Friday, November 23, 2007

Changing the Owner-Pet Relationship

Changing the Owner-Pet Relationship

Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB
Veterinary Behavior Consultations
St. Louis, Missouri
When an owner is having problems with their pet, there are both owner driven factors and pet driven factors that are contributory. Some animals with problem behaviors are normal but have learned that certain behaviors are tolerated and beneficial for them. Other animals may be abnormal and respond to owner interaction in a different manner than expected1. In some situations the owner is interacting with the pet in an inappropriate manner that although unintended may prolong, worsen, or facilitate the problem behavior. The pet on the other hand, is often unaware of what the owner considers proper behavior and therefore is choosing behaviors that it feels are the most appropriate responses. What commonly occurs is miscommunication between the owner and their pet. The owner is using a human form of communication, reasoning and language, something most pets do not understand in the same manner as intended by their owners. The pet however, is communicating in the manner most appropriate for its species, and therefore often misunderstood by the human. The first step in behavior therapy is changing the pet-owner relationship and creating clear rules and expectations. This must be done in a manner that is understood by the pet. The goal of changing how owners and their pets communicate is to create an environment where it is easier for the owner to control the pet and thus elicit good behavior. This step is most useful in treating behavior problems in companion dogs.

The Theory

The theory involved in changing the pet owner relationship is that cross species communication often results in misunderstandings and thus problem behaviors. Therefore, clearer communication is needed. Owners frequently misunderstand a dog's expectations in social communication and group living. Communication is a behavior that has a goal and a function. Communication is an action that takes place between a sender and a receiver. 2 For communication to be functional, the receiver must understand the message. The information that is transferred between sender and receiver can have 4 possible outcomes: 1.) benefit the sender and receiver, 2.) benefit the sender and manipulate the receiver, 3.) disadvantage the sender and benefit the receiver (eavesdropping), 4.) disadvantage the sender and the receiver (spite).2 Although owners often feel that the fourth option spite is taking place, most likely what is occurring is a miscommunication between species. Without clear communication problems can arise. The goal is to give the pet clear signals of what is expected so that behavior can begin to change and conform to owner's expectations. By bundling a series of learning and control tasks together, the owner can create an environment for clearer communication.

When owners seek help with their problem dog, the problem may be labeled a "dominance" or leadership problem, which can be a simplification of the issue. Practitioners of applied animal behavior interpret dominance hierarchies, ranking and how they interact in the human-dog relationship many different ways and may use varying criteria to define dominance 3, 4, 5. The concept of dominant and subordinate relationships between animals was developed from observation of animals (wolves, baboons, chickens) living in social groups. 6 Social hierarchies arranged around dominant and subordinate relationships decrease the conflict associated with the allocation of critical resources, i.e. food, shelter, mates and territory7. When living in social groups, canids will establish dominance hierarchies that may dictate access to certain resources such as food, resting places, favored possessions, territory and mates but may or may not involve aggression 8. These social relationships can be extended to the human members of the household9. However, a case could be made that dominance behavior may occur without aggression and instead be about control of the outcome. In domestic canid groupings, overt aggression is rare and deference common8. Owners often inadvertently reinforce a dominant outcome for the dog by deferring to the dog's demands. This sets the dog up as the one in charge, and each interaction that ends with deference to the dog reinforces that assumption. So perhaps the issue is not always one of "dominance" as much as one of control. The animal has learned that certain behaviors result in certain outcomes, which are favorable to the dog. In addition, often a behavior occurs because it can, in other words, the owners do not prevent the dog from engaging in a certain behavior and that in and of itself can be reinforcing. Some dogs that control their environment may do so because it is important to them to be in control. Others may control because they can but yet are anxious about the outcome. Changing the pet-owner relationship focuses on "control" of the dog, which often prohibits the dog from engaging in behaviors that "control" the environment and thus the owner. This alone can have an effect on the expression of problem behaviors.

The Program

None of the elements in this program are new. They have been used before and discussed many places in the applied animal behavior literature. The goal of this program is to place them together and counsel the owner on how and why changing the pet-owner relationship is beneficial to them and their pet. Initially, the owner is educated about canid social structure. Second, the owner is told how dogs communicate and what dominance and subordinance mean to dogs. Third, how animals learn is briefly explained to the owner. Finally, owners are told of how increasing their control over their dog is a positive action that can make their dog more relaxed and compliant in the long term.

