Sunday, April 11, 2010

The real problem is you. Again.

A while back, the What Kind of Dog Hunts crazy woman triumphantly "proved" that Cesar is evil. Thusly.

On one episode, Cesar dealt with a dog who would lash out when you try to groom him. Insert video of Cesar restraining the dog while continuing his calm assertive conversation with someone off-camera. Cesar then proceeds to solve the problem without using candy. The horror!

Meanwhile, another TV trainer whose name hasn't registered on my higher consciousness dealt with a dog who would lash out when you try to groom him. This candy-based trainer restrained the dog repeatedly, then took it to a groomer who had the same problem and did the same thing: restrained the dog. Thus obviously, Cesar is evil. Then, the candy trainer solved the problem with candy, thus "proving" that candy works? Because apparently the concept of positive reinforcement needs proving?

More importantly, and I've said it before, positive reinforcement is one of four behaviour modifications techniques, thusly:

I do something or give somethingI stop doing something or remove something
to make you do something more oftenPositive reinforcementNegative reinforcement
to make you do something less oftenPunishmentExtinction

Refer to this post if you need a clue. No one is claiming that positive reinforcement doesn't work, so you needn't waste your puny faculties proving it. But outside your little dream world of rainbow unicorns, there are still three equally effective mechanisms of behaviour modification, and you need all four of them. If you think you're using "only positive reinforcement", either you're not identifying the other three mechanisms, or you're not getting results.

Don't believe me? Let's look at the next time the candy trainer turned up on What Kind of Dog Hunts's blog. This time, the candy trainer had to deal with an aggressive dog. Candy didn't work, so she had the dog put down.



So your favourite trainer has a dog put down that someone like, say, Cesar could have taken on, and you're still convinced that she's the bestest trainer ever and candy is the end-all and be-all of dog training? You're a fool. But we knew that already.

Meanwhile, on another blog, another anti-Cesar guy watched an episode where Cesar wore out an aggressive dog over the course of three hours. Three hours. Cesar triggered the dog, the dog attacked Cesar, Cesar controlled the dog. Then they did it again. And again and again and again. After three hours, the dog was too exhausted to fight anymore... and it was still alive. And no candy was harmed in the making of this episode.

So let's see. Cesar's way: live dog with a solution. Candy trainer's way: dead dog.


Yeah: shows how smart you are.

What you're not getting here, in your little Care Bear world, is that Cesar works with aggressive dogs. "Aggressive" doesn't mean cutting in line or backstabbing at the office or whatever will get your silly little feelings hurt. Aggressive means a creature who attacks. Man, dog or horse, it's all the same. They attack, and they keep attacking.

One time I had an abusive boyfriend who yelled at me for 35 hours straight. Threats, insults, whatever. That is aggressive. Why didn't he also assault me physically? Because he knew he wouldn't get away with it; I'd have put him in jail for sure. Aggressive people, or dogs, attack when they're sure to win, not when they're sure to lose. Then one day the police had to come get him out of the house during a domestic. He attacked them, one against two cops, and laid a beating on them. One cop was injured. My ex was injured. I have PTSD. The cop also ranks it one of his nastiest experiences yet in law enforcement. They charged him with resisting arrest, he pleaded, and the judge was so incensed over the violence of his behaviour, he got 30 days with no priors. Because everyone could see the obvious: he's aggressive, and he's dangerous.

The great thing about it though, is that after that I never even had to raise my voice with him again. If he got fighty, I could say "don't you even start", and he'd leave the house and take his temper somewhere else.

What does that have to do with dogs? Because an aggressive dog, like an aggressive man, needs putting in his place. He needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he starts a fight, he's gonna lose. Bullying is a self-rewarding behaviour, they do it because they enjoy it. Therefore they don't do it if they know it's gonna get non-enjoyable. That's what the cops taught my ex, and that's what Cesar teaches aggressive dogs.

Can you teach the same thing with candy? Absolutely not. Try being nice to an abusive boyfriend and see where that gets you. The more you give them, the more you make them happy, the more they're enjoying themselves. And the more they're going to bully you. The more candy you give them, the more they're gonna expect candy from you, but that doesn't do anything to remove the rewards of bullying. Now the dog has two ways to get happy: manipulate you to get candy, or bully you just for fun. Yay you!

Candy works. Candy works on dogs who don't like brushing or who don't sit-stay too good. And winning a fight works on aggressive dogs. What Cesar does takes a lot of work and a lot of skill to be able to win those fights with minimum injury to himself or the dog. Granted it doesn't soothe your little Care Bear psyche with candy and rainbows, but you're not actually important in this question, because you don't even understanding the word "aggressive."

Other people have pointed out that Cesar gets bitten and what he does is dangerous and therefore he's wrong. Again, that's only true if reality is irrelevant to you. Yes, Cesar gets bitten. Yes, what he does is dangerous. And either he does it, or you can get the candy trainer to come put your dog down. And you know what, cops do dangerous work and get injured, and that doesn't mean we'd be better off to get rid of cops and just give criminals a lot of candy.

One more thing. One blogger said that at his or her house, they don't do Cesar, because they "don't need alpha rolls" with their dogs. Really? Well you know what, I bet Cesar would totally agree that you don't need alpha rolls. First of all because he doesn't even do them himself, and second because your dogs aren't aggressive and they don't need an aggression abatement program. When your dogs turn aggressive, you'll know the difference. So no, you don't need Cesar's top skills. But as far as not doing Cesar's way, you're wrong. Because I read your blog and you're fairly calm and assertive, and that is what Cesar is trying to teach you. Cesar never told you to go mano a mano with an aggressive dog. What he said for you to do is be calm-assertive, and walk your dog.

So again to summarize: Cesar works with aggressive dogs. Aggressive dogs can't be fixed with candy. But what Cesar told you to do isn't to wrestle with your dog because it won't sit-stay; what Cesar said is for you to be calm-assertive and walk your dog. So the problem isn't with Cesar, it's with you having no clue what Cesar said. And therein is one of the cornerstones of cognitive therapy: people hear exactly what they want to hear, and then everything they say or do based on something they made up is warped.

Straighten out your cognitions, then you'll understand what Cesar is talking about.

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