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Jean Donaldson article - Dogs in Canada - Jan. 2008

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Although I think "dogs have an innate desire to please" as a myth may be somewhat true as a generality, border collies were bred specifically to be willing (have desire) to work with their human partners (that's why we talk about biddability). I suppose you could translate that into getting more of what they want (working sheep), but I think it's just as likely that those dogs that didn't have the innate desire to please (i.e., were too independent minded when it came to having any sort of working partnership with a human) probably did not get much chance to contribute to the gene pool. I know if I had one who really didn't wish to have a human involved with the work (oh, I do have one of those), the dog wouldn't be useful to me as far as managing my stock and therefore it's genetics would go no further. Just a slightly different view on the "innate desire to please" thing.

 

J.

 

I've actually thought about this quite a bit (before this thread came up), and I think border collies are different. But I think it's oversimplifying to say they want to please people. I think when they were bred to work with people, that they were bred to be able to take direction without much arguing and to try to figure out what people want to accomplish (in terms of stockwork) via careful selection. The dogs who understood what the rancher/farmer wanted were more useful, and thus were granted more access to sheep, where their instinct was further refined with training, and so on. And these dogs were the ones who were bred. I think this idea of trying to figure out what the handler wants is thus part of the genetic makup of border collies and so generalizes to other aspects of life. Julie, this might be exactly what you are saying; I think we agree, but I don't know that I'd label it as a mere "desire to please." I believe dogs do what works for them—for border collies (as they have evolved in general), what works is the complex behaviors that have granted them access to more sheep. Another example of how the companion/sport border collie now just benefits from those superior genetics selected for with stockwork in mind :rolleyes:

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Talking about wanting to please.

 

I have an ACD and she just loves to be with me and to please me. She has been a dream to train in agility absolutely tuned to my body language and will compensate for poor handling on the course as she seems to sense where we are going next. She will completely ignore anyone else except me regardless of yummy treats. She has been like this from the time I picked her up as a pup. The most velcro of velcro dogs.

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I believe some dogs have a stronger desire than others to not be "in trouble," because the've learned that happy owner/handler = more of the things they want in life (whether this is pats, treats, games, tugging, or even simply nonconflict/nontension).

 

I wonder why you are so unwilling to accept the "desire to please" characterization, and struggle so for a more impoverished explanation. Dogs are social animals, therefore they like being in harmony with those around them (to avoid use of the dreaded term "pack"), therefore they have a desire to do that which will enhance that accord. People are generally the same way -- they like to do things which are pleasing to others and increase the harmony around them. I think Julie's right that this characteristic has been enhanced in border collies by selective breeding. But the result is dogs who (with some exceptions, of course) simply have an innate desire to please.

 

If I put it that way, so the dog is "getting something" -- displaying a complex of behaviors that "works for them" -- does that make the observable characteristic sufficiently in accord with behavioral theory to make it more palatable?

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I believe Jean thinks that pack order is more fluid than we may have initially believed; that one dog may be dominant over another in one area (e.g., resource guarder) but not another (e.g., doorway entrance order) and vice versa. So it's not that there is no pack order, but that it's a bit more fuzzy and complex than once believed.

 

That's my take on this too. For one thing, few modern dogs live in true packs--most are singletons or part of a pair (two recent surveys I know about have U.S. dog-owning households with a median of 2 dogs--kind of like number of kids, in a scary way). Though pairs are certainly a pack of sorts, I think it's a lot harder to see the fluid dynamics with an N of 2.

 

I also don't think that dogs see their human companions as part of the dog pack--I suspect (but have no proof) that they know that we aren't dogs just as we know they aren't kids. They accept that we have a place in their social worlds obviously (ETA: and likely enjoy that we are part of their world) and that we typically hold the keys to the cookies, but I think another myth floating around is the one about humans being "alphas"--We have some important responsibilities as dog owners, for sure, but I don't think trying to emulate dog social behavior as part of a pack is one that we're likely to be particularly good at. That's one of the things I like about folks like Jean Donalson, Pat Miller, Ian Dunbar and Patricia McConnell--and even Jon Katz, with whom I disagree on most things--they all make it pretty clear that it's important to remember that dogs are dogs and humans are humans.