The first step is a program that requires the dog to comply with an owner command to obtain anything the dog wants. This has been called numerous things since its inception. ("Nothing in life is free" by Dr. Victoria Voith10 and "No such thing as a free lunch" and "Learn to earn" by William E. Campbell11) In essence, the dog is required to follow an owner command, such as "sit" to obtain anything that the dog wants. This could be access to the outdoors to eliminate, food, petting, a ball the list is endless. The goal is for the dog to "earn" everything they desire by deferring to the owner. Deference is accomplished when the dog follows the command to sit or down. If the dog performs the command prior to being asked, it must do something else. This is critical. Unless the owner gives a command and then the dog complies, the dog is still controlling the situation and deference has not occurred. The goal is for the owner to have control. Although many owners have been told that they should control their dog, usually they are counseled to use physical control methods. While an owner can have control by trying to physically control a dog this can be difficult and potentially dangerous. Instead, in this program the owner uses their ability to physically control the environment and the resources to control the dog. By using benign control of resources and deference for access, the owners place themselves in a "dominant" position. It is not necessary for the owner to physically control the dog, merely to control access to things the dog wants. If the dog will not obey the command, the resource is withheld. In essence the dog is offered a choice-do you want the resource enough to comply or not. For some dogs the answer is yes, for others the answer may be no. Once the dog has learned to comply, if they defer by waiting quietly, the resource may be given.

The second step is control of attention. Many dogs with problem behaviors engage in numerous attention seeking behaviors. These include nudging the owner, pushing, leaning, barking, whining, pacing, scratching the owner, bringing toys and climbing on the owners lap to get attention. The attention can even be "negative" attention such as pushing the dog away or yelling at it; the desired response is an interaction. Some dogs use attention seeking behavior to control the owner, while other may have underlying anxieties which stimulate them to constantly seek information about their environment and social status12. In either case, the owners are told that they must ignore all attention seeking behaviors. If the dog approaches them for attention, they must ignore the dog. If the dog persists, then they must leave the room. Again, their response is to be benign. They are not to allow the dog to engage them in any interaction. However, this is not a prescription for ignoring the dog. They can give the dog attention, but with certain rules.

• They are only to give attention to the dog on their initiative.
• The attention should be given when the dog is calm and quiet.
• The goal is to reward calm, quiet, good behavior with positive owner-pet interaction.
They can call the dog over, request that the dog sit or lie down and then pet the dog. However, it is also critical that they end the interaction and send the dog away. If the problem is aggression, the type and amount of interaction are structured and detailed for the owner. This program of controlling attention has been used in other treatment plans for various behavior problems. 13, 14, 15 These rules also extend to how they are to play with their pet. The owner is instructed to only play with the pet when they initiate the playtime and end the game when they are done. The owner is encouraged to play games such as fetch, or engage in a walk with the dog if they can control the pace of the walk.

Finally, the dog is taught to sit/stay or down/stay on a verbal command. Eventually the dog should be able to sit while the owner leaves the room, returns and releases the dog. Once the dog can do this well, the owner is to introduce a verbal phrase to signal relaxation such as "chill", "relax" or "easy". Again the goal is to teach the dog to take contextual cues from the owner. When given the "chill" command, the dog is to be watching the owner with a calm, relaxed facial expression and body posture. If the owner tells the dog to "chill" the dog learns that this means to focus on my owner and wait for the next command. To facilitate learning this task, food rewards are used. This task is useful as a basis for counterconditioning, which is often used in behavior modification programs for other problem behaviors.7, 16, 17, 18 This program has also been called "Protocol for relaxation: behavior modification tier 1" by Karen Overall. 19

The techniques described have been combined various ways in treatment protocols for separation anxiety, dominance aggression, fear aggression and compulsive behaviors7, 12,13,14.

