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Currently viewing the tag: "aggression"

'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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'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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'Dog Whisperer...' photo (c) 2010, Adriana Gutierrez Varela - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/‘Dog Whispering’ is largely a media contrivance. It alludes to the “Whisperer” moniker made famous by Monty Roberts in his work with horses, and directly appropriates the title of Paul Owens’ 1999 book “The Dog Whisperer” – a very different kettle of fish entirely, promoting as it did an entirely positive reinforcement approach to training dogs.

The entire television package is carefully crafted – its shrewd juxtaposition of a telegenic matinee idol over an overtly macho rendering of how to interpret and alter undesirable dog behaviour – and it has proved to be a winning formula. Add a little New Age mysticism, and some rehashed ‘energy theory’, and it’s a marketer’s dream. The end-product is a bizarre concoction of fact and fantasy – sort of Marlboro Man meets Dr Doolittle meets Deepak Chopra – and from the moment the programme first aired, it seemed to fire the popular imagination.

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'KIKU dog beach 2' photo (c) 2009, D. Lee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Accidents do happen.. or so they say. And I guess it’s true (rhetorically, in any case), that any dog can bite under some specific set of circumstances. But when the dog that bites is owned and supposedly under the control of a controversial and opinionated young ‘dog rehabilitator/shaman/psychologist/whisperer’ with no recognizable roots in the local dog world, and no apparent industry-specific qualifications in a field already compromised by its lack of official regulation, it quickly becomes controversial.. and newsworthy. And when this sort of thing has happened twice to the same self-promoting individual, in different places and at different times, with each event posing serious questions about the human judgment in play, it just screams out for an investigation into the circumstances that led to this, and of the bona-fides of the individual implicated.

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