It’s been a great 2011 for Canine Nation and I thank all my readers (and listeners) for their support and comments over the past 12 months. Here’s wishing you all a successful and joy filled 2012 with your dogs!
As 2011 draws to a close, I find myself looking back at a great year here at Life As A Human. There were many terrific comments and conversations that have come out of my Canine Nation articles. It’s been my pleasure and privilege share some thoughts with so many of you and to meet you through the comments you have shared here, on our Canine Nation group on Facebook, and through Twitter and emails as well.
I thought it might be fun to finish off 2011 with a few thoughts on some odds and ends from Canine Nation this year. So here, in no particular order or priority, are some random thoughts on some topics from the year just past.
At the encouragement of a few of my readers, we started producing our own Canine Nation podcast in July of 2011. The concept is simple, the podcast allows listeners to take my Life As A Human articles on the road with them. I read the articles in my own radio-ready voice (or so I have been told) and each podcast presents one article written for Life As A Human. The response has been great!
We started with an average of 400-500 downloads per month and that is now up to an average of over 800 downloads per month. So now you can read my articles here or take them on your walks or in the car and let me read them to you. They are available at the Canine Nation Podcast website or from the iTunes store. You can find a link to the podcast website at the bottom of all my articles here. We have some plans to expand the podcast but I will let you know more about that in the new year.
May I Be Blunt?
One of the more surprising responses I received was to my article Blunt Force Trauma – Canine Reality. It was an article that was really written out of my frustration at some recent discussions I had read on various blogs. It has always amazed me that people could claim that dogs could dominate humans considering that we provide the food, water, and shelter for them. It all came out in one rush of thoughts and I wasn’t sure what the response would be. I truly expected this article to stir some controversy but I was pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming positive response from my readers. The article got nearly 1000 reads on the first day it was published and has generated lively discussion on several blogs and Facebook pages. I am incredibly honored that this article has been linked and referenced on several websites around the Internet. It is nice to know that my frustrations and conclusions are shared by so many and that can only mean that things will get better for dogs.
Balance Is Good
One of the big surprises from the podcast world has been the popularity of my article A Balanced Dog: Coping Skills and Stress Management. It is one of those the most consistently downloaded of the podcasts I have posted so far. Comments and conversations on both Facebook and some of the blogs out there has been very encouraging. My own use of Mark and Reward training has taught me to be a keen observer of my dogs and so seeing signs of frustration and stress in them (and most dogs) is not that difficult for me to identify. Many readers commented that they have not even considered stress management for their dogs and likely do not read the canine body language that goes with it very well at all. I am glad that this article and podcast has resonated with so many and hopefully it has encouraged readers to become more familiar with signs of stress in their dogs.
Talking The Dog Talk
Some of the most lively discussions we have had in the Canine Nation discussion group on Facebook have been around the various terminology we use when we talk about dogs and training. You would think that terms like correction or leadership would have fairly common definitions among dog people by now. The truth is there is still a great variety in how we interpret and define many terms about dogs and dog training.
Several of my articles over the past year have dealt with common terms or phrases that can sometimes trip us up in either our own training or in talking with others about dog related topics. I love the fact that behavioural science has provided us with a well-defined and precise set of terms to describe our training work and behaviour but most people are not even aware of behavioural science or that the terminology exists. And so, I will continue to wrestle with language issues as we move into 2012 and hopefully we can find a way to avoid misunderstandings with both people and dogs in the new year.
Wisdom From Brats
Having our younger dog Rizzo has provided a fabulous source for a few articles here as he has grown up. One important aspect of having a puppy in the house this year is that I had the opportunity to share with my readers some of our experiences in raising him. I was delighted by all of the wonderful comments from our friends in the Belgian Shepherd community who all seemed to relate to the trials and tribulations of raising our boy and also those who have raised other breeds who saw so much familiarity in our challenges. Several readers expressed a certain amount of relief in hearing that others were dealing with the same things they were and that there was a light at the end of the puppy-hood tunnel. Rizzo will turn 2 years old in just a few months and he has turned into a very handsome and mostly well behaved dog. I look forward to sharing more about him with you in the new year.
Will Not Work For Food
My last article on why some dogs “won’t work for food” received some interesting comments and I wanted to add to that discussion before any more time had passed. Several readers commented that stress, fear, arousal, or distraction might be sufficiently overwhelming so that a dog might not take treats during training. These comments surprised me and I think that was my own fault for not providing enough background in the article. I was trying to discuss deliberate training situations and not just any occasion in which one might try to offer food to their dog.
When actively training our dogs, I think these other conditions my readers mentioned should be taken care of before trying to train. Things such as ensuring that you are training in a safe environment that is within your dog’s distraction or arousal tolerance or making sure the dog is not over stimulated and willing to focus should be basic to training. This article assumed that these other conditions had been set up for the dog and there would be no reason for fear, stress, or arousal reactions when presenting the food.
So I acknowledge that many of those comments about dogs that are over their tolerance threshold for fear, stress, distraction, or arousal are correct and that dogs in those situations will not be interested in taking food. That said, I think it is important that we set our dogs up for success and choose our training opportunities with care. In fact, trying to present food to your dog under those adverse conditions might create the negative Classical Conditioning I refer to in the article. If your dog would not take treats in a given situation, trying to engage them in training at this point might not be the best idea.
Back To The Future
The new year will hold lots of interesting things for all of us. We have some interesting plans for expanding our Canine Nation family and reach. We will continue to invite readers to join us over at our Facebook Canine Nation discussion group to continue our conversation on various dog related topics and there is the possibility of adding a discussion forum to the Canine Nation Podcast website as well. Another project we are looking into is making all of my Canine Nation articles here on Life As A Human available in the form of ebooks with some expanded content. I would be most interested in your suggestions and feedback on the ebook idea and hopefully we can get something going before summer.
In fact, I would welcome any comments or suggestions for article ideas, feedback on how to improve the articles or podcasts, or just about anything you might have to share. I would also welcome any questions or requests for more information on anything I write here and I’ll do my best to get back to you with the best answer I can manage.
Please leave your comments and suggestions here at the end of my articles. You can reach me on email at eric.ctdogs on the gmail.com servers.
You can find the Canine Nation podcast website here or subscribe on iTunes. Comments can be left at the podcast website as well.
The Canine Nation Discussion group on Facebook can be found here – just click to ask for membership and join us.
For now, thanks so much for reading and supporting Canine Nation and Life As A Human. Spread the word and 2012 will be an even bigger and better year for all of us and our dogs!
Happy New Year to everyone and most importantly – Have Fun With Your Dogs!
Photo credits -
Dominated? – Elvissa 2007 from Flickr
White dog – klynslis 2007 from Flickr
Protest – 2008 McPig (modified – sign added)
Tiramisu & Rizzo photos – Petra Wingate 2010-2011