Potential problems and pitfalls

This plan is not without its problems. Many owners have difficulty ignoring the attention seeking behaviors. What they like about their pet is the persistence and the perceived "need" the pet has for them. These owners are unaware of how their actions are reinforcing behaviors that they do not like or may be contributing to the problem behavior. It is imperative that the concept of control be explained to the owner and how their behavior can change the problem behavior exhibited by their pet. In addition, it is important that the owner not feel as though they are neglecting their pet. Therefore, they must be given guidelines for appropriate interactions. This can include a list of appropriate games, walks, and number of times that they can call the dog and pet it. Each case will be different and have different needs to encourage compliance. If aggression is the major problem then the owners must also be given instructions for safety around their pet and avoidance of further injury.

Another problem area can occur 10-14 days into the program. Many animals will initially respond well to the new rules for interaction. However, once they realize that the rules have changed, some dogs will increase their efforts to get the owner to interact in the old manner. This usually results in the dog engaging in attention seeking behaviors at even a higher level than previously exhibited. This is an extinction burst. If owners are warned about this phenomenon, they are prepared and ready to continue the program and wait out the pet. Many dogs will then return to compliant behavior if the owner persists with the plan.


This is not meant to be a stand alone treatment plan for any and all behavior problems. Neither does it replace the need for complete behavioral histories and diagnosis of behavior problems. Nearly all dog owners are given this plan as an adjunct to a more complete behavior modification program designed to treat their specific problem(s). In each case this plan can act as a framework for beginning to change problem behaviors. Each environment and problem will be different and require modifications to this plan as well as a more in-depth behavioral treatment plan. However, what often is surprising is that many dogs improve greatly as judged by owner reports with only these three steps. What this plan seems to accomplish is to allow owners to change the way they interact with their pet with easy to follow and understand steps. Once owners see that they have the ability to control their pet, and in many cases still have a satisfying relationship, they are often empowered to continue to shape behaviors in more positive directions.


Changing the pet-owner interaction is the first step in behavior therapy. It allows owners to be in control of their pet and its behavior in a benign way. When done correctly it empowers the owner to change their pet's behavior. This will often encourage them to go further and work on specific problems. When explained correctly owners gain a better understanding of canine communication and learning and can use this information in all their interactions with their pet.


1. Odendaal, JSJ. A diagnostic classification of problem behavior in dogs and cats. In: Veterinary Clinics of North American: Small Animal Practice. Vol. 27:3. 1997. Pp. 427-443.
2. Simpson, BS, Canine Communication, In: Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, Vol. 27:3, 1997. Pp.445-464.
3. Hallgren, A. Mother and Pups. Animal Behavior Consultant Newsletter, July 1990 Vol. 7:3
4. Trattner, A. Letter to the Editor. Animal Behavior Consultant Newsletter, Oct. 1990. Vol.7:4
5. Schilder, MBH, Netto, WJ. Letter to the Editor. Animal Behavior Consultant Newsletter. July 1991. Vol.8: 3.
6. Alcock, J, Animal Behavior: An evolutionary approach. Edition 2. Sunderland, Mass, Sinauer Associates Inc. 1979.
7. Voith, VL, Borchelt, PL, Diagnosis and treatment of Dominance Aggression in dogs, In: Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, Vol. 12:4, 1982, pp. 655-663.
8. Bradshaw, JWS, Nott, HMR. Social and Communication behaviour of companion dogs. In: The Domestic Dog, J. Serpell Ed. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1995, pp. 116-130.
9. Line, S, Voith, VL. Dominance Aggression of dogs towards people: Behavior Profile and Response to treatment. Applied Animal Behavior Science. 16(1986) 77-83
10. Voith, VL, Treatment of Dominance aggression of dogs toward people, Modern Veterinary Practice, 63:2, 1982, 149-152.
11. Campbell, WE, Social attraction the ultimate tool for canine control. Modern Veterinary Practice, 1973
12. Overall, KL. Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Mosby, St. Louis, 1997. Pp. 118.
13. Reisner, IR, Management of Canine Aggression, Veterinary International, Nestec Ltd. Blackwell Scientific Special Projects, Oxford, 1994, pp.28-35.
14. Horwitz, DF. Diagnosis and Treatment of separation-related disorders. Veterinary International. Nestec Ltd. Blackwell Scientific Special Projects, Oxford, 1998, pp. 26-34.
15. Landsberg, G, Hunthausen, W, Ackerman, L Handbook of Behavior Problems in the Dog and Cat. Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, 1997, pp.102.
16. Overall, KL Treating Canine Aggression. Canine Practice. 18:6, 1993. Pp.24-28.
17. Voith, VL, Borchelt, PL. Fears and Phobia in Companion Animals. In: Readings in Companion Animal Behavior, Voith & Borchelt Eds. Veterinary Learning Systems, Trenton, NJ. 1996, pp.140-152.
18. Luescher, AU. Compulsive behaviour in dogs. Veterinary International. Nestec Ltd. Blackwell Science Ltd. Oxford, 1998. Pp. 7-14.
19. Overall, KL B-2 Protocol for Relaxation: Behavior modification tier 1, Appendix B In: Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Mosby, St. Louis, 1997. Pp. 413