 

I think that's also one of the hallmarks of great dog trainers in a variety of contexts (livestock work and agility being the two where I've noticed it most), and one of the things that makes dog training potentially so difficult.

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Well, I'll be the oddball out here (nothing new there....). I've taught 2 of my 3 dogs (not a bad record, huh?) that they only get to go out the door WHEN I SAY SO. Nothing about dominance there - just more their safety. If they are on leash, who cares who goes first? But often they're not. So - sit, wait, OK. That's our routine and it works just fine! Again, at the risk of repeating myself....this has nothing to do with dominance - on their part or mine!

 

diane

 

Diane, I don't think you're the odd ball out here at all. You have taught your dogs something very important, which I wish a lot more people would do. That's not the same thing. Smart training as far as I am concerned :rolleyes: I teach my dogs boundary too at doorways that give them access to outside, including my vehicle. They don't go out unless given permission and by name.

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That's my take on this too. For one thing, few modern dogs live in true packs--most are singletons or part of a pair (two recent surveys I know about have U.S. dog-owning households with a median of 2 dogs--kind of like number of kids, in a scary way). Though pairs are certainly a pack of sorts, I think it's a lot harder to see the fluid dynamics with an N of 2.

 

It's really interesting when you get to observe a larger group of dogs that live together. My friend currently has 8 dogs and my four spend so much time with hers that basically we have a pack of 12. We have the dyanmics that happens between the females, the dynamics that happen between the males (the males dynamics are much more linear and set. For them rules are rules, for the females rules are merely suggestions :D ). Then there is the dynamics between the males and the females, which like any mixed relationship means the bitches make the rules, the males are supposed to follow them to the rules, BUT the bitches can change the rules at any time. Sound familiar girls? :rolleyes:

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It's really interesting when you get to observe a larger group of dogs that live together. My friend currently has 8 dogs and my four spend so much time with hers that basically we have a pack of 12. We have the dyanmics that happens between the females, the dynamics that happen between the males (the males dynamics are much more linear and set. For them rules are rules, for the females rules are merely suggestions :D ). Then there is the dynamics between the males and the females, which like any mixed relationship means the bitches make the rules, the males are supposed to follow them to the rules, BUT the bitches can change the rules at any time. Sound familiar girls? :rolleyes:

Yep, with 9 dogs here, that would be my experience as well.

 

j.

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I, personally, don't buy into the whole "pack" mentallity. Yes, even when CM touts it! LOL Dogs came from wolves, we know this. They can still breed together and produce viable (read-pups able to reproduce, unlike horseXdonkey)pups. However, we have bred them to the point of never growing up. Dogs with certain issues, due to bad wiring, abuse, etc., not withstanding, our dogs lick our faces like pups do, they get all wiggly and excited when we return, they will still play right up till they die, or become too ill to. And for the most part, want us to be happy with them. You seldom see this in wolf packs with adults. When adult wolves greet other adult wolves that are higher up than them, do it in an obvious submissive way. I am not their pack leader, I am their God! I am the greatest hunter in the world. I can make other dogs do stuff. (Skip is bugging Cheyenne, I can make him stop with just a word! WoW!) Like others have said, top dog around here depends a lot on what the issue for dominance is. I, on the other hand do not have that prob. When handing out treats, the order stays the same for that treat session only. The next time, it will be a different order. No one minds unless I mess the order up during the treat session, then there is worried looks, LOL but no mutiny! I don't let them go out the front door with out my ok, but inside, I just get the heck out of the way! Outside, they never go out the gate unless okayed by me. That's for their safety. I think that if you looked, you would find a dog, somewhere, that would make every one of those myths, a reality. I don't mean one dog, all the myths. I mean, one dog, #3 may really be true, another dog, #5 may be true, etc.. JMO, of course.

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Eileen, I just don't think it is that simple <shrug>. You don't have to put anything in quotes. Part of it is to avoid the blame that may be placed on the dog when he does act in his own self interest. "If dogs are supposed to be so eager to please people, why is my dog being so stubborn?" I think all animals (even people) basically act in their own self-interest. This is not to say they don't want to please others at times, for a variety of reasons, or that they will often not act in their own self-interest, but self-preservation is a strong basic instinct. It just puts a host of responsibility on one species to be expected to naturally consistently deny that instinct to acquiesce to the best interest of another species.

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Eileen, I just don't think it is that simple .

