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---"It's focus, inevitably, is on supporting and maintaining its bloated bureaucracy."---

 

Just a comment, not trying to get off thread, but that sentence could reflect our government, along with so many other organizations, small and large, I think.

Part of the beast.

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Originally posted by Cholla1:

Just a comment, not trying to get off thread, but that sentence could reflect our government, along with so many other organizations, small and large, I think. Part of the beast. [/QB]

.....or families, I suppose. What's so intoxicating about this argument is that we (I) can make a difference. For me, that includes NOT breeding (there are too many good dogs out there already) and opposing much of which the AKC represents. I know many people who breed for the right reasons and avoid those who breed out of greed.

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Lets give the feeding frenzy a rest and clear up some of the muddy waters.

 

First,

Cholla did not bring up the puppy legislation. I did. It was in response to a debate we were having at the time. Until I found it accidentally by doing a search of AKC, I had no idea of even the existance of this bill. A quick search of topics in the last year on this board did not reveal any topic mentioning this bill. I did not read every post to confirm that, so I may be mistaken. It could well be that many more legitimate registries would object to it, but they may not know about it, or we have not been informed about their objections.

 

Comments about "off topic" are laughable since this thread started as "Agility Show". Its proper place, where I have started a thread (if not already started since I am writing this at work without benefit of the Net) is in "Politics and Culture". There I state my reasons why I am not in favor of this bit of legislation as well.

 

Read some of Cholla's posts, just don't look at the words. I believe she is trying to say that the AKC is not the only group of breeders responsible for dog overpopulation. Which WAS on the topic she and I were discussing. She mentions trialing breeders as a contributor, which is a true statement. I would also be totally amazed if some herding dog owners were not culprits as well.

 

Reading Cholla's posts on this and other threads, I understand (and Cholla, I mean no offense) that she does not have as great a command of the English languge as others on this board. She herself said the same thing previously. I try to look past this and grasp the intent of the message (see above).

 

If you do not understand what someone is saying, ask for clarification before going for the throat. Diane and Cholla both extended me that courtesy when my statements were unclear to them and I hope my replies were understood. I re-read the portions they asked about and I could see where they could have understood something different than that which I meant.

 

Just because someone does not agree with you does not make them wrong and you right, unless you are talking to your wife. (Sorry, couldn't resist). I do not agree with everything everybody else says and I am as equally sure many do not agree with me. For example I can think of only 2 or 3 times in my life I have ever struck a dog, and I usually felt worse about it afterwards then the dog probably did. While I do not agree with hitting or rolling a dog as a corrective action, people who do are not on an enemy list.

 

Think about how you would feel if 3,4,5 or more people started to disect every word you said in a post that was not necessarily popular with a group of people. (As my old boss used to say, quit trying to pick the flysh*t out of the pepper) Does the word "Defensive" come to mind?

 

I and many others come here to look at pics of other peoples pooches, get information on my BC and other dogs, share humorous happenings and yes, sometimes to debate (not fight) a topic among a hundred other reasons.

 

Aren't we supposed to smarter than our dogs. (Of course in my case my Baby Girl has me wrapped around her little dew claw and she knows it.... oh well)

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The inevitable result of this failure to act has been a strengthening of the sport and pet contingent. You can observe and follow this development, in microcosm, on these Boards. There used to be lots of working dog owners posting. I know many of them are still reading, even the breakaway contingent. However, almost none of them post any more. Why? Because the pet and sport folks overwhelm anyone who posts the working dog owner's perspective. Jean Donaldson has written a new book, didn't you know? No one uses those old school methods any more.

 

Andrea, I agree with the rest of your post but had to pull this out because I think you draw a false dichotomy here. Working dog owners don't do things only one way, nor do pet/sport owners. For example, I have read a couple of Lyle Boyer's columns in ABC magazine where she makes references to clicker training (not for stock, for basic manners) such that I can only conclude that she clicker trains or employs a reward-based philosophy with her own dogs. I consider Lyle Boyer (Lad? I can't remember if her name changed or changed back from something or whtaever) a "working dog owner." Many of the excellent working trainers I have met are extremely skilled at controlling rewards and use physical corrections rarely, fairly, and effectively. I don't think it's accurate to describe a training routine focused on corporal punishment as "the working dog owner's perspective."

