One of the things I’ve been learning about Pyrrha is that she needs a lot more exercise than she lets on. (She’s a healthy 1-year-old German shepherd, after all!) Most of the time, she lazes around the house, getting up only to patrol the front windows or wander into the kitchen to see if we happen to drop something tasty.
However, it’s clear that she has a whole reservoir of energy that’s lying mostly untapped. I think she could run for hours, were she so inclined. In an attempt to tap into this hidden energy reservoir, I decided to take her on an hour-and-a-half walk last week. After I got home from work, we decided we’d walk downtown to meet Guion at work and run a few errands with her.
Walking with Pyrrha tends to be somewhat slow-going at first, because she has to smell every other plant and shrub and piece of trash. For now, I’m very lenient toward this behavior. I know some people who only give their dogs permission to sniff on command, but I don’t see sniffing as a vice; rather, it’s her way of reading the daily news. In time, I think I will introduce a command to get her to leave something alone or to move on, because she does have a tendency to linger, but for now, the walks are slow, because the girl is laboriously sniffing.
Despite the fact that she’s very new to leash walking, I think she’s in really good shape. She’s very responsive to me while on leash and doesn’t pull (except when a squirrel or bird is tempting her). The main thing she needs to learn about leash manners is not crossing in front of me constantly and tripping me; she has a bad habit of walking right in front of one and stopping. Anyone’s dog ever do this? How would you train away from that behavior?
Guion works part-time at a wine co-op downtown. He manages the quiet office there, so once we arrived, he invited us in while he closed up. Pyrrha seemed fairly anxious about this new space, but after she patrolled the borders for a few minutes, she laid down by the door and started to calm down.
After we helped Guion close up, we went to the library (where she waited outside with Guion) and then Pyrrha and I walked home. It was a beautiful, balmy summer evening and I was only too happy to spend a large chunk of it walking my good dog.
I was very flattered this past week to receive a mention in the “You Are an Inspiration Awards” from Pamela at Something Wagging. I’ve been so encouraged by Pamela’s blog since I started my dog research, and I look forward to continuing to follow hers and Honey’s adventures.
That said, here are some great dog-related links from around the Web this week:
Therapy Dogs: Born or Made? Patricia McConnell reflects on the qualities a great therapy dog should possess and discusses the age-old question of nature vs. nurture. Basically, if you have a calm, perhaps older golden retriever, your dog should be doing therapy. Bo and Dally would be IDEAL candidates, maybe when they’re older. Goldens were just made for this stuff. (The Other End of the Leash)
An Uphill Battle: Tartar in a Kibble-Fed Dog. Stephanie, the Biologist, discusses the problems of tartar buildup in her kibble-fed dog and debunks the popular myth that kibble cleans dogs’ teeth. (Musings of a Biologist and Dog Lover)
Comparing Bergan and Kurgo Dog Harnesses. The most widely traveled dogs give their reviews of two car harnesses. I’ve thought about getting something like this for our future dog. How does your dog travel in the car? (Take Paws)
Indigo: The Hockey-Loving Dog. This focused border collie reminds me of Emma, my childhood Aussie, who was fixated whenever we played hockey on the cul-de-sac. We kind of drove her crazy. It’s torture for a herding dog to watch such a game and not be allowed to get out there and HERD! (Shirley Bittner)
The Dog. My dear friend Rachel writes about her dog Cider‘s displays of devotion when she comes home. So sweet! (Mixed with Gold)
What Dogs Want. This might be one of the best things I’ve seen on the Internet. Cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt shows us what dogs really want: To chase pigeons with hot dogs in their beaks. A tennis ball bride. A house made of old fish. (The Hairpin)
Dog Walking Bliss. Karen London reflects on why it’s always good to take a walk. (The Bark)
Is a Half-Hour of Exercise Just Enough to Make a Dog Hyper? Professional dog walker Lindsay shares her experiences and thoughts on the topic that a typical walk may be enough just to rev your dog’s engine–not to wear him out. This makes me feel guilty for thinking my 20-minute walks with the SPCA dogs are enough to sate them for a few hours. If only we all had more time! (That Mutt)