 

I don't think it's simple at all. I think it's very complex. One of the things that bothers me about Jean Donaldson and those of the same mind is their view that dogs are lemonbrains whose interactions with us are no more complex than giving A to get B (with B preferably being a treat or a toy).

 

You don't have to put anything in quotes.

 

I do if I want to make it clear I'm quoting you. :rolleyes:

 

Part of it is to avoid the blame that may be placed on the dog when he does act in his own self interest. "If dogs are supposed to be so eager to please people, why is my dog being so stubborn?"

 

That's a good motive. Although I believe it cuts the other way more. If people do think that dogs innately want to please their people, they may look for another explanation for why the dog isn't doing what they want than that the dog is out to get them or is a selfish shakedown artist. They may be more open to the idea that they haven't made it clear to the dog what they want, are sending mixed signals, etc.

 

I think all animals (even people) basically act in their own self-interest. This is not to say they don't want to please others at times, for a variety of reasons, or that they will often not act in their own self-interest, but self-preservation is a strong basic instinct.

 

Well, yeah. But I don't think self-preservation comes into most interactions of good dog owners with their dogs. And somehow if I said my sister wants to please me, I don't think you'd be so fast to contradict me and say she does not, she just behaves that way to get something out of you. Why is it so essential to deny the possibility of a desire to please in dogs?

 

It just puts a host of responsibility on one species to be expected to naturally consistently deny that instinct to acquiesce to the best interest of another species.

 

I'm not talking about the interest of another species -- I'm not saying dogs would go to India to give comfort to the wretched of humanity. And I'm not talking about the desire to please trumping self-preservation. I'm just talking about interactions between two beings who share a bond of familiarity and affection. Most pet dog owners have a desire to make their dogs happy, to "please" them. Good pet dog owners share this feeling with the clueless, permissive folks on CM's show -- they just utilize it more constructively. Is it so unthinkable that such a feeling could run the other way? I'm willing to concede a Darwinian explanation for it, as I tried to do in my last post. I'm just not willing to deny that it exists. Especially because if people don't believe it exists, they won't try to nourish it and build on it, and I think that's unfortunate.

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That's my take on this too. For one thing, few modern dogs live in true packs--most are singletons or part of a pair (two recent surveys I know about have U.S. dog-owning households with a median of 2 dogs--kind of like number of kids, in a scary way). Though pairs are certainly a pack of sorts, I think it's a lot harder to see the fluid dynamics with an N of 2.

Pretty much so - you need a big enough pot, if you want to watch the water boil. In Maryland growing up, feral packs were a more-or-less constant nuiscance. Living on the suburban/rural interface between a small town, farms, and extensive woods, there were plenty of opportunities for strays and runaways to form packs, and they did. Often, these packs predated on other dogs, as well as deer and other wildlife. I faced-down packs more than once when running with my dogs, and the key was always to intimidate the boldest dog. Make the boldest dog back down, and the rest went away with him (or her). If that's not pack behavior, then I've no idea what is.

 

In one specific case, a pack invaded our yard and went after my GSP, Ty. He backed into his doghouse and proceeded to kill everything that stuck its head in the door. My father heard and responded to the commotion, killing the survivors. Now, this is the important observation - this pack had been predating neighborhood dogs quite successfully. We know it was this pack, as after its elimination, pet disappearances in the area ceased. Also, fresh carcasses and remains of consumed cats and dogs ceased to be found. So - They came after Ty for a meal, yet after he'd killed four of the pack, they continued to attack him, rather than feast on the fallen. That tells me that the pack had an 'us' and a 'not us' concept.

 

Now, I'm not going to claim that these dogs were wolves or coyotes, or that they had solid, long-standing social structures, but in immediate confrontation, they behaved as a pack does - they hung together, followed the boldest, and they didn't turn on their own.

 

I also don't think that dogs see their human companions as part of the dog pack--I suspect (but have no proof) that they know that we aren't dogs just as we know they aren't kids. They accept that we have a place in their social worlds obviously (ETA: and likely enjoy that we are part of their world) and that we typically hold the keys to the cookies, but I think another myth floating around is the one about humans being "alphas"...