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dog bite Law

Dog Bite Law

If Your Dog Bites Someone
Things you can do to minimize the losses.

What to do at the scene of the attack
In the weeks after the attack
Report the incident to your insurance company
Tell the truth about the dog and what happened
Blunt advice about your future
What to do at the scene of the attack

If your dog bites someone, and the victim was not committing a crime at the time of the attack, there are a few things that you should do:
Stay calm. Don't argue. Don't accuse. Be nice to the victim because he or she will have to make a decision about pursuing you for damages; if you are nice, the victim may decide to go easy on both you and your dog.
Make sure the victim gets medical attention. Take him or her to the hospital or to a doctor. Be considerate.
Whether or not you have insurance, if you have any money or credit at all, you should offer to pay for the victim's medical bills. Be a hero.
Take steps to protect others from your dog.
Obtain the name, address and phone number of every witness.
Avoid making statements because there are possible criminal consequences when a dog bites or injures someone. See Dangerous and Vicious Dogs.

In the weeks after the attack

In the days and weeks after the attack, keep in touch with the victim if possible, and continue showing a genuine interest in his or her condition. Victims often love dogs and may decide to forget the entire thing if you are kind and they are not badly hurt.
What you say can hurt you later. You might have to face charges of some kind. There are three possible places where you and your dog might land:

Civil court. In most states, dog owners are strictly responsible for injuries from bites. (See Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA .)
Criminal court. Usually you will not face criminal charges. However, if the present attack was serious or if the dog previously bit someone, you could be accused of a variety of crimes. (See Dangerous and vicious dogs and also Criminal penalties for dog bites.)
"Dog court." The animal control authorities might take action against you, your dog or both, under state, county and/or municipal laws. (See Dangerous and vicious dogs.)
Some states protect you if you express sympathy and compassion for the victim; those statements will not be used against you.
If you pay the victim's medical bills or insurance deductible and/or co-payment, you probably will favorably impress the victim and therefore will reduce the chances of a claim or lawsuit against you. However, do not expect your insurance company (if any) to reimburse you. Most policies state that the insurer will not be responsible for any "voluntary" payments that you make.

The local animal control authorities may require that your dog be quarantined. Sometimes the quarantine can be at your own home. Ask whether home quarantine might be agreeable in view of the circumstances that apply to your incident.

If the authorities cite you into "dog court," you need to prepare a defense. See Protect You and Your Dog.

Locate and preserve your dog's medical records, including proof that it has received rabies shots. Make a copy of the rabies certificate and give it to the victim, to put his or her mind at ease.

You generally are not required to submit your dog for tests unless the authorities or your insurance company request that you do so. If you suspect that your dog has rabies or some other disease, however, you voluntarily should take steps to warn the victim, and you should talk to your insurance company or an attorney.

Whether you need to seek legal advice depends on the circumstances and whether you were insured. If you have not ruled out criminal consequences in your city and state, contact an attorney who is familiar with dog bite criminal laws. (See Dangerous and Vicious Dogs.) If you are insured, see Report to your insurance company, below. If you do not know whether you are insured, read Insurance for the Dog Owner. If you definitely are not insured, talk to an attorney if:

The victim asks for money
You are paying a significant amount of money to the victim
You receive a claim or suspect that the victim will make a claim in the future
The bite was significant (for example, it drew blood)
You suspect that your dog has rabies or another significant illness or disease
You have a bad feeling about the situation or the intentions of the victim
You hear from the police
You suspect there may be criminal consequences in your city and state.