 

In addition, coercive and punishment-based methods are rampant in both pet dog and sport dog training. The majority of competitive obedience folks force train using methods derived from Koehler and his ilk. Open almost any obedience training book and it will teach you how to get a fast fetch by squeezing your dog's ear between a finger and a thumbnail (or a shot shell, if your fingernail isn't hurting the dog's ear enough), or how to correct forging while heeling by jerking the dog off his feet with the choke collar, or how to teach a fast down by bringing your arm in a sharp karate-chop motion on the leash such that the dog is collapsed by the force. Eventually the dog learns to drop fast to avoid being jerked, and the chopping motion is turned into the signal for "down."

 

This is how most of them do it. They'll also cheerfully tell you to alpha-roll your dog for minor infractions and then explain that the dog is being "defiant" when he looks up at you, licking his lips in contrition.

 

Any random pet owner picking a dog training school out of the phone book is more likely to end up somewhere that uses leash corrections, choke collars, and alpha rolls to teach basic pet obedience than s/he is to find a clicker training facility. Clicker training and "positive" methods may be faddish (and I'll agree it is that -- which doesn't mean it's bad or ineffective), but it's still the minority.

 

For what it's worth, I'm not one of those "Shining Path" pure positive people who thinks a dog should never be corrected. In fact, I've had to defend myself and the entire world of working sheepdogs (does that scare you?) on numerous occasions to sports types who can't believe I work my dogs on sheep. They consider sheepdog training "punitive" and "confrontational" and can't believe that it is impossible to train a dog to work without ever correcting him. They think they can train their dogs to work sheep by clicking and throwing treats over the sheep's heads when the dog goes left on a "come bye." They are unwilling to ever raise their voices to their dogs and would rather just not "do sheep" than have to apply any aversives. When I admit that I have hit Solo with my crook on a few occasions (to prevent dive-bombs) they are horrified. But they are so extreme as to be caricatures, and they are in the minority.

 

Good dog training -- and this is one thing I think is common across ALL dog training -- is about manipulation of rewards. Sheepdog training is, I believe, one of the highest forms of training for this reason: the reward is so intrinsically motivating, and the dog is wonderfully bred to exhibit the proper inherent behavior to obtain it. It is my opinion that effective corrections on stock are effective because they deny the reward to the dog more than because the dog perceives them as aversive. This is why dogs who can't handle so much as a mild "bad dog" admonition around the house without going belly-up can still be hard-headed, screaming demons around sheep. It's all about context, rewards, and how motivated the dog is. And, of course, in stock work (unlike any of the other doggie sports that Border Collies are so popular for) it's about whether the dog brings the right brains to the table and the requisite breeding such that he knows what to do.

 

Finally, before I get back to work, I wonder just what the definition of "pet" is. I know that I consider my dogs to be pets, but I also consider Solo to be my sports dog that I do agility with, and Fly to be my sports dog that I do flyball with (yes, Fly has started training in flyball, which I know disgusts a number of people). And I work both of them on sheep, but I don't consider them to be working dogs (although Fly used to be) because we don't have sheep of our own and don't live on a farm. However, even if we did have a farm of our own, I would still consider them my pets as well as my working dogs, because I enjoy their company and consider them companions and members of my family. You've described living in the city and taking your dogs to the local park every day and that sounds very much like my routine with my dogs. On the other hand, I know a number of sports dogs who don't really have a pet relationship with their owners (i.e., they are sports equipment intended solely for use in training and the attainment of titles, who get handed off to others when they don't perform up to snuff) and these are the dogs I feel sorriest for of all of them, whether they're trained with corrections or not.

 

Just some thoughts.

 

P.S. -- Oh, and when I asked Cholla what she was doing here, I didn't mean she should leave. I just don't understand why she is surprised that being all rah-rah about the AKC isn't received well considering this is a board sponsored by, and mostly populated by, people who are opposed to the AKC. That's all. Personally, I wouldn't go hang out on a vegetarian board and post about how great I think meat is.