Agree here, too. I've never had much of an issue with dominance - I'm told that I come across as strongly dominant, and I suppose that dogs take me as such, but I've never really felt a need to be the 'alpha dog.' I am myself, and I expect the dogs to behave, and by-and-large, they do (albeit with some training!). I love dogs immensely, and they ARE family members, but they're not furry people, nor am I a hairless dog. Dog is dog, and human is human, and that's pretty much it.

 

@Dixie_Girl:

Wolves in the wild also do the 'mob, greet, and lick' thing. Face licking in the wild is a form of greeting from subordinate to superior. Dogs jump up on us because they need to in order to reach our faces. Yes, it's puppy behavior, but it's also adult-submissive behavior too. Not that you're wrong about dogs being kept in a perpetual state of 'arrested development' as compared to their wild counterparts, but don't mistake the behavior as being purely adolecent.

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Yep, with 9 dogs here, that would be my experience as well.

 

j.

 

very similar to what we see as well. I have 14, and with my parents dogs in the mix there are 24. Pack order is there, but fluid and shifting - particularily among the females. Some things we must control because straight "pack control" could result in damage. It doesn't in the wild typically I know, but in the wild the unwanted can be driving away permanently. And despite what Lucy wants, Cora is not leaving, and Pepe the poodle will not be allowed to have his way with any girl in the group :rolleyes: :D :D

 

Desire to please is in more of the herding breeds, especially this breed, than the scientists want to admit. While quite a few of our dogs were purchases, quite a few were born and raised here. From the beginning it is very apparerent who wants to "play well with others" regarding the humans in its life. Some dogs are more than others in this regard obviously, but a dog that had *none* I would daresay I wouldn't be interested in living with, and definately not working with or breeding!

 

Regarding Jean Donaldson. You guys do realize that she has *never* lived successfully with a Border Collie, and refers to her past ones as neurotic and problematic? Thatt she bases her idea of neurosis and aggression on breeds like the BC and the ACD.... Not to mention that recently she went as far as to state during her opening speech at APDT, jokingly of course (haha.. :D ) that it wasn't the bully breeds that needed rules and removal from society but the herding and lgd dogs. That those were the real problem dogs...

 

That is the person you are letting define "myths" about dogs, about our dogs.

 

Some are indeed myths I agree. But some are generalities that don't do real dogs and real owners any favors.

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With any "expert's" ideas, I look for the nuggets:

 

I find her "lemon brain" is a very useful analogy as it conveys how limited dogs' brains are compared to ours and that it's a mistake to ascribe the more comlpex human behavior and motivation to dogs'. I think Jean's point is exactly about providing information that is clear to the dog--within the dog's capacity to get it. . I also find that she writes about conditioning with great clarity--and that can be helpful to a lot of novice trainers / owners.

 

"Praise" could be seen as a positive reinforcer (fun, excitement, security, bondedness, "watch--my human will now say "X" in a "Y" voice; whatever) and that is also supported by the "lemon brain" analogy. Time on stock could just be a very, very big toy. Time with their human could equate to pleasure as they are social and emotional creatures. Does my dog pee in spot A to please me? Not if my happiness is an intensely private affair. To see / hear me exude some pleasant noises, et al? Probably--and IF some behavior shaping is involved.

 

Dogs also learn quickly how to avoid pain--so the motivation to "please you" could be pain avoidance.

 

BC's are described as very "biddable"...but retrievers were also bred to be very "biddable" if we mean "do what we want"--just that they are bred for a different set of behaviors. I'm still asking if "biddability" is a factor of higher reasoning capacity or a higher degree of social motivation.

 

About pack behavior: I can shape the behavior of my pack and the members in my pack. If i leave my pack to the wild--left to their own intincts and rules based on scarcity--desperation and wild instincts will take hold. Part of the gift I bring to the animals is a higher level of living. By proxy, they get to participate in a more complex, humane world. If I withdraw my involvement with them, they default back to animalistic behavior largely driven by scarcity, characterized by desperation (i must get mine--and I'll eat you if necessary).

 

Yeah, I've suspected that Jean's ideas are strongly influenced by her own breed of choice (Chow) but interestingly enough, the conditioning framework appears to work even better (faster) with bc's, so her bias may be a mute point in this case.

 

So, again--the nuggets.

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However, we have bred them to the point of never growing up.