The World of Dog Walking: 5 Surprising Facts. Another professional dog walker shares some interesting bits of new research about walking dogs. For instance, dogs tend to act more aggressively when they are walked by men. Interesting… (The Hydrant)
Sleeping Dogs Lie. A collection of photos of sighthounds sleeping in piles. (DesertWindHounds)
The Welcome Decline of the German Shepherd. Quoting from Susan Orlean’s new book, Rin Tin Tin, which I just finished, this blogger reflects on why it might be a good thing that the GSD is not as popular as it once was. (The Hydrant)
I Got to Get Better. One trainer’s ambitious and inspiring list of her goals to become a better dog trainer. (Raising K9)
Diversion Dog. That is one crafty beagle. Have you ever seen a dog pull a stunt like this? I think I have… Just proof that dogs know how to get what they want! (Animals Being Di*ks)
Self-proclaimed “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan is arguably America’s most well-known dog trainer, thanks in large part to his TV show, “The Dog Whisperer,” on the National Geographic Channel. I have watched his show many times myself, interested in seeing how this well-known man was purportedly rehabilitating problem dogs.
When I started my project of researching dogs, many people told me that I should read Cesar Millan’s books and watch his show. I see dog owners making that “pssh” sound and poking their dogs in the side like Millan does on his show. The general dog-owning public seems very fond of Millan and his methods.
But I’ll be honest. Based on what I had seen from his show, I was reluctant to read his books. This is because I didn’t really see Millan as a trainer. I couldn’t divine what his actual training techniques were, apart from physical corrections and murky statements about “calm, assertive energy.”
Having started my dog research among other positive training books, I quickly realized that Millan is not held in high regard among behaviorists and positive trainers. The more I watched his show, the more I realized that they were right. Millan, while well intentioned, advocates negative reinforcement and physical punishment techniques to an untrained general public.
I decided to read Cesar’s Way because I felt that I should at least read what he had to say before I completely dismissed him. My friend Liz gave me a copy of his book. I read it quickly, as it was not difficult to get through.
On the whole, I was impressed with Millan’s rags-to-riches story. He came to America as an undocumented immigrant and worked his way up from a car washer to a dog trainer. He got his big break when he was picked up by Jada Pinkett Smith, who sought his help in rehabilitating the family rottweilers. It is a nice story and as the reader, you are pulling for him to succeed and beat the odds. He certainly did.
The one other thing I liked about this book was Millan’s emphasis on exercise. Americans themselves don’t exercise nearly enough, and so it’s a no-brainer that our dogs probably aren’t getting any exercise, either. Cesar’s Way devotes a whole chapter to the importance of “The Walk” and the daily communion with your dog outdoors. I am a huge proponent of this idea and the notion of walking your dog being a time of companionship and communication certainly resonated with me.
But my admiration for Millan’s training recommendations ended there.
One of my main issues with Millan’s philosophy is that he is constantly comparing dogs in America to dogs in Mexico. Dogs in Mexico roamed free in packs, leash-less, without any training. I don’t deny that that sounds like an ideal life for any dog, but that kind of lifestyle is simply not feasible for canines in 21st-century America. We have leash laws. Dogs need to be neutered. They need to be trained how to walk on streets and greet people in public. Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in California is a nice idea, but it is thoroughly unhelpful to anyone who doesn’t live with a roaming pack of 30 dogs (which I imagine is most people). It’s nice that he’s able to make the dogs get along in a massive pack, but that is not how those dogs will be living on a daily basis when they get back home. Trying to make American dogs into Mexican dogs is not the solution. But that is what it seems that Millan keeps trying to do.