Report to your insurance company

If you are a homeowner or renter, or if there is any possibility that you have other insurance that may possibly provide coverage for the dog attack, get in touch with your insurance agent and make a proper report if:
The victim asks for money
You are paying a significant amount of money to the victim
You receive a claim or suspect that the victim will make a claim in the future
The bite was significant (for example, it drew blood)
You suspect that your dog has rabies or another significant illness or disease
You have a bad feeling about the situation or the intentions of the victim
You hear from the police
You may have medical payments coverage which you can offer to the victim; this will make him or her feel better toward you and possibly your dog. Be sure to ask your agent whether you have medical payments coverage.
Every insurance policy has a "cooperation clause." It requires you (as the insured person) to make reports of incidents, and then cooperate fully with the insurance company. Obviously, give them the name, address and telephone number of every witness.

Tell the truth about the dog and what happened

Because of the possibility that a dog attack can lead to criminal prosecution, generally you should refrain from making any statements as to who owned the dog, what happened, where it happened, and anything else about the incident. However, there are circumstances where you are required to give information. If so, be sure that it is the truth.
When dog owners give statements, they often provide inaccurate information. The biggest problem defending a dog bite claim is not necessarily the dog attack or the severity of the bite, but the untruthful statements made by the dog owner. Owners frequently misstate how the attack happened and the dog's history of biting. This ultimately can hurt you and your dog. Consider this scenario:

The owner tells her insurance company that her dog has never bitten anyone
The insurance company refuses to make an adequate settlement offer, thinking that the victim must have provoked the dog
The victim retains an attorney who is knowledgeable about dog bite cases, and conducts a thorough investigation that reveals the dog's history of biting
Instead of making a claim for simple negligence or violation of the dog bite statute, the attorney requests additional damages to punish the dog owner for keeping a dangerous dog
Now the insurance company really doesn't want to settle! The claim becomes a lawsuit, and the lawsuit starts taking up the dog owner's time. Eventually the truth comes out.
Keep in mind that you should not make statements about the incident until you know that there can be no criminal consequences. Generally, you should contact an attorney familiar with the criminal aspects of dog bites.

Blunt advice about your future

If this is the first time that your dog bit a person, and if you have homeowner's or renter's insurance, you have very little to worry about because criminal prosecutions are very rare, and "dog court" usually cannot do much to hurt you (although it can hurt your dog).

Nevertheless, your dog is dangerous from both a practical and legal standpoint. Yes, you may have an explanation for his behavior, but the fact is that he attacked a human. For whatever reason, at the present time your dog is dangerous.

The real problem in most cases is that, because he has bitten one person, your legal position has changed. You face immediate and long-term consequences. In the near future, you may find yourself in three courts, namely civil court, criminal court and "dog court." For now, you have the excuse that you didn't know that your dog would bite anyone because he never did it before. In the long range, however, you may find yourself without insurance and defending yourself in four courts instead of just three -- all of the above, plus bankruptcy court, because the owner of a dangerous dog may not be permitted to get a discharge of debt toward a victim of the dog. Furthermore, you will not be able to assert that you had no way of knowing that your dog would bite.

Keep in mind the fate of Marjorie Knoller of San Francisco, one of the defendants in the Diane Whipple murder trial. She spent a year in jail and two years in prison because her dog, which had never broken the skin of any human being, took it upon itself to kill a person. Although it is highly unlikely that your dog would ever do that, it must be noted that people who own dogs that bite other people no longer get the benefit of the doubt. The insurance industry, the government and the public are fed up with the dog bite epidemic, which has seen the number of serious dog bites go up by 33% while the number of dogs has risen only 2% (see Dog Bite Statistics). The insurance industry is limiting insurance, the government is tightening the laws and the public has become intolerant, as evidenced by the jury's guilty verdict in the Knoller case.

You need to see the dog as a dog, not as a beloved family member, and to protect your family and neighbors from it in the future.

Consider taking your dog to an applied animal behaviorist certified by the ABS. The Animal Behavior Society (ABS) is a group of professionals (veterinarians and PhD's) who are concerned with the study and clinical practice of animal behavior. It has a credentialing program for an "Accredited Applied Animal Behaviorist." See the Directory of Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists.

You also could take your dog to a veterinarian, provided that he or she is certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). See the Directory of Diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cults in Dog Training?

