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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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keyboard_coffee2This week The Beast Without website and blog will have been public for three months. It has been an interesting experience, and now seems as good a time as any for a brief pause to reflect; an intermission of sorts. For such a young site, we already receive a surprising amount of traffic – especially from ‘regular users’ – and that’s very gratifying. So may I offer a very big and sincere thank you to all you repeat visitors, and I hope I can maintain your interest going forward.

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Some people reading this will have come back to this site having used it previously to locate information about the Cape Animal Behaviour Centre, or are people that know us, but hopefully it will soon begin to also include many who are coming here for the first time and are doing so specifically because they are interested in what we are now doing. The Animal Rehabilitation Initiative (ARI) was where most of us involved in the CABC started on this journey, and is in many ways our first and abiding love.

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