Sunday, April 29, 2012

Training days...

Woodie (owned by Al Faze) on point during a training session this afternoon.  Woodie (Leonard's Strongbow) is out of Aiken x Sunset Silk (Pine Hollow Kennels, Cheney, KS).  Woodie is a product of the Purest Challenge... come and join us in our pursuit of the Purest Challenge... the restoration of the Irish red setter as a class Shooting Dog and quality bird dog.  Contact for membership info!

More food or better food?

Dogs appear to be able to discriminate between having a large volume of food and a smaller but allegedly higher quality food when cued by human behavior.  Read the article at

Abstract of article...
Dogs appear to be sensitive to human ostensive communicative cues in a variety of situations, however there is still a measure of controversy as to the way in which these cues influence human-dog interactions. There is evidence for instance that dogs can be led into making evaluation errors in a quantity discrimination task, for example losing their preference for a larger food quantity if a human shows a preference for a smaller one, yet there is, so far, no explanation for this phenomenon. Using a modified version of this task, in the current study we investigated whether non-social, social or communicative cues (alone or in combination) cause dogs to go against their preference for the larger food quantity. Results show that dogs' evaluation errors are indeed caused by a social bias, but, somewhat contrary to previous studies, they highlight the potent effect of stimulus enhancement (handling the target) in influencing the dogs' response. A mild influence on the dog's behaviour was found only when different ostensive cues (and no handling of the target) were used in combination, suggesting their cumulative effect. The discussion addresses possible motives for discrepancies with previous studies suggesting that both the intentionality and the directionality of the action may be important in causing dogs' social biases.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Secret Sauce Is Committment...

From The Terrierman blogger...

When I was in Orlando over the weekendMartin Deeley and I got into a conversation about some of the strange things people believe about dogs

Trying to provide a helpful framework, I referenced the work of Harry G. Frankfurt of Princeton University, who notes (On Bullshit, 2005) that there is a difference between a bullshitter and a liar. 

A bullshitter will say anything to get a rise -- he does not care what the truth is. A bullshitter is a fake selling his wares with whatever story, line or song he thinks will do the job that instant. 

A liar, on the other hand, knows exactly where the truth is, never keeps his eye off it, and tries to steer folks far from its edges. 

A lot of folks in the world of dogs are bullshitters or, to be more precise, they are squawking parrots repeating ad nauseum whatever humbug they were "told" by someone.. somewhere... sometime. 

What's the pay off? 

More often than not the purveyor of bullshit is simply searching for that warm glow that comes when he or she has demonstrated that they are a "special" person with a "special" base of knowledge that only those "in the know" share. 

You know the type: "their" breed of dog is a rare breed designed to herd fish into nets or scoop puffins from cliffs. "Their" dog food is a boutique brand made from the dried placentas of Icelandic sheep. "Their" method of dog training is so modern and so scientific no one in the world of working terriers, sled dogs, bird dogs, running dogs, herding dogs, or guard dogs is actually using it. 

A bullshitter will not provide footnotes, will not have any experience of their own, and almost everything they say will be swaddled in some sort of clap-trap theory. 

To clarify, a bullshitter need not necessarily be wrong -- they are simply not very concerned if they are right. Or, to quote Tim Minchin

You know what they call alternative medicine that works?



The world of dogs is old, and most everything has been tried. If something works in the world of dogs, it's no longer an "alternative" anything -- it's just another tool in the box, to be used if needed, depending on the problem at hand. 

The simple fact is that Frank and Rudd Weatherwax, the owners and trainers of Lassie, were training dogs with food, praise and a choke chain long before B.F. Skinner saw his first pigeon or built his first "Skinner Box," complete with electrified shock floor and food bucket. 

But of course, no one wants to pay homage to the old. Everyone wants to be "new" and everyone wants to be "special". 

Ironically, in this way, we are all the same. 

The result is that in the world of dogs, we are neck deep in bullshit. 

Am I the only one to have noticed? Of course not! 

I bet you too have noticed that pet people seem to be a little more susceptible than most to such complete malarkey as aromatherapy, homeopathy, and fear-mongering about preservatives used in vaccines. 

Slap the words "holistic," "natural," or "human grade" on any kind of dog food, and pet people will buy it no matter if it has never seen a feed trial and if it is manufactured by a nameless, faceless third-party company that gets its ingredients from God Knows Where. Beef, chicken, corn and soy are deemed to be "bad" merely because they have stood the test of time, but pumpkin, flax seed, clover and potatoes are deemed excellent because they are brand new and sound great!? 

