and jargon that go with it.

As one of the most widely cited pieces of writing on animal behaviour, it is well worth finding out more. Check out the full review here.

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