Cults in Dog Training??? - by Roger Hild
“In a way, I find dog people and their strong ideas on dog training methods to be almost like religion.”

This comment, made by a member of a dog-training email group I belong to, reflects similar thoughts that have, at times, occurred to me. As debates rage on about methodology and theory, as people passionately state their beliefs and try to convince others, the religion analogy seems to fit. The passion most of us have for our dogs is what drives many of us - always looking for what’s best. This speaks to the need for CAUTION as there are those who, being aware of the depth of feelings involved, would seek to exploit and manipulate the passions of others.

Knowing how there are people searching for good dog trainers and due to recent events that resulted in very painful experiences for some of these owners, I began to look past the religion analogy and began thinking in terms of “cult-like” experience. I don’t mean to say that these people joined a cult or even that those holding out the “holy-grail” of dog training are themselves a cult. What I want to do is expose the tactics and psychology that are used which are similar to those used by cults. I also hope to help people become aware of what to watch out for when researching someone to help train their dog. These points would apply whenever we are entering into a teacher-student type of relationship.

The following points I got from: which is the web site for “AFF (American Family Foundation). Throughout the following quotes, the word “leader” can be used in place of the word “group.”

“The AFF is a nonprofit, tax-exempt research center and educational organization founded in 1979. AFF's mission is to study psychological manipulation and cultic groups, to educate the public and professionals, and to assist those who have been adversely affected by a cult-related experience. AFF consists of a professional staff and a growing network of more than 150 volunteer professionals in fields ranging from education, psychology, and religion to journalism, law enforcement, and business.”

“Cults & Mind Control

What is a Cult?

A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leader, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.

These groups tend to dictate, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel, claim a special exalted status for themselves and/or their leader(s), and intensify their opposition to and alienation from society at large.

Because the capacity to exploit human beings is universal, any group could become a cult. However, most mainstream, established groups have accountability mechanisms that restrain the development of cultic subgroups.”

What is Mind Control?

“Mind control (also known as "brainwashing," "coercive persuasion," and "thought reform") refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s). Such methods include the following:

1. extensive control of information in order to limit alternatives from which members may make "choices."

2. deception

3. group pressure

4. intense indoctrination into a belief system that denigrates independent critical thinking and considers the world outside the group to be threatening, evil, or gravely in error. An insistence that members’ distress (much of which may consist of anxiety and guilt subtly induced by the group) can be relieved only by conforming to the group.

5. physical and/or psychological debilitation . . . . in which attention is narrowed, suggestibility heightened, and independent critical thinking weakened.

6. alternation of harshness/threats and leniency/love in order to effect compliance with the leadership’s wishes isolation from social supports pressured public confessions

. . . contemporary cultic groups induce dependent states to gain control over recruits and employ psychological (sometimes physical) punishment ("dread") to maintain control. The process, in my view, can be briefly described by a modified "DDD syndrome": deception, dependency, and dread. “

“Although the process here described is complex and varied, the following appears to occur in the prototypical cult conversion:

- A vulnerable prospect encounters a cultic group.

- The group (leader[s]) deceptively presents itself as a benevolent authority that can improve the prospect's well-being.

- The prospect responds positively, experiencing an increase in self-esteem and security, at least some of which is in response to what could be considered "placebo" The prospect can now be considered a "recruit".

- Through the use of "sharing" exercises, "confessions," and skillful individualized probing, the group [leader(s)] assesses the recruit's strengths and weaknesses.

- Through testimonies of group members, the denigration of the group's "competitors" (e.g., other religious groups, other therapists), the tactful accentuation of the recruit's shameful memories and other weaknesses, and the gradual indoctrination of the recruit into a closed, “no falsifiable” belief system, the group's superiority is affirmed as a fundamental assumption.

- Members' testimonies, positive reinforcement of the recruit's expressions of trust in the group, discrete reminders about the recruit's weaknesses, and various forms of group pressure induce the recruit to acknowledge that his/her future well-being depends upon adherence to
the group's belief system, more specifically its "change program."

