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NorWest Dog Training Club Newsletter March 2012

Listed below are the Club Executives and Committee for 2010/2011

President: Jeff Walkington           Vice President: Sandy McKenzie

Treasurer: Robyn Henderson        Secretary: Ellie Booth

Committee: Karen Smith; Rodney Dunnet; Sue McDiarmid; Maree Green: Judy Doherty; Susan Burborough, Louise Dormer, Amanda Fraser, Colleen Lauder, Marion Line,  Joan McFarlane, Di Munford, Anna Silva, Rosalind Walkington
Patron: Rob Kemp [Kumeu A&H]

Greetings all,

Dog owners and their “pariah” dogs are once again in the firing line and the new Auckland city council in its latest revenue gathering drive, has blatantly hiked the dog registration fees to disproportionate levels. Please make the effort to let Mr. Brown know how you feel about this insane, poorly thought out piece of bureaucratic madness by filling out and sending in a submission before  March 23rd  Please encourage as many people as you can muster to “sign and send”.

We are halfway through the first course already and the Easter bunnies are hopping ever closer. It’s a good time to remember that dogs and chocolate are a tragic combination so make sure you put all your chocolate eggs and bunnies well out of reach (or eat them all really, really fast).
The problem, according to veterinary experts, is that eating a speck of chocolate leads a dog to crave more. It can mean that your dog will jump at an opportunity to get any type of chocolate, not knowing that certain chocolates are more lethal than other types. Larger amounts of chocolate, particularly of the most toxic type, can bring about epileptic seizures in some dogs, and in all dogs, can kill. Chocolate contains theobromine. A naturally occurring stimulant found in the cocoa bean, theobromine increases urination and affects the central nervous system as well as heart muscle. While amounts vary by type of chocolate, it's the theobromine that is poisonous to dogs. Please take care!


The annual general meeting will take place on Monday April 2nd 2012 at 7.30 pm in the clubrooms at the NorWest Dog Training grounds. We are on the lookout for new committee members to keep this great little club running. Please give some thought as to whether you would like to contribute your time and some effort to this fun task. All newcomers, old comers, thoughts, ideas and enthusiasm warmly welcomed.
Please arrive promptly for training on April 2nd as there is only half an hour available to actually train. Please be sure to come along as it is also the last night of the first course and you will want to know which class you will be going into for the next rotation as well as hopefully attending the meeting. If you attend puppy training inside the shed there will be NO classes for you at all on this night as the shed will be commandeered for the meeting.

Membership Renewals

It’s nearing the end of the month. Last chance to renew at the bargain price of $40.00.Please ensure that your membership has been renewed and your receipt has been sighted by the role keeper in your class. After the 31st March anyone that has not renewed will be removed from the data base and all correspondence will cease. Thank you very much for your co-operation.

Note: You and your dog will really benefit from attending at least one training class a week for at least the first two or better yet, three years of its life. It’s important to know that attending one eight week course in the dogs first year is like sending a child to primary school for just one year and then never going again but expecting that child to know and remember everything it learned and expecting that it will be suitably equipped to handle all sorts of different social settings with confidence and aplomb as it grows. It is equally important for older dogs that are lacking in social and environmental skills to attend regularly. All good training takes is Time, Clarity, Patience and Understanding.

Dog Displays

Once again Norwest Dog Training club was invited to participate in both the Helensville and Kumeu shows; showcasing their considerable skills in Obedience, Agility, Rally-O and Dancing. This is always a crowd pleaser and fun to participate in. Thank you to those members and their dogs who gave so generously of their time to entertain the crowds over the two days.

Thank you; Thank you; Thank you to all you wonderful volunteers who turned out to help make the January Agility Championship Show such a great success. We are very appreciative of all your help and all the time you give up so that these events can run smoothly.

This coming Sunday 18th March is our Agility Ribbon Trial. Helpers Required Again Please!! If you could assist in any way for any amount of time it would be hugely appreciated. Please e-mail by “reply” to me if you can help.
NorWest Dog club continues to dazzle. Congratulations to Rosalind with Fletcher and Jeff with Katie for placing 1st and 3rd in the national Rally-O competition.
Come along and give this fun competitive sport a go.

We have an excellent selection of leads, collars, dumbbells, clickers and gentle leaders available at very reasonable prices. Monogrammed club badges are now available. These will look great sewn onto clothing or bags. Sue McDiarmid is available for sales before classes commence. Cash or cheque only please.

Corners of Access and Waitakere Rd (entrance on Waitakere Rd) Kumeu


The Evolution of dog training

Science is an essential tool for understanding dogs. After nearly fifty years of almost total neglect there has been an extraordinary uplift in scientific interest in the domestic dog. Today there are many animal behaviorists willing to share their knowledge in an effort to improve the relationship between humans and dogs. One of my personal favorites is Kathy Sdao. Kathy is an associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), and is uniquely qualified to work with dog training and behavior problems. For the past 25 years, Kathy has earned her living as a full-time animal trainer, first with marine mammals and now with dogs and their people. Kathy has kindly given permission to reprint her article below. It is indeed food for thought.