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---"P.S. -- Oh, and when I asked Cholla what she was doing here, I didn't mean she should leave. I just don't understand why she is surprised that being all rah-rah about the AKC isn't received well considering this is a board sponsored by, and mostly populated by, people who are opposed to the AKC. That's all. Personally, I wouldn't go hang out on a vegetarian board and post about how great I think meat is."---

 

Oh, and when I commented on being you who pointed that out, I didn't mean that I was surprised about the comment, only that it was you who made it.

Somehow I thought that you were the same person of a year or two ago, that seemed to understand where I was coming from, debating issues on their merit, not because they were AKC or not and yes, some were AKC and I think that I know about them enough to have made some comments to clarify the issues.

 

Live and learn.

 

BTW, it did read to me like you meant that I should leave, even if you deny meaning it.

I guess that leaving the floor to the vegetarians is not such a bad idea after all.

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I don't think it's accurate to describe a training routine focused on corporal punishment as "the working dog owner's perspective."

 

And that's not what I said in my post, nor what I have EVER said. Interesting that you should think that's what was meant.

There have certainly been occasions where I have either implied or openly stated that a good hard smack on the muzzle will work wonders to establish what I think you previously referred to as the 'protocol of deference'.

I am sure you will also remember me saying in previous posts that I use positive reinforcement all the time. Indeed, I can hardly imagine a training regimen that does not incorporate it, whether in training a dog on sheep or otherwise.

And, I suppose am obliged to state, since you seem determined to be obtuse, that I almost never have had to use corporal punishment because my dogs damn well know what I expect.

But that is more or less beside the point I was trying to make, which is that most non-working dog people indulge their dogs and are consititutionally incapable of being the master of their dogs; and that consequently any post from a working dog owner that suggests that the owner demand and insist on a certain behaviour, and to hell with click/treat--"you get your ass over here right now you little shit", is met with appalled incredulity.

I then concluded that it was this ATTITUDE that inhibited working dog owners from posting frankly.

Finally, I speculated that this attitude, which you will almost never see exhibited by real working dog people, was directly the result of the proliferation of border border collies in the hands of sport and pet people. And, yes, as an aside, I find it deeply sad to see this true working dog, really the last true working dog, reduced to a piece of sport equipment, however happy and well-cared for as an individual a dog may be.

And FINALLY, I suggested that the ABCA must take some responsibility for this development by reason of its failure to act effectiviely.

So, now that I've parsed my own post, I will just say that of course my dogs are pets on some level but that they are first and foremost working dogs and would be 'liberated' to be pets somewhere else were they not, and that I am dead certain they would not have it any other way. They're border collies, eh?

A.

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And that's not what I said in my post, nor what I have EVER said. Interesting that you should think that's what was meant.

 

I actually don't think that's what you meant. But it is how the debate is framed, over and over again. The basic sequence, which we've lived through many times now, goes like so:

 

(1) Owner (normally a pet owner) posts with some behavioral problem, asking for help.

 

(2) Someone says the dog doesn't understand "pack order" and that a good whack on the muzzle will fix it.

 

(3) Someone else points out that there are alternatives to whacking muzzles.

 

(4) Someone else rebuts that pet/sport/whatever people are stupid and don't know how to handle dogs and that no "working dog" person would "put up" with that kind of crap from a dog, und so weiter.

 

The debate always ends up framed as a dichotomy. And that's why I said what I did. I don't think the situation is actually dichotomous and I don't think you do either. But those are the ruts that the wagon keeps veering into.

 

I feel strongly about this subject for a number of reasons. One of them stems from the principle of "first, do no harm." Even when there are situations that physical corrections are called for, and even if I could tell that any given poster were in the exact sort of situation in which, say, an alpha roll would work (an exactitude which I feel is impossible to ascertain from a bulletin board post), I am not comfortable with giving out that kind of advice. Why? Because, as you, I, and many others have noted, it takes a certain amount of skill, speed, confidence, and ability to read dogs to be able to mete out such corrections effectively and fairly. Usually it is doubtful that the posters who need help meet these criteria. Applied poorly, unpredictably (from the point of the dog), or too often, getting physical can damage trust and put both the dog and everyone around it in danger in a way that, unless an owner is extraordinarily stupid or unlucky, "positive" methods cannot. If you try to use clicker training to teach a dog to sit and you're inept, the worst you'll end up with is a dog who isn't trained to sit. Try to use force training ineptly, and you end up with a dog who is afraid of you -- or worse.