And is it any different in the world of dog training? 

Of course not. 

Now, to be clear, I am not talking about any one method of dog training. As I have said before, almost almost all methods found in books actually work. 

But isn’t that true for human exercise down at the gym too? 

And really, is a dog trainer really that different from a personal trainer? 

In both cases, the client comes to the table knowing the basics but willing to pay a little money if there is some some sort of "magical solution" that does not involve time, self-discipline, and (to tell the truth) mind-numbing boredom. 

Eat less and exercise more? Who wants to do that? No one! 

And so the rallying cry of the personal trainer is the same as that of the dog trainer: 

  • Like me.
  • Trust me.
  • Pay me.

Both the personal trainer and the dog trainer may claim expertise in a bit of magic not found in a book, but you will have to sign up for the course or buy the system ("a $600.00 value for 3 monthly payments of $39.95") to find out the rest. 


And what is this secret knowledge? What is the "secret sauce"? 

Down at the gym the personal trainer may be pushing a special diet, or his own recommended rotation of weights, or a certain set of calisthenics. 

And will it work? 

Sure, provided you put in a hour of hard labor everyday and mostly eat vegetables. If you follow up on that by cutting out the fats, sugar, carbs, booze, cigarettes, and dope, I am pretty sure you can be whipped into shape in 120 days! 

And what is the "secret sauce" of dog training? It's pretty much the same. 

If you put in an hour a day, every day, exercising your dog, and if you read a few books on well-timed rewards-based training and measured consequences for bad behavior and follow the program every day, I am pretty sure you can transform your dog into a model citizen in 120 days or so. 

Of course, neither your personal trainer nor your dog trainer is likely to be as transparent as I have been about the entire process. 

And maybe you don't want them to be. I mean if you're going to pay money to get external reinforcement for your lack of internal discipline you may want a little "secret sauce" to hide that fact. 

No problem. A lot of personal trainers and dog trainers know this is exactly what you want, and so they are only too happy to whip up a little "special sauce" for you. 

Don’t be surprised then if your personal trainer talks about the Gylcemic Index, the Montignac Diet, the I-tal diet or the Kangatarian diet. He or she might talk about cross-training, periodization, plateaus, and isometric exercises. 

While pushing their diet and exercise recommendations, don't be too surprised if they also start to demonize or minimize other systems as being less effective, slower, or perhaps "toxic" because they "create too much cortisol." 

Remember, it's not enough that your new system works. The old system has to be bad. In most religions, it's not enough that you go to heaven; everyone else has to go to hell. 

However it goes, though, one thing is always the same: If you really want a new body, you will have to get off your ass, exercise more, and eat less. Every trainer presents a different set of sticks and carrots, but not a single one of them has ever presented a magic wand. 

And what about dog training? It's petty much the same thing. 

Whatever dog trainer you end up going to, they are sure to talk about rewards-based training and socialization, fear-based aggression, canine motivation, and timing. The smarter ones will also talk about simple measured consequences to end unwanted self-reinforcing behavior. 

While pushing their own brand of dog training, most dog trainers also demonize or minimize other dog training methods, explaining that they don't work or work more slowly, or are "cruel" or "old" or "not scientific" or don't result in a happy, health dog no matter what you may have seen or others may have said. 

However it goes, though, one thing will always be the same: If you hope to end up with a better behaved dog you will have to get off your ass, exercise your dog, and spend more time communicating with it in a consistent and well-timed wayevery day

Exercise, rewards, consistency, timing, consequences and lots of repetition. Though every trainer will present with a slightly different set of carrots and sticks, those are the commonalities and there is no magic wand. 

Nothing I have said here should be too shocking. Market segmentation is as old as markets, and "secret sauce" come-ons are as old as cookbooks. 

I am not opposed to secret sauce market segmentation up to a point. 

All I ask is that people don’t lie. 

Don’t tell me a Fruitarian diet cures cancer when Steve Jobs died of cancer after eating a fruitarian diet for years. 

Don’t tell me early childhood vaccines are dangerous when nothing has improved the lives of people (to say nothing of dogs) more than vaccination. 

Don’t tell me I can eat as much as I want and still shed several pounds a week. 