- These same influence techniques are joined by a subtle undermining of the recruit's self-esteem (e.g., by exaggerating the "sinfulness" of experiences the recruit is encouraged to confess"), the suppression or weakening of critical thinking . . . . These manipulations induce the recruit to declare allegiance to the group and to commit to change him/herself as directed by the group. He or she can now be considered a convert embarking on a path of "purification", "enlightenment", "self-actualization", "higher consciousness," or whatever. The recruit's dependency on the group is established and implicitly, if not explicitly, acknowledged. Moreover, he/she has accepted the group's authority in defining what is true and good, within the convert's heart and mind as well as in the world.

- The convert is next fully subjected to the unrealistically high expectations of the group. The recruit's "potential" is "lovingly" affirmed, while members testify to the great heights they and "heroic" models have scaled. The group's all-important mission, e.g., save the world, justifies its all-consuming expectations.

- Because by definition the group is always right and "negative" thinking is unacceptable, the convert's failures become totally his or her responsibility, while his or her doubts and criticisms are suppressed . . . or redefined as personal failures. The convert thus experiences increasing self-alienation. The "pre-cult self" is rejected; doubts about the group are pushed out of consciousness; the sense of failure generated by not measuring up to the group's expectations is bottled up inside. The only possible adaptation is fragmentation and compartmentalization. It is not surprising, then, that many clinicians consider dissociation to lie the heart of cult-related distress and dysfunction (Ash, 1985).

- The convert's self-alienation will tend to demand further psychological, if not physical, alienation from the non-group world (especially family), information from which can threaten to upset whatever dissociative equilibrium the convert establishes in an attempt to adjust to the consuming and conflicting demands of the group. This alienation accentuates the convert's dependency on the group.

- The group supports the convert's dissociative equilibrium by actively encouraging escalating dependency, e.g., by exaggerating the convert's past "sins" and conflicts with family, by denigrating outsiders, by positively reinforcing chanting or other "thought-stopping" activities, and by providing and positively reinforcing ways in which the convert can find a valued role within the group (e.g., work for a group-owned business, sell magazines on the street).

- The group strengthens the convert's growing dependency by threatening or inflicting punishment whenever the convert or an outside force (e.g., a visit by a family member) disturbs the dissociative equilibrium that enables him or her to function in a closed, nonfalsifiable system (the "dread" of DDD). Punishment may sometimes by physical. Usually, however, the punishment is psychological, sometimes even metaphysical. Certain fringe Christian groups, for example, can at the command of the leadership immediately begin shunning someone singled out as being "factious" or possessed of a "rebellious spirit." Many groups also threaten wavering converts with punishments in the hereafter, for example, being "doomed to Hell." It should be remembered that these threats and punishments occur within a context of induced dependency and psychological alienation from the person's former support network. This fact makes them much more potent than the garden-variety admonistions of traditional religious, such as "you will go to hell if you die with mortal sin."

“The result of this process, when carried to its consummation, is a person who proclaims great happiness but hides great suffering. I have talked to many former cultists who, when they left their groups and talked to other former members, were surprised to discover that many of their fellow members were also smilingly unhappy, all thinking they were the only ones who felt miserable inside.”

When I began looking at cult-like experiences, I was looking at it from the point of view of someone who gets unknowingly taken in. What is the psychology and group dynamics that work on the individual and could anyone be conned by a “good enough salesman?” I was very curious as to what types of “hooks” are used and also why would someone, over time, willingly hand over so much control to someone else. Why would someone give over his or her decision-making capacity and self-confidence?

I believe this also is a relevant dog training discussion. The obvious hook for someone who loves their dog, and who is having serious concerns about their dog, would be someone who comes along and holds out what they see as the only hope. They might sell themselves as a type of messiah meaning they and no one else can save this dog.

Initially the client invests hope in this new system or individual. Such systems or individuals (that make almost magical claims) would then somehow convince the client that all failure was the fault of the client and, through guilt, have the client redouble their efforts to achieve something that is always just beyond reach. One must be very careful when investing so much emotion and handing over so much power, that they are not being taken advantage of and are getting what they bargained for.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Crate Training Tips

Crate Training and "Potty" Training
Remember that repetition is necessary. Your puppy will not understand what you want unless you repeatedly show him/her the desired behavior MANY times.

Keep in mind also that your puppy does not know what is expected and must be shown the proper place to eliminate, and when.