The fancy name for that is Neoteny and I'm not sure how much is due to deliberate breeding and how much is due to the gradual changes that brought proto-dogs and humans together in the first place. But yes, that makes us part leader part parent.

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very similar to what we see as well. I have 14, and with my parents dogs in the mix there are 24. Pack order is there, but fluid and shifting - particularily among the females.
Interesting. At the Rescue, there a bit more than a half-dozen dogs that have not yet been fostered, but are safe to allow into the play yard with other dogs. It's interesting to watch how the interactions change depending on who's out. Tru Blue (male) or Molly (female), when out without the other, run things. Period. When those two are out at the same time, though, they butt heads, though not in a dangerous fashion - each is trying to dominate the other, and neither giving ground, yet neither willing to fight outright over it - it's been sparring only. In that group, as it currently exists, there's no doubt that none of the other dogs is willing to face down Blue or Molly - It's a stable pack relationship, excepting the jostling between Blue and Molly.

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Interesting. At the Rescue, there a bit more than a half-dozen dogs that have not yet been fostered, but are safe to allow into the play yard with other dogs. It's interesting to watch how the interactions change depending on who's out. Tru Blue (male) or Molly (female), when out without the other, run things. Period. When those two are out at the same time, though, they butt heads, though not in a dangerous fashion - each is trying to dominate the other, and neither giving ground, yet neither willing to fight outright over it - it's been sparring only. In that group, as it currently exists, there's no doubt that none of the other dogs is willing to face down Blue or Molly - It's a stable pack relationship, excepting the jostling between Blue and Molly.

 

I think once the pack numbers go above 6, at least somewhere between 8-12, the relationships become more fluid except for diehard enemies and in some cases chosen lifetime mates (rare, but not unknown). I suspect, but it's not provable, that if allowed at this point, the pack would split up into smaller packs that would be more effective at foraging and traveling.

 

Allowing "sparring" in the manner you describe would be inadvisable with a large pack of dogs that you wanted to keep in a more domesticated :rolleyes: mood.

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From week to week, the number varies between 6 and 9. There are a more dogs, some in foster, and some that have to be let out to exercise alone, but that's the usual number that are safe to allow out together.

 

And no, the pair of them are never left unsupervised when out together. We have absolutely no desire to be patching up the dogs. In fact, the Boss watches them like a hawk. Blue was originally listed as 'male aggressive' and though we've never seen any real aggression, she's watching him closely. Instead, what we've found is that he's a normal, though dominant, dog. Molly, well, she's the same - normal, but dominant.

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4) Dogs have an innate desire to please. This concept has never been operationally defined, let alone tested. A vast preponderance of evidence, however, suggests that dogs, like all properly functioning animals, are motivated by food, water, sex, and like many animals, by play and access to bonded relationships, especially after an absence. They’re also, like all animals, motivated by fear and pain, and these are the inevitable tools of those who eschew the use of food, play, etc., however much they cloak their coercion and collar-tightening in desire to please rhetoric.

 

Whoa.

 

Talk about myths.

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Whoa.

 

Whoa is right on....

 

This stuff is from a women who can't handle a normal BC, and prefers Chows.

 

Throw a little of her nastiness on top, and you've got one arrogent animal rights sundae in a California package.

 

Isn't it amazing how reading all the extra print changes your opinion about what a person has too offer....

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So, I'm not exactly a Donaldson groupie (not a groupie of anyone), but i'm pretty sure she would define "work" or "time on stock" as play. It is a collosal reward in my understanding. Or for that matter "time with person" -- a huge reward. My guess is that her statement is most likely directed at the other training schools--you know, pinch the ear or hang the dog to teach them to not to jump up, or try to "beat" the leash, et al. She does have a penchant for overstatement, er hyperbole.

 

"this concept has never been operationally defined" is a valid point, if you're looking at any kind of operant conditioning (which an awful lot--if not all--of the training described on this board is).

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So, I'm not exactly a Donaldson groupie (not a groupie of anyone), but i'm pretty sure she would define "work" or "time on stock" as play. It is a collosal reward in my understanding. Or for that matter "time with person" -- a huge reward.