Don’t tell me a toe tap is a kick, or that a leash pop is animal abuse. 

Don’t tell me that every Pit Bull is as dangerous as a wild lion OR that Pit Bulls, as a breed, are exactly the same as every other dog. 

Don’t tell me slip collars cause cancer or that electronic collars cause hypothyroidism. 

Don’t tell me that bottled water is medicine, or that ground up seaweed is a cure for "chronic disease and premature aging." 

Don’t claim to be "national research council" when you are nothing more than a vet tech with an opinion. 

Don’t tell me you are a "scientific" dog trainer when you do not have a degree in science and do not use every quadrant of operant conditioning or classical conditioning at all. 

Don’t tell me you are a famous dog trainer in Great Britain when you do not own a dog at all. 

And, above all, don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining! 

Steve Witz of Idaho with his NSTRA competitor Pal Holiday (King Cormac x Flushing Whip Flash Edition) doing the grunt work it takes to make a dog a champion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Working dogs, military style...

Jecky, 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, subdues Tech Sgt. Benjamin Thomas, 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. This training is known as the bite and hold technique where the military working dog bites the offender and holds until back up personnel can secure the individual. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anania Tekurio/Released)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From the Terrierman blog...

I am always a bit amused at how many people have strong opinions about dog food, and how few of these opinions are supported by common sense.

For example, most dog food debates are about quality rather than quantity. And yet, quality hardly matters as most dogs (even most working dogs!) can easily have their nutritional needs met by grocery store kibble or carefully selected table scraps.

Which is not to say that everything is fine in the world of dog food. The problem, however, is not too low a quality of food; it's too high a quality of food, and too much of it too.

Fat dogs are not only losing years off of their lives, but they are also costing their owners billions in unnecessary veterinary bills.

Most of the problem is that people are over-feeding their dogs out of guilt for spending too little time with them. 

Another factor, however, is that many modern dog foods are packed with calories which means "just a little more" may end up putting on real pounds. Add in chronic lack of exercise, and you have the same prescription for fat pooches as for obese humans.

It's not just too many calories. Modern dog food is also loaded with vitamins and calcium, and this triple combination means many large-breed dogs are growing up faster than God intended, and as a result they are suffering from increasing amounts of nutrition-related dysplasia.

Are canine web sites and list-servs abuzz about the need to feed dogs less in order to keep them in proper weight?

They are not. 

It's estimated that 35 percent of the dogs are over-weight and obesity is the number one killer of dogs and people in this country, but that conversation tends to strike a little too close to home.

Put three people in a room and talk about obesity as a health issue, and at least one of those people is going to cop an attitude: Are you talking about me??!

Which circles us back to the issue of dog food. When people ask me what I feed my own dogs, I tell them grocery store kibble. What brand? I feed Purina at the moment, but what brand does not really matter so long as it is the proper amount. There is no research -- not one whit -- that shows that one brand of dog food is better than another. 

Nor, might I add, is there any research to show that corn in commercial dog food is bad for dogs, or that pumpkin, millet, barley, deer, beaver or any other exotic mix is good. 

Why do I feed my dogs kibble? Simple: Kibble has been treated with fire.

While cooking does not cure all ills, it cures most, and that is especially important with meat. The more you know about meat -- any kind of meat -- the more likely you are to order your steaks "well cooked."

Whatever brand of kibble you choose to use, one thing is almost guaranteed: your dog will end up eating better than you do.

Not only is most grocery store dog food balanced for proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, but it has probably been tested in the real world with scores of thousands of dogs thriving on it for many years.

Can most dog owners say that about the food they eat? I think not!

As for dog food being full of snouts, lungs, udders, and shin meat, it most certainly is. It also has chicken feet ground up in it, as well as bones and beaks, and pieces of tail, testicles and cow privates.

All of this is excellent food, and most of it was "human quality" until very recently.

Of course, in the English-speaking world we mostly turn our nose up at such stuff. We demand that all meat be the very choicest cut served on a white napkin placed on top of a foam plate. The meat must be dyed the right color to make it pleasing to the eye, and the whole thing must be shrink-wrapped, dated, bar-coded and placed in a cold packing crate in the super market. Only then will we buy it.

