This time it's a photography related post. I was recently asked to provide some photos for a website, which so happens to be my husband's music site. My brief, take photos of instruments. It's a very general brief so I had to be fairly varied in the shots I got. So I had to include him playing some of his instruments, then I had to take individual photos of some of them and then try and do some detailed ones. I enjoyed doing the detailed pictures as I got to play around with the editing a little bit more and make the shots a little more arty.
It was very different from working with my usual fluffy subjects because.. they didn't move! I was able to play around with light falling on the instruments and angles, though I was limited by having to do the work indoors and our indoor lighting is a little lacking. I think I am personally happier outdoors using natural light and getting as filthy as my subjects, so though I did enjoy this work I will for now be keeping my main focus on our adorable canine and animal friends.
If you fancy going to take a look at my husband's site he offers music lessons on various instruments over Skype as well as teaching music theory : www.music-waves.com
In my 'about' section I talk about the science of behaviour and the research that has gone into various methods of training with positive reinforcement being the most effective and least stressful of all training types. Personally I have never agreed with forcing an animal to do something it doesn't want to, but I am all for encouraging with the right motivators.
I have unfortunately in my time had to undo training which involved aversive and often negative techniques which had actually escalated various behaviour problems or even caused new ones. I have seen dogs being laid upon and forced into positions in which they feel uncomfortable lead to someone being nipped or growled at as the dogs attempts to let the handler know they are very unhappy. I can honestly say I have never seen positive reinforcement create such a negative response in dogs. I have however seen aversive techniques lead to disaster. Aversive training can increase the negative experiences for a dog meaning the dog will either try to get away from the situation, refuse to perform, or if they feel threatened.. become aggressive. Often aversive methods can be so intense that it can force a dog to shut down. We don't want shut down dogs, we want happy and content dogs enjoying life.
However there is one thing I have noticed about some positive advocates, and that is that they never correct a dog. In all the research involving positive reinforcement, there is always some sort of correction for the dog being used in an experiment, be it a simple 'no' or a short gentle tug on a lead to let the dog know that isn't the correct response. Some form of correction fitting for that dog. In dogs that have not had any correction there are often other problems arising, such as pushiness, resource guarding and inappropriate behaviours within the home such as aggression to the owners. It's not that positive doesn't work, it is simply a fact that a dog needs boundaries.
I talk about bonding with your dogs as a two way thing, its about respect, but in the friendly way, understanding what each other's limits are and either accepting them or coming to an acceptable compromise. This is where all dogs are different. What works for one, will not work for another.
So when I am working on behavioural problems, I will look at other parts of the home, see what boundaries there are and the personality of the dog/s in question. Is a dog allowed to sleep on the bed? If that dog becomes aggressive when it is on the bed, then it is likely wanting to be on that bed very much. So you need to find something it wants more, and teach it to respect that it is only allowed on the bed when you say so and teach it to get off when you ask. This is just one possible problem.
Obviously aggression is not acceptable and you don't want to inadvertently reward the aggression, so its about leaving time between the aggressive display to get it out of the dogs mind and instead reward the behaviour you want it to perform. Eventually the dog will realise that if it steps off the bed nicely when you ask, it will get a reward. This is where teaching the dog a 'no' or some sort of correction word is invaluable so it is aware that the behaviour it is performing is undesirable. Dogs naturally want to please their handlers. Obviously if you have a dog that thinks the bed is the best thing in the world and won't let you near it... it's probably best not to allow the dog access to the bed full-stop. Though this may be difficult for some people to come to terms with, there is always the option of giving the dog its own bed near your own if you want it to sleep upstairs.
The whole point of training and interacting with your dog is learning the nuances of it's personality, its needs, its wants, much in the same way you would cater to a human friend. They certainly deserve the same amount of respect. It's about understanding these things that will lead to the best relationship you can have with your dog.
Dog Trainer, animal lover, artist and photographer