 

Sorry, good effort, but I can't buy that because it's just not what she says. And before anyone says that when you're training stockwork you give them the sheep as a reward, just like food or play -- an oversimplification at best -- consider that stockdog trainers also train ordinary good behavior, and they sure as hell don't use "time on stock" or "time with person" as a positive reinforcer for that training. Watch Derek Scrimgeour on his video training a dog to come to his hand when he says "here" and to come around to his side when he says "That'll do." He's not using food, he's not using toys, he's not using play, he's not using time on stock, he's not using time with person. He's not using fear or pain. He just shows the dog what he wants and shows that he is pleased when the dog does it.

 

That statement of hers is indefensible. I've wondered why KC types often remark that sheepdog trainers are cruel or brutal, when they admit, if pressed, that they have never had any firsthand knowledge of sheepdog training. They've just heard it, and now I know who they've heard it from -- "experts" who also have no firsthand knowledge of sheepdog training, but know that it's "inevitably" (i.e., unavoidably, without exception, in all cases) done through fear and pain, since it's not done through treats and toys, and they know from learning theory that those are the only alternatives.

 

"this concept has never been operationally defined" is a valid point, if you're looking at any kind of operant conditioning (which an awful lot--if not all--of the training described on this board is).

 

A lot of evidence of it has been seen by a lot of people, but they're only people who are open to believing what they see, not people who have been convinced that what they are seeing couldn't be true because it contradicts Skinnerian theory.

 

I should also point out that this "myth" does not meet her stated criteria for myths, "which are:

a ) there is no (zero) scientific evidence supporting the contention;

b ) there is scientific evidence against the contention and/or scientific evidence supporting alternatives."

She may be right about ( a ), but as regards ( b ) she gives no scientific evidence against the contention, nor are the motivations she lists alternatives, in the sense that they are mutually exclusive or inconsistent with a desire to please. The fact that dogs are motivated by food, water, sex, play, access to bonded relationships, fear and pain, is no evidence that they are not also motivated by a desire to please (just as the fact that they are motivated by food, water, sex, fear and pain, would be no evidence that they are not also motivated by play).

 

She does have a penchant for overstatement, er hyperbole.

 

How scientific.

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1. Dogs are naturally pack animals with a clear social order.

 

I wish I could remember the book but there was a study on this - I have it burried somewhere and Ill try and find it. The study included a group of dogs left untampered with in a massive confined area to study development of a pack order in modern dogs (mutt and pure bred). Not so stunningly, it reverted to pack behavior just like wolves. Less defined than currently thought?....probably. The depth of pack order is probably as deep as the ocean.

 

2. If you let dogs exit doorways ahead of you, you're letting them be dominant.

 

I agree with this one to a point. I believe that it all depends on the dog. My last Border always went out ahead of me and was ALWAYS submissive with me. However, I think some dogs are just pushy and this could easily be another dimension of that.

 

3. In multi-dog households, "support the hierarchy" by giving presumend dominant animals patting, treats, etc. first, before giving the same attention to presumed subordinate animals.

 

I dont agree with this one because I do support the pack hierarchy - Im at the top and dictate who gets the treats by the subordinant (dogs) doing what I want. I guess I may look at that one differently

 

4. Dogs hav an innate desire to please.

 

Again, depends on the dog so I guess I support this one. I think MANY have this desire but not all. Its not all entirely unmotivated by self. My last Border wished to please me at all times as far as I can remember but who doesnt wish to please that one person who is the world to you? I think the desire is there for so many but self-interest is a powerful thing as well

 

5. Rewards are bribes and thus compromise relationships

 

Yeah, thats a myth through and through.

 

6. If you pat your dog when he's afraid, you're rewarding the fear.

 

This is myth too. As said previously, it could be both ways depending on how its done. I could hold your hand and go through it with you without rewarding your fears. In turn, depending on the angle one could do it properly.

 

7. Punish dogs for growling or else they'll become aggressive.

 

Myth! My Border was the sweetest dog on the planet to everyone except those I didnt trust. He growled at a person who was verbally threatening to attack me once but was sweet as pie to the next stranger. Aggression is aggression and it has its place.

 

8. Playing tug makes dogs aggressive.

 

Again I think it depends on the dog and the way its presented to that dog.

 

9 If you give dogs chew toys, they'll learn to chew everything.

 

Bunk! If you dont give your dogs chew toys they will chew everything!