Blood and guts? Testicles and snout? Entrails and feet? Most people shudder at the thought of eating those parts of a pig or cow that nurtured their grandparents not so long ago. Go overseas into the markets of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, however, and people are still eating everything, including the squeal. Ox Tail soup? Bones for Ossobuco? Udders, stomachs and lungs for sausage? Testicles for breakfast? All good food.

What is laugh-track funny are the folks who pop up in every dog food debate to talk about the diet of wolves. 

You see, whether wolves are chasing caribou in the Arctic, pulling down wild boar in Russia, or stalking buffalo in Kansas, they are all doing the same thing: they are looking for the young, the sick, and the infirm. 

A downer cow? To a wolf that's the dinner bell ringing. 

Yes, that's right: The preferred diet of the wolf is not cooked backstrap from the pride of the herd, but raw flesh ripped from the diseased rectum of a downer cow. 

Funny how that fact never makes it into all these conversations about "natural" dog foods. 

Nor is it ever mentioned that wolves eat a lot of rabbit, deer and rats riddles with round worms and other parasites. Disease? A wolf likes nothing better than a diseased animal; they are so much easier to catch. 

Unlike your kibble-fed dog, wolves are not eating flesh from healthy animals that have been given vaccines, regular vet checks, dosed with antibiotics, and given unlimited amounts of high-quality feed and clean water. 

But that's what our dog food is made out of. 

And then, to make it even better, we stir in corn, rice, and wheat in order to increase fiber and add carbohydrates. We also add in vitamins and micronutrients, as well as preservatives to keep the whole thing fresh. Then we grind it all fine, cook it, extrude it, fire it hard into bite-sized nuggets, and put it in hermetically-sealed stay-fresh bags. 

Poor dogs! If only they had quality foods! 

Bottom line: Relax about what you are feeding your dog. 

You are not a bad owner because you feed your dog a commercial kibble bought at the local grocery store. 

Nor are you a better owner because you pay a lot more for an expensive product made from exotic ingredients. 

Just remember this simple rule: A well-fed dog is never fat. If you truly love your dog, you will never over-feed it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

After a hard day's work..

Woody and Faze taking a nap after a hard day's work at the Fairbank trial... 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Training pics with Woodie...

Our derby Leonard's Strongbow, "Woodie"  during some training sessions this week...

That's Woodie up front, with my old boy King Cormac backing (he's my "training buddy" in his "retirement" job)

Al Faze

The Dog Lover's Prayer - Happy Easter!

God created the canine and gave it a bark, Great mercy preserved, a pair on the ark; But these fallen creatures, like their earthly masters are bent, Affected by sin, their good nature now rent.

For some they are collectors of ticks, carriers of fleas, scavengers of filth and spreaders of disease. A bother, commitment, an added expense, something you must let out in the morning or keep in a fence.

But a nobler animal, one would not find. A compass to the lost and eyes to the blind. Ears for the deaf, limbs for the lame, a companion through lonliness and comfort in pain.

Greeters with a warm lick or wag of the tail, unconditional loyalty to the strong and the frail. Shepherds, and hunters, pets for entertainment or show, curs that catch in mid-air or in dark burrow below.

Trustworthy alarms that never need wound, A distinct whine or yip from a palace or pound, Protectors of junkyards great treasures of men, A playmate for children, a faithful old friend.

The Lord gave special powers to these creatures, we know. For victims of earthquakes, great floods and deep snow. Discerners of scents and sounds that have faded away, finding the buried, submerged or where injured now lay.

Lord, thank you for the mutt, and the pooch that's pedigreed, thank you for giving us the different dogs that we need. Please make us as useful as our friends with four feet, willing to serve the needs I may meet.

Heavenly Master, may I be quick to obey, whether you call me to go, or command me to stay. Use my life to retrieve souls that have strayed, may I point them to the cross, where their debts have been paid. Amen!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Red Setter Placements at Illinois Trial

This past weekend we traveled to Mt. Vernon, Illinois for a trial held by the Mid South Bird Hunters Club of Illinois. Jim Ashby and his dog Lucy (Lakeview Kant Katch Me) placed second in Amateur Shooting Dog out of 21 competitors! Lance and Dexter (Lakeview Timely Treasure) placed first in Amateur Puppy as well as first place in Open Puppy. We had a blast! There is no sport better than Field Trialing! Congratulations to Lucy & Dexter!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jack Carter...

Jack Carter and his friend and pro trainer Phil Stevenson, at Jack's kennels in Tennessee


Dexter and Lance Carver