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Posts by: Mike
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In this recent TED talk, top primatologist Frans de Waal discusses his early years and the disquiet he felt at the prevailing obsession with aggression and dominance in defining primate social behaviour. Social interactions within many species, but particularly primates, is in reality a complex mosiac of different dynamics, most of which have nothing to do with competitiveness and dominance. Perhaps this provides some evolutionary signposts as to the origin of moral behaviour in humans?

'I'm the boss!' photo (c) 2011, Ellie Attebery - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/“In fact, the rigid hierarchical organization researchers have ascribed to nearly all animal packs and troops over the past fifty years is based less on animal behavior than on an unconscious desire to find in nature a correlative to our hierarchical structures, be they business, the military, or the ‘traditional’ family with Dad on top.”

Mark Derr, Dog’s Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship (2004)


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'Barbed' photo (c) 2005, Olaf Gradin - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This month has been a difficult one for me, and it’s meant that I haven’t been able to publish my usual two posts. But rather than not publishing anything this month, I thought I’d provide a short but hopefully interesting post about the remarkable structure and behaviour of the domestic cat’s tongue – this is a must for all cat lovers who haven’t spent too much time reading up on their physiology, or anyone who’s ever wondered why cat’s licks can feel so rough on human skin.

The best part about discovering unusual and remarkable new things about animals we otherwise think we know so well is that it allows us to see them in a totally different light.. even if only for a while. I hope you enjoy these pictures, links and videos:

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'Day 175: Out o7 Order' photo (c) 2009, Lindsey Turner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/This 29th Feb posting will be limited to a brief statement regarding a very disconcerting recent development in the local ‘Dog Whisperer’ story. So it relates to the previous series, and unfortunately breaks my resolve to avoid any direct and personal commentary on either the details surrounding these incidents, or about the individual at the centre of them. However this does demand some response from someone in the business.

But let me first provide some context. Ever since the incident on Clifton beach on January 11th and the flood of negative publicity that accompanied it, James Lech has continuously claimed that the reportage has been fundamentally inaccurate, and that this misrepresentation has unfairly damaged his reputation. The proof of this, we have been told time and time again, will be made abundantly clear in a ‘report’ he keeps promising to compile, author and publish on his blog. However, this keeps getting postponed for reasons best known to him alone.

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'Don’t Touch my Cookie' photo (c) 2005, Jan Tik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/In the final post in this series (delayed I know), I’ll offer some thoughts on just one or two of the issues that most concern me about how some trainers and behaviour professionals approach “aggression” cases in dogs. This I’ll contrast with more established and informed methods of B-Mod (behaviour modification), as well as some of the advantages of more recent advances, incorporating an assessment of emotion and mood and its relationship to behaviour. I do this for a simple reason – since I first started working in this field I have been consistently alarmed at just how many ‘trainers’, ‘consultants’ and ‘behaviourists’ continue to ply a very lucrative trade based on claims of knowledge and expertise, or near-miraculous instinctive skills, they appear not to possess.

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