 

That's all.

 

There have certainly been occasions where I have either implied or openly stated that a good hard smack on the muzzle will work wonders to establish what I think you previously referred to as the 'protocol of deference'.

 

And I and others have answered that there are other ways to establish authority. Different people, different situations, different dogs. What works for you works for you, and what works for me works for me. I have no intention of impugning all "working dog" people by stating my opinion. Even if no one would consider me a "working dog person," I do work my dogs. The entire reason I started working my Border Collie to begin with was because I felt that I had a lot to learn from people who train these dogs for the work they are designed for. And I have.

 

The thing I find most ironic is that when I am among "working dog people," I get flak for being too touchy-feely and too sportslike, because everyone knows that's what all "sports people" are like. When I'm among "sports people," because I belong to a clicker training club and tend to be around positive reinforcement types, I get flak for being mean and punitive to my dogs, because all the sports folks are sure that all working people don't really love their dogs and think of them as farm equipment and would rather beat the crap out of them than ever give them a treat. And it doesn't seem to matter how often I say, "It's not true, you're wrong, that's not the way it is at all." I guess I just can't win.

 

I am sure you will also remember me saying in previous posts that I use positive reinforcement all the time. Indeed, I can hardly imagine a training regimen that does not incorporate it, whether in training a dog on sheep or otherwise.

 

Me either -- but they're out there. There are a lot of obedience trainers whose dogs work primarily to avoid being punished. The only positive reinforcers they ever receive consist of mild praise, which is not very motivating to most dogs. And you can always tell which dogs these are when you see them in an obedience ring.

 

And, I suppose am obliged to state, since you seem determined to be obtuse, that I almost never have had to use corporal punishment because my dogs damn well know what I expect.

 

Then why recommend it so often to owners who clearly lack the skills to apply it, and may be openly uncomfortable with the idea? And why be so defensive about it?

 

But that is more or less beside the point I was trying to make, which is that most non-working dog people indulge their dogs and are consititutionally incapable of being the master of their dogs; and that consequently any post from a working dog owner that suggests that the owner demand and insist on a certain behaviour, and to hell with click/treat--"you get your ass over here right now you little shit", is met with appalled incredulity.

 

If an owner is incapable of being master of his or her dogs, and has never been consistent or effective enough to communicate his or her desires to his dogs -- therefore, having dogs who are essentially untrained, rather than being "little shits" -- does it really make any sense to immediately go to the wrath of God approach?

 

I then concluded that it was this ATTITUDE that inhibited working dog owners from posting frankly.

 

Hey, I've never tried to shout anyone down and frankly, I find training discussions of any nature to be interesting. If we could talk about methods and why they work and when they should be employed and discuss alternatives (because there are always alternatives -- even "working dog" people don't all train exactly the same way) in a rational manner I'd be all for it. I've had lots of interesting conversations with people who don't train like I do, who use methods I am either not comfortable with or just don't want to use for other reasons, and I always learn something, because a good trainer is a good trainer. A lot of my "pure positive" friends won't listen to any sort of discussion about corrections because it makes them feel oogie. I just like to know why methods work. I've even had interesting discussion with people who use shock collars to train dogs, and that's a method that I'll admit totally grosses me out emotionally -- but when I see highly-trained retrievers working happily and efficiently with those little boxes on their necks, I want to know what it is about those dogs, those trainers, that context, that makes it all work.

 

I'm open to any kind of discussion, as long as the discussion is fair and rational. It is not a fair and rational discussion when it turns into, "Well, you're stupid because your dogs are pets and you do sports, so what do you know," blah, blah, blah.

 

And FINALLY, I suggested that the ABCA must take some responsibility for this development by reason of its failure to act effectiviely.

 

And I'll agree with you there. I'd like to see a much more active circling of the wagons, but like you said, the horse is already out of the barn. I'm really sorry if you see me as part of the problem rather than the solution. I respect these dogs and the people who breed and train them immensely, and if I had to pick sides in some sort of culture war (aside from the war vs. the AKC -- I've already picked sides there, and lost a couple of sports friends over it), I'm throwing my lot in with the real Border Collies and whoever comes along with them. Let's put it this way: when I was looking for a second dog, I got offered a number of fancy-ass sports-bred puppies and even a half-trained hotshot red agility dog that a hotshot agility person who shall remain nameless was dumping because "he isn't fast enough and maybe he would rather try herding." And instead I picked a dog from 3000 miles away and put myself in debt for over a year to get Fly. There's a reason I did that, and it ain't because I really wanted to win ribbons at trials.

