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North American dog owners are becoming increasingly obsessed with “control.” Commonly seen in dog sport enthusiasts trying to be top of their game as well as everyday dog owners who have bought into dominance theory, the need to control canines seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. In pursuit of control, dog owners will limit access to various resources such as “human” food, comfy couches, four-legged friends and other people. This often leads to what we call “Forbidden Fruit Syndrome” (FFS). 
 
The first symptom most FFS sufferers exhibit is an unnatural obsession with something. Most frequently it is an intense drive to get to other dogs or people and can also be directed towards toys or obsessive food begging. Another symptom occurs when dogs are forcibly removed from furniture or if prized chews or toys are taken away without properly conditioning the dog to be receptive to human interference when they are engaged with their favorite things. FFS tends to rear its ugly head in the form growling, snarling, snapping and sometimes even biting as dogs try to keep humans away from valuable “possessions.”
 
We are blessed with a wonderful local resource who has been truly enlightening when it comes to dealing with FFS. Silvia Jay, a trainer who shares her passion for pooches at www.voice4dogs.com has brought the concept of “Mindful Leadership” to our community. Silvia points to dogs’ needs for social inclusion and emotional security as the fundamental requirements for successful human-canine relationships – not the need to be dominant! When dog owners provide these two resources to their dogs, they eliminate frustration, stress, fear and confusion in the dog’s mind and as a result behavior issues are generally resolved.
 
How does Mindful Leadership relate to FFS? Instead of limiting your dog’s resources in an attempt to gain control, Silvia recommends your dog live in a land of plenty. We have seen the benefits of this theory first-hand both in our own home and in the homes of our customers’ dogs. When a dog perceives a resource as being limited, they are more likely to guard it which can quickly escalate into serious aggression if owners confront their pets in the name of dominance. When dogs are provided with plenty of toys, chews, comfortable resting places and playmates they will be far less likely to try and keep their people away and will not be as obsessive when it comes to meeting other dogs.
 
You can use your Clicker Leash to help your dog see you as a gateway to these resources in a positive light. This will ultimately provide people with the control they crave without the fallout that often accompanies dominance-based training strategies. Have a dog that is obsessed with four-legged friends? Click and use the other dogs as a reward when your dog offers you attention. If your dog loves to chase squirrels, put away your hot dogs and give your dog permission to go on a squirrel hunt after you click your Clicker Leash when they do something you like. Silvia suggests you take it to the next level and actually join your dog in the fun, pretending to chase the squirrels at their side. Be a team!
 

We love Silvia’s kind and effective approach to dog training. If you are faced with the challenge of a resource guarder or an obsessive dog, remember when you provide your dog with plenty, not only will you be perceived as a mindful leader but you will also have the luxury of a world of rewards to use when you are training.

A popular example among positive dog trainers to illustrate the ineffectiveness of punishment is traffic tickets. North American culture tends to focus on punishing unwanted behaviors like speeding instead of recognizing desirable behaviors like driving your car at the appropriate speed. Now Cape Town Traffic Services in Africa is experimenting with positive reinforcement to see if it can improve road safety.

The department will be rewarding motorists for “gold star” behavior with engraved pens and key rings. Good behaviour will include not getting angry or upsetting other road users, signalling well in advance when changing lanes, slowing down on freeways to allow space for motorists entering from an on-ramp, keeping intersections clear in heavy traffic, and raising a hand to thank fellow motorists instead of using the emergency flashers. Of course, this is creating debate almost as hot as a Victoria Stilwell vs. Cesar Millan dispute with the nay-sayers chiming in with their usual pessimism.  Hopefully the department will measure and publish the results of this experiment.

Cape Town police are not alone in thinking positive reinforcement can change behavior. Volkswagen launched their “Fun Theory Campaign” this fall and it is already a viral sensation with millions of views on You Tube. The car manufacturer’s ad agency DDB Stockholm, based their new campaign on the idea that “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” For example, the team set out to see if they could increase the number of people who would opt to take a set of stairs instead of a nearby escalator by making it fun to take the stairs. They changed the stairs into a giant, functional piano that was activated when people stepped onto the stairs. They found a 66% increase in the number of people who chose the stairs when they were made “fun.” You can view this and the two other videos the company has created in the first stage of their campaign at www.thefuntheory.com.

What does all of this have to do with dog training? Well, if we can change people’s current perception about rewards and punishment in human learning then it will be much easier to get people to Train Humane with their pets. Once reward-based principles become mainstream, we will see an increase in people treating their dogs with respect and love and getting great results.