Your best potty training friend is your crate. When you cannot watch your puppy, use a crate. Think of the crate the same way you think of a playpen for a human child. Even if you are only leaving the room for a "minute," either take the puppy with you or use the crate. After all, you would not leave a toddler in the house alone "for just a minute" would you?

Crate training can be fun for the puppy if you make it a POSITIVE experience. The DEN is an integral part of the wild dogs upbringing and safety zone. The same thing applies to the "crate". Giving the pup special "treats" is a great way to introduce him to his crate. The only time the puppy receives these special treats is when he is in the crate; the treats become associated with the crate.

Use the crate wisely. Don't crate only when you are leaving the house. Place the puppy in the crate while you are home as well. Use it as a "safe" zone, or for "time outs". (thus keeping your sanity)

By crating when you are home AND while you are gone, the puppy becomes comfortable in the crate and not worried that you will not return, or that you are leaving him/her alone. This helps to eliminate separation anxiety later in life.

Most puppies will not soil their "den." The first couple of tries you might have some accidents, but don't be discouraged. An easy way to avoid accidents in the night for the first few weeks is by following this routine:

1. Set your alarm for about 3 hrs after your normal bed time. When the alarm goes off, get up immediately, go to the crate and CARRY the pup outside (I do this in my robe, with my shoes kept by the door to the outside). Place him on the ground and encourage him to eliminate. PRAISE when he does, and bring him back to the crate. Go back to bed.

2. Set your alarm for another 3 hrs, and get back to sleep. When the alarm goes off repeat part 1.

3. After about a week of the above routine, IF it has been successful (no crate messing) then you can set the alarm for * way through your sleep time. Follow the remainder of part 1. When you arise in the morning, TAKE the pup outside BEFORE you do anything else. Feed the pup and then crate. Follow your regular waking routine, then walk the pup one more time before going off to work.

4. Repeat the feeding, walking and crating at lunch time. Pups from the ages of 2 to 4 months CANNOT control their elimination for much more than 4 hours, so if you cannot return home at lunch time, arrange for someone to do this for you at lunch.

If the CRATE is too large, the pup can easily soil on one side and sleep on the other. The way to prevent this is to buy a crate that will accommodate your pet when it is fully grown. Then get a box that will fit inside the back of the crate. The box should be large enough that there is only room for the puppy to stand and lie down comfortably.

As the puppy grows, provide more room by putting in a smaller box, or cutting down the size. When the puppy reliably asks to be put outside to eliminate, remove the box so the puppy can use the whole crate.

If the puppy messes the crate, replace the box size to the point at which the puppy was reliable, and just give the pup a little more time to learn. In conjunction with crate training, potty training starts immediately.

Whenever you remove the puppy from the crate or just want the puppy to "go potty," take the dog to the door that will always be used to "go outside." Use the SAME door throughout the training period.

On the handle of this door, tie a bell to a string, dropping it even with the height of the puppy's nose. When you bring the puppy to the door, lure the puppy to touch the bell with either it's nose or paw, (using a treat) causing the bell to ring.

After the puppy rings the bell, give it the treat, (use a SMALL piece of meat or dried liver) and say "OUTSIDE" in a happy tone of voice. Take the puppy outside on leash.

Reminder: During housebreaking DO NOT allow the pup outside to eliminate alone or loose in the yard. Yes, that means in the rain, snow, whatever: YOU GO OUTSIDE ALSO. Give the puppy plenty of time. Don't rush or you will be sorry. When the puppy urinates or defecates, praise the puppy with "Good Outside" and again, give the puppy a tiny, tiny treat.

Continue to wait. When the puppy poops, again praise the puppy with "Good Outside" and give a treat. Go back inside, stop at the door again, and treat once again. If the puppy does not "potty" even after staying outside 15 minutes, return back inside, place the puppy back into the crate, wait 15 minutes and start again from the beginning.

If done religiously, this training process should take only about 2 weeks for the puppy to understand. This method will work with any dog, regardless of age. If you adopt a dog from a shelter or a rescue program, follow the same routine. Remember, even though the dog is older or even an adult, he still does not know the rules of your home, and may not have ever BEEN in a house. Be PATIENT and this method WILL work.

Take it slow and PATIENT....and have FUN with your dog!

Reprinted from NetPets