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OK, now we're getting somewhere.

Let's put the ABCA/AKC discussion aside for the moment. Maybe Eileen can move it over to another thread if people want to pursue it.

Now, let's get back to attitudes.

If I had to be analytical about it, the biggest difference I see between working and non-working dog owners is that the former demand and expect deference right from the start and don't see a problem with using a correction to get the dog's attention and unambiguously make it clear to it that the particular behaviour being engaged in is unacceptable. But the correction is only a small part of the story. It is the RELEASE of pressure that completes the picture. From the dog's perspective, doing wrong feels bad, doing right feels good. For a boder collie, being allowed to work, however you define it, is the biggest motivator there is.

As far as I can tell, and correct me if I'm wrong, the average pet owner has already ceded a great deal of authority to the dog before he or she observes an unacceptable behaviour and is therefore dumfounded when it surfaces, having missed all the previous signs. The click/treat, positive reinforcement, get thee to a behaviourist contingent earnestly recommends to the hapless owner that, rather than correct it, she should ignore the behaviour and wait around to reward the good behaviour that eventually surfaces, if necessary by contriving a situation where, given enough distance, lack of distractions, whatever, an acceptable behaviour arises and can be rewarded, or (gag) in the parlance, 'shaped'.

Now, as you will have oberved from the restraint I exhibited in my last post in this subject, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that indeed, the average pet owner, having reached this crossroads with their precious one, cannot now safely correct the little darling, lacking, as they are, in the conviction that they are the boss.

HOWEVER, where I continue to disagree with the positive reinforcement crowd is that the owner must now forevermore be reduced to utilizing a regimen that involves positive reinforcement only. Better, in my mind, that they be aided in learning that not only is it OK, but that is absolutely essential that they adopt the attitude that they are in charge.

Can correction be applied unfairly, even brutally, even counter-productively? Absolutely.

Can positive reinforcement only end up being ineffective at the least and more to the point, a continuing danger to the owner, her children, grandma, other dogs, the mailman, the neighbour, while the desired behaviour is being 'shaped'? Even more certainly.

So, where does that leave us? For my part, I will now readily admit that that immediately attempting to vault to a position of authority is not the answer for most pet owners and that something like the NILIF regimen is an appropriate place to start the process of re-education of both dog and owner. (I was genuinely inviting you to explain this on that other post, BTW. ) What I still cannot accept is that the only resource we can offer to this same pet owner is a positive reinforcement only regimen.

A.

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HOWEVER, where I continue to disagree with the positive reinforcement crowd is that the owner must now forevermore be reduced to utilizing a regimen that involves positive reinforcement only. Better, in my mind, that they be aided in learning that not only is it OK, but that is absolutely essential that they adopt the attitude that they are in charge.

 

I've never advocated a "pure positive" (AKA "Shining Path") approach, and neither has anyone else here, as far as I can tell. I do correct my own dogs, and have explained as much. I don't do it very often, but mostly because I find that I don't need to and that my dogs respond better to rewards than to punishment. Speaking harshly causes Solo to tune out and shut down, and makes Fly incapable of doing anything but slink around and look really sorry. (This is off sheep, by the way. On sheep, I could throw grenades at Solo and he probably wouldn't notice.)

 

I think I understand where the discussion is becoming hung up. Everyone brings different expectations and a different reading frame to the table. Now, I think we all start with the assumption that it is a good thing for a dog to be trained, to be well-behaved, and to know what is expected of him. Clicker types like to talk about "impulse control" (the dog being able to control himself, and not simply default into habitual behaviors -- for example, a dog who likes to bark at other dogs, but who has learned not to do so) and "stimulus control" (meaning behaviors can be elicited on cue -- if you train your dog to bark on command, then barking is under stimulus control -- I know, these are really eggheaded terms) and the most under control dogs I have ever seen, hands down, are clicker trained. This is not necessarily a good thing, by the way -- some of the sports dogs I know strike me as weirdly robotic, because they have essentially never been allowed to exhibit independent behavior and spend all their time looking for something that will elicit a response from the owner -- my dogs are definitely not like this.

