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Monthly Archives: July 2019
Dog who knew over 1000 words has died
The dog community has lost someone special this week. Chaser, the Border Collie who knew over 1000 words, has died at the age of 15. She outlived the man who trained her, John Pilley, who was a Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Wofford College. Pilley began training her at age 75 after receiving the dog as a gift from his wife Sally, and passed away a year ago at the age of 89. Pilley’s training of Chaser revealed that dogs’ language abilities are so much more extensive than previously realized.
RNA — the short-lived transcripts of genes — from the ‘Tumat puppy’, a wolf of the Pleistocene era has been isolated, and its sequence analyzed in a new study. The results establish the possibility of examining a range of RNA transcripts from ancient organisms, a possibility previously thought extremely unlikely because of RNA’s short lifespan.
I was recently involved in a discussion on Facebook about coaching. Specifically, ways that we can coach people which are palatable, effective, and don’t hurt feelings unnecessarily. A few folks wanted to share it but it was posted inside of a closed group, so I’m placing it here to make it publicly accessible. Help yourself!
How to tell a student what they did wrong without telling them what they did wrong.
Each of these phrases is in response to something I just looked at which I believe was not handled particularly well or not the way I prefer. Note that my phrases allow for the fact that there might be information that I don’t have, especially with an experienced person. I don’t see teaching as me telling you what to do. I see it as working together to find the right answer, and I honor the fact that I could be wrong. Just because I say it doesn’t make it right.
“Another way you might’ve handled that tricky corner was….”
“I’d love to see how your dog responds if you try….”
“Was there a specific reason you did X in that corner rather than Y”?
“I think your dog perceived your hand signal to mean….”
“Let’s see what happens if we….”
“that can be a difficult problem to solve, here are some of the things that have worked for me…”
The phrases below are for a more beginner student:
“When I’m looking at your hand, I only want to see your first finger. Right now I can see your fingernails.” ( Can you see how I told them they were wrong, but more important, what would make them right?)
“When you make a right turn, look about 6 feet ahead of your right foot” (Can you see how I would say that when they did something else, but instead of telling them what they did wrong I just tell them how to make it right? And if that analogy doesn’t work, I find another one)
“Good. Now let’s add this.” ( In my head, the person just did the exact opposite of what I wanted. They’re nervous! Trying to please me! So rather than telling them they did not follow my directions, I give my directions again with a new set of words. There’s no reason to tell them they got it wrong the first time because they’re trying!)
What I say and how I say it depends on who I am talking to and what kind of a reaction I get in return. I watch for those quick flashes of emotion in the first second or two after I speak – people can’t hide those from an astute observer. I also assume that a neutral expression may be an attempt to mask anger or irritation and I react carefully. And enthusiasm? I don’t think a person can fake those very easily without some planning. Those reactions set my course going forward.
You have to make the words work for you! These are the phrases that are comfortable for me, but I would not expect my language to work for other people without being tweaked. I’m just giving you some ideas for how you can tell people they were wrong without telling them they were wrong.
Two more caveats. Sometimes I use tough love. I try to be kind about it, but sometimes I believe it needs to happen. And sometimes I screw up. I acknowledge it in my head, try to do better the next time, but I do not stew over because it is never intended to be hurtful. I do not take personal responsibility for hurting the feelings of another person if I was genuinely trying to be careful with them. I recognize that some people are exceptionally fragile, and while I feel bad that they got their feelings hurt, it doesn’t make me feel bad about myself. Do you see the difference? On the other hand, if I was not careful and I hurt someone’s feelings and I recognize that…. now you have a window into a personal source of shame . I take that very seriously about myself and I will resolve to try harder the next time.
On another note, I look forward to seeing some of you in my Leadership webinar this Thursday evening. If you struggle to determine when you should give your dog choice versus when you should structure their decisions, then this is the webinar for you. Excellent leadership provides for a much more confident team, both in dog sports and in life. See you there!
Nemo in the Arctic
The dog Nemo was on the boat as an experiment. We were 27 artists on a residency in the Arctic, sailing on a tall ship 500 miles from the North Pole to observe, learn and make art. Nemo’s owner, one of our guides/ guards, had asked if he could come along. At least, that’s what I think happened. Fifteen years earlier, I had been to Antarctica on another ship, and this trip was on the path to being an equally amazing and inspiring experience.
“You’re so brave!” people say to me. “To go to the ends of the Earth and explore must be exhilarating and terrifying.” I’ve even been asked if I was the first woman to go to Antarctica (by a fifth-grader during one of my presentations). Answer—not by a long shot, although with the exception of one or two women, this history is fairly recent.
Back in the day, when we used to buy books and DVDs and travel to dog training seminars, workshops and conferences, furthering our education could be pricey. A three-day seminar or five-day conference could easily end up costing $300-$2000, or more. Once you factor in seminar registration, travel, accommodation, shopping and hotel-food costs and time away from family and work, education was expensive, time-consuming, often inconvenient and not that effective — How much information from a one-day seminar was actually retained?
Nowadays, online education is either open-source or very affordable…
Your voice is one of the most useful tools you have in dog training. Sadly, it’s also one of the most underutilized. Many dog owners don’t understand how much they can communicate by using their voice, and as a result, they fail to give their dogs the feedback they need to learn how to behave.
Of course, your voice is most powerful when you use words that your dog understands, but even when you use words they don’t understand your dog will appreciate the tone and intensity and that can communicate quite a lot!
Watch the video below to learn more:
Our dog, Vector, is alive by the scarred skin of his mauled-off tail and the saint-like kindness of an organization, the Sato Project, that rescues strays from Puerto Rico’s infamous Dead Dog Beach.
He endured that hellish environment for about three years, competing with fellow canines for scraps and shelter from Caribbean heat and storms. In addition to his tail, he’s missing a toe and chunks of ear. A deep wound adorns his snout.
Vector could easily be dead, feral or at the very least deeply traumatized. Instead, he can be trusted with the life of my two-year-old son—his human brother.
And though miraculous, Vector’s story is commonplace: his transition from famine to family member is par for the course for canines.
The annual Global Pet Expo held in Orlando, Florida, promotes itself as the world’s largest annual pet products trade show. The show is a good barometer for tracking trends in the companion animal world and marketplace. The event is sponsored by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), which claims that the nation’s spending on pets reached an all-time high of $72.56 billion in 2018 and apparently shows no signs of slowing its meteoric pace.
After two days of walking the show floor covering 343,700 square feet of exhibit space, perusing 1,174 exhibitors, 3,604 booths and more than 3,000 new product launches—some trends start to become apparent. Here’s what is on the horizon for dogs and the people who care for them …
Q&A with interior design legend
A century-old townhouse on New York City’s Upper East Side was the setting for this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House, a fundraising event for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, which serves more than 10,000 young people throughout the Bronx. The top interior designers selected to participate had 30 days to transform a randomly assigned room as they saw fit.
Sheila Bridges, whose work has been showcased in exhibits and museums nationally and internationally and who was named “America’s Best Interior Designer” by CNN and Time Magazine, was given a small ground-floor reception room that looked out onto the street. Adding to the challenge was that the house’s public bathroom could only be accessed by passing through this room. By the end of the month, however, Bridges was ready to unveil her Salon des Chiens, a place for canine care and enjoyment. Why, we wondered, had she chosen that theme? So we asked her.