Forget About Being Alpha in Your Pack
by Kathy Sdao, MA, CAAB All Rights Reserved

In their recent book “Made to Stick,” Chip and Dan Heath detail the characteristics that make an idea or explanation “sticky.” According to their analysis, stories that are simple, unexpected, and concrete capture our imagination and get lodged in our brains. Many urban myths, they point out, are ideal examples of this phenomenon.

One perfect example of a “sticky” story is the ever-popular notion that dogs are essentially domesticated wolves who view their human companions as members of their hierarchical pack. This story is simple (pack structure is presumably a clear-cut ranking of alpha, beta and omega animals), unexpected (imagine having the descendent of a wild wolf right in our living rooms!), and concrete (who hasn’t seen TV footage of a wolf pack chasing down a moose or elk?). So sticky is this canine urban myth, in fact, that it refuses to die, despite the series of inaccuracies at its core.

Unfortunately, both dogs and their owners suffer the consequences of this fable, for it is from this story that we get the popular but unfounded training decree that humans must be “alpha” in their mixed-species pack.

Allow me to set the record straight. Here are just a few of the inaccuracies embedded in the “dog as domesticated wolf” story.

Myth 1: Wild wolves form hierarchical packs in which individuals vie for dominance.

Not always. And maybe not even very often. It turns out this common assumption about the social dynamics of wolves is based on studies of captive animals whose group structure was non-natural (i.e., the wolves came from various locations and lineages). After a broad review of the scientific literature and thirteen summers spent observing free-living wolves on an island in the Northwest Territories in Canada, wolf ethologist L. David Mech concluded that social interactions among wolf-pack members are nearly identical to those among members of any other group of related individuals. In essence, the typical wolf pack is a family in which parents guide activities of younger members. Vying for dominance in the pack hierarchy is not a priority. Care-taking and teaching of younger pack members by adults is.

Myth 2: Dogs close relatives of wolves, must also form packs in which individuals vie for dominance.

It is true that there is virtually no difference in the genetic material of dogs and wolves, or of dogs and coyotes or jackals, for that matter. But, from an ecological perspective, dogs and wolves are indeed distinct species because they are adapted to different niches. That is, they earn their livings in different ways. Wolves kill large prey, while dogs live in partnership with humans.

Recent research regarding the evolution of dogs indicates that this partnership did not occur as a result of our human ancestors’ attempts to tame wild wolves to be guard animals or hunting companions. It appears much more likely that dogs evolved from a wolf-like ancestor not through artificial selection by humans but from a process of natural selection filling a new ecological niche. That niche was the town dump, which first appeared approximately 15,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. This is when humans began creating permanent villages. Wolves found a new food source: they could forage on the waste products in the refuse piles. The individual wolves that were able to continue eating even when humans approached were at a reproductive advantage. In other words, the less skittish wolves, the “tamer” ones who didn’t flee at the first indication of a nearby human, ate more. Over many generations, this produced the behavioral quality that most distinguishes dogs from wolves: dogs will approach rather than avoid humans.

This version of dog evolution, starring the proto-dog as a scavenger of human waste at village dump sites (think “large rat”), is surely less sexy than proto-dog as noble wolf tamed by clever ancient humans. But it’s essential for our modern view of dog-training because scavenging “village dogs” don’t have a pack structure at all. They don’t hunt cooperatively. Other dogs are competitors, not helpers, in finding edible garbage. And so they live alone or in groups of two or three.

Myth 3: Dogs incorporate humans into their view of pack hierarchies.

Despite data to the contrary, many people still believe dogs form linear hierarchies of alpha (dominant) and omega (submissive) individuals. Many trainers have capitalized on this belief system by arguing that you can solve behavior problems in your dog only when you have established yourself as Alpha dog among the pack of creatures in your home (people and dogs). And so many folks waste time complying with irrelevant rules (e.g., “always eat your meals before your dog’s eat theirs”) when they instead could be using that time and effort to conduct simple effective training (e.g., rewarding desired behaviors). Often they also use physical force, such as shaking the dog by the scruff of the neck, pinning him on his back, or grabbing his muzzle – all because they’ve heard these are methods alpha-ranked wolves use to discipline subordinates.

But even if dogs did form linear packs, there’s no evidence to suggest that they perceive humans as part of their species-specific ranking. In general, humans lack the capability to even recognize, let alone replicate, the elegant subtleties of canine body language. So it’s hard to imagine that dogs could perceive us as pack members at all.

Maybe we need a new sticky story. Dogs are lovable scavengers. Their evolution has made them dependent on humans to provide food. This concept of humans as feeders, rather than as “leaders of the pack” forms the foundation for a logical, reward-based approach to dog-training. And since even wolves organize themselves into family units, we can aspire not to be dominant pack leaders, but good “parents” instead, that is, excellent care-takers and teachers of our dependent dogs.

[If you’re interested in learning more, check out this fascinating book: Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution, 2001, by Ray & Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press]

Kathy’s first book has recently been published 
In this new book, renowned dog trainer Kathy Sdao reveals how her journey through life and her decades of experience training marine mammals and dogs led her to reject a number of sacred cows including the leadership model of dog training. She describes in narrative fashion how she has come to focus her own training philosophy which emphasizes developing partnerships in which humans and dogs exchange reinforcements and continually cede the upper hand to one another.

This book is available from amazon, Dogwise and most online book stores.

      Next Warble will look at the value of socializing dogs

Last updated: 04-Sep-07

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