 

The saying goes, "Positive is not permissive." There are definitely people who read it as if it is, and go on to totally screw up their dogs, but that's not how it has to be. There is just a philosophical emphasis on rewarding and eliciting desired behavior as opposed to extinguishing unwanted behavior. The classic response of a "positive" trainer to an unwanted behavior is to teach an alternate behavior, like a default sit. That's not the same thing as just allowing a dog to do whatever.

 

Anyway, I think the point of confusion comes from the assumptions we make, consciously or unconsciously, about the original posters and the relationships they have with their dogs. Many people post with very basic behavioral or training issues (the dog jumps up, mouths, guards food, whatever). What I see, when I read many of these posts, is someone whose dog is not trained, not someone whose dog is defiant or willful. My philosophy is that a correction is not fair unless a dog has purposefully disobeyed (being unable to read the mind of a dog, obviously it's a judgment call in most situations), so to me it is not logical to tell the poster that he or she must immediately cream the dog and tell it who's boss. That's skipping straight from baby steps to downhill slalom skiing. From the viewpoint of the dog, it would be like sending me into some fantastically ritualized ceremony with which I have no familiarity (like a debutante party or pretty much anything else that really rich people do) and then berating me every time I use the wrong fork, or whatever. If the dog doesn't know, and no one has taken the time to teach him, it isn't fair to punish him. So, when I give advice it tends to boil down to, "Your dog is not trained, and needs to be trained. And this is what you need to do to train your dog."

 

Now, we can still part ways as to whether or not corrections are appropriate while the dog is still learning. Here I'll draw a distinction between training on stock and training for obedience or basic manners, because I think corrections around stock are very different in nature and importantly read very differently by the dog. In obedience training, corrections function because the dog finds them aversive and will work to avoid them. In stock training, corrections function essentially as negative punishment, meaning rather than being inherently aversive, they discourage unwanted behaviors by removing the reward (contact with sheep) from the dog. If we were magic we could achieve a similar effect by making the sheep disappear into thin air. This is technically a punishment because it is something that makes an unwanted behavior less likely to happen, but it is negative, rather than positive, because the handler is taking something away instead of adding something. Finally, corrections in stock training are different because we are bringing out and shaping an inherent behavior, rather than installing a behavior that is entirely artificial to the dog, which most manners and obedience/sports things are. These are my feelings, anyway.

 

And then we come to the people who post about aggression issues. Here, we have compounded problems, in that most of the time, the dog is essentially untrained, and that the owner is not familiar with effective training techniques to remedy the situation. AND now we have a situation where someone might get hurt, maybe a kid (why is there always a kid in these situations? Murphy's Law, I guess) so to me it is important to tread carefully. There are a number of different reasons why a dog might exhibit aggression -- fear, attaining the age of social maturity and looking to establish his place in the world, to get his own way. These reasons are difficult to tease out from a bulletin board post. My opinion is that if a dog is fear aggressive, it is both inappropriate and dangerous to deal with it using punishment. If a dog is aggressive because he truly thinks he's the boss of you and wants to get his own way, it is WAY WAY WAY dangerous for 99.9% of owners to try to solve the situation using force. I do think that such dogs are relatively rare, and much more common among breeds like Akitas or German Shepherds than among Border Collies. But anyway, I would personally never want to come across one of these dogs -- Solo's behaviorist refers to them as "Masters of the Universe" types -- and these dogs, especially, are the ones that people really, really need professional help with, if the are determined to make it work with the dog. The scariest case studies I have ever read, and the ones with the poorest outcomes, are the ones involving these kinds of dogs. In these cases, the dogs may richly deserve punishment and "attitude adjustment," but these are exactly the sort of dogs it is least safe to try those methods on.

 

I don't know if I'm making any sense, but I'm exhausted. I worked my dogs today, it's a two-hour drive each way and then we took an hour-long walk trying to find a low bank along the Schuylkill so that the dogs could go swimming after we got home. You know it's bad when your dogs are so filthy that you'd rather have them go into a polluted river than bring them home the way they are.

 

I'll get to NILIF in another post.

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