My second issue with Millan is his unabashed use and promotion of negative reinforcement training and physical punishments. In Cesar’s Way, he acknowledges that he is unpopular among positive trainers for his reliance on these dated methods, but he insists that they are effective. He even devotes a section of the book that recommends doing an “alpha roll” on a dominant dog, which absolutely floored me. I thought this medieval form of punishment had disappeared in the dark ages of dog training, but apparently not. This is one of the real dangers of Millan’s popularity, in my opinion. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, famed veterinarian and writer, had this to say about Cesar Millan:
Cesar Millan’s methods are based on flooding and punishment. The results, though immediate, will be only transitory. His methods are misguided, outmoded, in some cases dangerous, and often inhumane. You would not want to be a dog under his sphere of influence. The sad thing is that the public does not recognize the error of his ways. My college thinks it is a travesty. We’ve written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years.
— Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Behavioral Clinic at Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Another issue I have with Millan is his reliance on the old-fashioned paradigm of dominance and pack mentality. Millan would have us believe that our dogs are out to get us and always looking for an opportunity to usurp us. I simply don’t believe this is true, and I’m not the only one. Cognitive researcher and animal behaviorist Temple Grandin wrote directly about how Millan’s techniques are outdated and simply wrong in her book Animals Make Us Human. Dogs do not live in packs, Grandin points out, and it’s a misinformed way to think about a dog’s social unit. Rather, like wolves, dogs live in families where parents care for the pups in a partnership. Treating dogs like they are obsessed with dominance is a grave injustice to our canine companions. For more on this, I highly recommend an article published in 2006 in the New York Times by author Mark Derr, “Pack of Lies.”
The good thing I will say about Millan is that he has been successful in raising awareness of how we have failed our dogs in training and teaching. The bad thing is that the methods he advocates are archaic, cruel, and generally unhelpful to most people. But don’t just take my word for it: See a collection of qualified opinions about how we need to move away from this “Dog Whisperer” at the website Beyond Cesar Millan.
What do you think about Cesar Millan? Is he awesome? Overrated? Misunderstood?
Dog-related links that interested me on the Web this week…
All Exercise Is Equal, But Is Some More Equal than Others? Patricia McConnell, who has quickly become one of my favorites in the dog book world, reflects on the different types of exercise that we provide for our dogs and how some expeditions are more beneficial than others. Worth a look! (The Other End of the Leash)
In Defense of (Some) Breeders. As an SPCA volunteer and a part-time purebred aficionado, I have a lot of inner turmoil. There are plenty of dogs in the world; we don’t really need to breed more–and yet, I admit that I want a purebred Aussie puppy. I feel guilty about this. But this thoughtful and carefully expressed article allayed some of my anxieties. If you’re caught in this dilemma, I recommend this essay. (Pawcurious Vet Blog)
Goodnight, Sweet Blue. A sad post about a fostered pit bull who had to be euthanized; thoughtful and moving. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)
Neighborhood Watch. Our wedding photographer’s handsome lab Orvis keeps an eye on the neighborhood. (And Unlimited)
Interesting pup-related links from around the web…
A retriever in the lake. These photos are so gorgeous and peaceful. I love Shirley Bittner’s work. (My Everyday Life, Shirley Bittner)
Farnham Park Flyball. I always love a good series of photos of herding dogs in action. (An English Shepherd)
Honoring Animal Heroes. Every year, Purina nominates some dogs and cats to go in their Animal Hall of Fame. These pets are pretty awesome and, I admit, their heroic stories made me tear up a little. (Rescuing Insanity)
Causes of Death Vary by Breed. This shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who’s read about the dangerous genetics of purebred dogs, but it is an interesting and helpful study to be aware of. (The Bark)
Interesting dog-related things I’ve dug up on the Interwebs this week…
What Your Dog Doesn’t Tell You. Cute but helpful drawings about how NOT to greet a dog and how to read dog body language. (News for a Dog Day Afternoon)
Top 15 Exercises for You and Your Dog. Yet another reason to get a dog: They’re good for your health! This is a great collection of articles from around the Web about how you and your dogs can keep each other healthy. (Fido Friendly)