We first learned about the “Look at That” (LAT) game from Leslie McDevitt’s brilliant book “Control Unleashed.” One of the most common dog training issues is on-leash reactivity. Our gut instinct is to tell Fido to knock it off or to try to console them and make them feel safe by patting them and speaking in high pitched voices. Unfortunately for a lot of dogs our attempts at canine communication are often misinterpreted and we see an increase in snarling, lunging and barking at approaching triggers like animals, people or moving objects. If we scold our dogs for acting like a lunatic when triggers approach, we run the risk of creating an even more negative situation for our already stresed or anxious friends. When we try and reassure Fifi that everything is going to be OK, they don’t hear our words but may assume based on our high-pitched tone that we like it when they are nervous and scared and they may enjoy the extra attention it gets them.

Although it goes against our human nature, the Look at That game diffuses both of these situations and quickly results in increased confidence and focus on mom or dad instead of incoming triggers. For a detailed description of the “Look at That” game, we encourage you to check out Leslie McDevitt’s web site and buy her easy-to-understand book or videos but we wanted to give you a brief overview of the exercise because the Clicker Leash makes it so easy to do.

The key is to keep your dog below threshold (ie quiet and calm) while teaching them to look at a stimulus they do not normally like and rewarding them for looking at it. To train LAT, use your Clicker Leash to click and reward your dog the second they look at a trigger as long there is no reaction. If your dog is too intense with the triggers being used, start with a neutral target like a piece of paper or other item your dog has no association with and again click as soon as they look at it. When your dog is offering a quick glance towards the target, name it “look.” Your dog will quickly start to look at their triggers and turn back to you for a reward. If your dog does not turn quickly, it is likely because they are over threshold. You should increase the distance between you and the trigger and try again.

Begin playing LAT with a different neutral distraction for about 30 seconds, as often as you can each day. Gradually progress to more challenging distractions such as favourite toys, the mailman, squirrels and approaching people. Once your dog has mastered the game with various distractions, you can progress to using dogs they like and then strange dogs. Remember, the key here is to keep your dog calm during this game. If they begin to growl, bark or lunge, they have gone over threshold and you need to start again with more distance between you and the object.

If youhave a particularly stressed, anxious or reactive dog, you may also want to check out Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. The protocol provides a clear set of exercises to do with your dog to help teach self control in exciting situations. Remember to keep your training sessions brief and fun so your dog will want more! For more training tips and free video tutorials visit www. clickerleash.com

As you have probably all noticed there has been a debate raging in the world of dog training over the past couple of years. On one side is Cesar Milan and his fans and on the other side is the likes of Dr. Ian Dunbar and Jean Donaldson – dog training gurus in their own right without the celebrity status. The Dog Whispering gang believe you have to assert your dominance to have a successful relationship with your dog while the behaviorists like Dunbar and Donaldson focus on the science behind learning theory and positive reinforcement to achieve great things with dogs. Check out the new spin we have put on this ongoing debate with the press release we issued this week. Let us know what you think about our new approach to bridge the gap between these two camps!

Halifax, Nova Scotia (PRWEB) July 22, 2009 — The rise in popularity of Cesar Milan, National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer, has exposed a rift in society’s canine culture. Milan and his followers believe dog owners must act like dominant pack leaders, but a growing number of modern trainers are protesting Milan’s methods, claiming they lead to an increase in dog aggression. Now a Nova Scotia-based company, the Clicker Leash Co., bridges the gap between the two camps with its flagship invention, the Clicker Leash.

The Clicker Leash first drew international attention when a Los Angeles-based PR firm chose the training system for a Presidential Puppy gift box, presented earlier this year to the Obamas. The product evolved from clicker training, a method frequently used by behaviourists, zoo keepers and professional trainers to train all species of animals. Since its arrival in the marketplace, the training leash has been embraced by experienced clicker trainers but has also made waves in dog whispering circles. “Being dominant means you control access to resources and traditionally this has been achieved with force,” explains company president Adina MacRae. “The Clicker Leash clearly lets dogs know you are the one in control of their resources without getting physical. When you use those resources as rewards, you end up with a well-trained dog without using the scare tactics formerly associated with dominance.”

MacRae and business partner Shannon Spruin drew from their love of dogs to start the Clicker Leash Co. Both women own successful dog walking businesses and MacRae offers in-home canine counselling services. As Milan’s popularity grew, she saw an increase in demand for her services. “Cesar draws attention to the need for dog training but there is a reason for the warning at the beginning of his shows,” says MacRae. “When people try to physically dominate their dogs they run the risk of frightening them and a fearful dog is more likely to bite.”

The Clicker Leash can be found in stores across the country as well as on the company web site http://www.clickerleash.com where free training videos are available.

Contact: 1-888-PAWSITIVE