 

10. You can't modify "genetic" behaviour.

 

Modify?...yes. Change?...No. A Border is going to herd and you can change that behavior but you cant change the desire and at some point it may fail. Same with Pits. You can raise them to be submissive but at some point they may react aggressively. They were bred to fight just like Borders to herd and that behavior will surface no matter what you do.

 

I just dont believe in black and white on most of these. The areas are to grey and absolutes dont sit well with me when it comes to dogs. They are living breathing creatures that make choices and you cant pigeon-hole something that wonderful.

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I find her "lemon brain" is a very useful analogy as it conveys how limited dogs' brains are to ours and that it's a mistake to ascribe the more comlpex human behavior and motivation to dogs'.

 

 

Yet, she often does that. I recently attended a 2 day seminar given by her. I was very disappointed. I thought her training demo was pretty good and I learned some new techniques that I have tried. I didn't agree with all of them, but I did find some I could incorporate.

 

But once she left the field of pure, hands-on training of the basics and the mechanics of it, it went down hill. She doesn't have a good grasp of behavior, IMO.

 

She showed a training video where she works with a dog (Dog A) that was dog-reactive to unknown dogs. The two people walk dog A and dog B toward each other, which the eventual goal of being able to walk by each other. (I wouldn't personally set it up this way, but nevertheless, this is the scenario). If Dog A doesn't react, he gets a high value treat. If Dog A does react, he gets put away in a crate for a while, and watches while Dog B gets the treats he would have gotten had he not reacted. Her explanation was that Dog A really wants the treats, even more so when he sees that his actions caused Dog B to get them instead. That this works because eventually the dogs can walk past each other. I found this reasoning a bit flawed and pointed out that the scenario may be working simply because in the hour or so that it took to get to the point of being able to walk past the other dog, Dog B became a familiar site and not as likely to cause a reaction in Dog A. Also, that the assumption of the jealousy of Dog A and his understanding of the cause and effect relationship to his actions seemed to be ascribing to the Theory of Mind scenario that she had eschewed the previous day. She responded that she was a scientist and was trained to look at things from a scientific perspective. (I got the feeling that I was being patted on the head and told this was over my head.) I responded that I was a trained scientist myself and would be interested in hearing what she was basing her conclusions on. That caught her off-balance a bit, but she just changed the topic and never did answer my question (nor call on me again).

 

 

 

I certainly wouldn't spend the money to see her again. While she can be an engaging speaker, more times than not I found her insulting and abrasive. She would often respond to questions from the audience in an insulting manner; either calling the question, the audience member or people of that mindset "stupid". And she isn't confident enough in her own skills or ideas, to accept the possibility that people might disagree with her - hardly behaving in a professional manner, IMO.

 

She would go on about people not being smart enough to ask the right questions, that they will always assume an intent to dogs behavior instead of describing the physical actions of the dog (which is a valid point, yet she does it herself) but then she would assume an implied intent to a question that an audience member asked. Usually, she would not be correct in her assumption (at least based on my understanding of what the person was asking) and would then go off and expound on what should have been asked, etc. The few times she got herself into a bind, she would fall back on "well, I'm a scientist so I have been trained to look at things differently" which quite frankly, made me cringe. This woman showed no evidence that she understood even the basics of the scientific method or the importance of questions or healthy skepticism in the pursuit of science.

 

My guess is that her statement is most likely directed at the other training schools--you know, pinch the ear or hang the dog to teach them to not to jump up, or try to "beat" the leash, et al.

 

I agree, that is who she means when she says that. Unfortunately, she is very clear - or at least she was in the seminar I attended when I asked for clarification - that she believes all stock people use harsh adversives in training. She said they "might not do it in front of you, but they use them". Wow. Talk about making assumptions.

 

 

 

The difference between her and Patricia McConnell is staggering. From what I've seen of McConnell, she is a true professional and conducts herself well. She cites other people's work, she takes pains to say whether she is giving an explanation of a theory, or giving her own opinion.

 

Whereas, Donaldson seemed to think we should consider her opinion with the same weight as tested theories.

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The difference between her and Patricia McConnell is staggering. From what I've seen of McConnell, she is a true professional and conducts herself well. She cites other people's work, she takes pains to say whether she is giving an explanation of a theory, or giving her own opinion.

 

The difference is that McConnell loves dogs, work dogs, and lives with dogs.

 

Donaldson just lifehosts a lemon brain.

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