Dog trains man

Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcome to the "Wall of Shame": Irene Jarnved

Irene Jarnved is Denmark's answer to Victoria Stilwell. She is seen as the public Danish nr.1 in dog training and behavior. A TV celebrity with her show "It is me or the dog" - yes, the name is no coincidence - running on Danish TV. There is not a dog magazine or dog related website in Denmark that doesn't have Irene writing editorials and columns. Irene runs her own training center for dog trainers, and is educating the next generation of Danish dog behaviorists.

Irene Jarnved is from the "positive reinforcement school", her methods seem refreshing compared to the average "old school" Danish dog trainer/behaviorist. And therefore it actually hurts me I have to write this. Unfortunately, the comparison with Victoria Stilwell stops at the title of her TV show. Her opinions reveal a lack of basic knowledge about dogs and dog behavior and she is misleading more than she is educating.

Irene Jarnved disappointed the first time one year ago in a TV debate. The debate was about dangerous dogs and if BSL should be implemented in Denmark. Irene talked about "fighting dog breeds" and "muscle dog breeds" - whatever the last might be - making a point that these dogs, at least foreign ones, are bred to fight. Although she is probably correct that some individual dogs have been imported that were bred with fighting in mind, that doesn't make a breed out of them. "Fighting dog" is not a collection of breeds. Fact. Period.

Her official statement is that she is against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Maybe Irene hired the same PR person as Jørgen Hindse from the Danish Kennel Club, and finds it difficult to align her public statements in interviews with what is written on her own website. Summarizing individual dogs bred for fighting and proclaiming them as whole breeds of "fighting dogs" helps to feed the prejudice, it is simply discriminatory, and nothing else. To the dogs, but also to the people that have these breeds.

A couple of days ago, a dog from the observation list - 12 breeds that are in danger to be the next to be banned - made the news after it killed a small dog. I would not have made the news last year, but of course the media is now all over the breeds on the observation list, fueling mass hysteria once again.

The small dog was on the leash of a two-year old child, and went around the corner, where a dog was tied down while his owner was in a mall. What happened in their meeting we do not know other than the horrible and fatal outcome for the poor small dog, but what is wrong in this picture is two things. It shows again it is not a good idea to leave your dog unattended while you visit a shopping center, and it is not a good idea to send your two-year old ahead with your dog. Two dog parents, how sad the consequences may be, that could have done better.

Irene Jarnved commented on this case in the most shameful way. Neglecting the issue of ownership, responsibility, and how to prevent dog bites - she started ranting about dangerous dogs and how to prevent being bitten by them. One of the advices she gave was to "pick up your dog if it was a small enough if a possible dangerous dog was approaching". On top of that, would a fight start, "it is best with a fighting dog to grab it by its collar and turn it around and around until it almost can not breath anymore".

This is absolutely fabulous, so now all people with small dogs pick them up, thereby imprinting their dogs to fear other dogs, and everybody that tries to break up a dog fight will be bitten. You just don't break up a dog fight by grabbing the collar, it is what you should absolutely not do. Did you noticed she mentioned "fighting dogs" again, btw?

Also remarkable in this debate is Irene Jarnved's ignorance of the effects of BSL. The owner of the killed dog expressed her discomfort "I really don't dare to have another dog with all those big dogs running around". My heart goes out to her and it is a very understandable response.

But this is a known effect of BSL, it doesn't help people to feel safer. You cannot ban your way into feeling safe. Irene missed also this opportunity to educate on BSL. Instead her comment on dogs and sizes was "It is never smart to place a dog around the corner, as that makes it hard to avoid an attack if you pass by with a smaller dog". Does that mean if I leave my dog unattended a couple of feet further will help?

What for me is the most disappointing is that Irene Jarnved doesn't use her fame to at least be an advocate in favor of responsible ownership and even better, speak out against laws that discriminate on breed. In that area she still has a lot to learn from Victoria Stilwell, using her fame and good name to influence positively, speaking out against BSL and it's injustice and horror. Like Victoria's article "Why BSL doesn't work", or her speaches about BSL at seminars.

Welcome to the Breed ban "Wall of Shame", Irene Jarnved.


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sniffing for Footprints: why Tracking is not always Tracking

The tracking posts on this blog raised some questions I would like to answer. Some asked if they could start with tracking for search-and-rescue. And some questioned if treats laid down on the track itself is proper tracking training. Before I can answer these questions, we first need to clear something up.

Basically both questions reveal the same misunderstanding. "Tracking" is a commonly used term for dogs following a scent. But sometimes tracking is not tracking. There are different styles involved. These styles are air scenting, trailing and - actual - tracking. Each style fits the task we want the dog to perform.

Air scenting

With air scenting the dog focuses on air born rafts. This is used when there is no specific track - like when you are searching for drugs, money etc. Or in rescue situations, like searching collapsed buildings for survivors. With air scenting the dogs usually scent for a specific category of scents, not necessarily individual scents.
When searching for a missing person, the point is to reach that person as soon as possible. Even when the track itself already has evaporated. Sometimes following the exact track or trail is not the fastest way to get to the person, as the picture on the left illustrates perfectly. Air scenting would still give success in those cases.


With trailing the dog is focused on the rafts of a particular person that have fallen down along that person's route. They sniff for an individual scent belonging to an individual person.

Because of the wind they usually follow the track close, but not exactly. Dogs can trail quite fast and trailing is therefore ideal when the goal is to reach the person as soon as possible.

With trailing the handler usually has a scent article of the lost person they want the dog to find. We not only want to to find "a" person, like when air scenting, but also want to find the exact person we are looking for. They should be able to pick them out of a group if necessary.


With tracking we want the dog to slowly and methodically follow the exact track of a person and indicate the objects they find along the track. They focus on the ground and use deposited rafts and disturbed surface to follow the track. This gives the characteristic nose down posture we know so well.

Because the scent of a disturbed surface sustains a lot longer than human scent, tracking dogs have the ability to follow the oldest of tracks, from which human scent already has disappeared.

In K9 police work tracking is used as they also set out to find any evidence a criminal might have "lost" along the way. Finding evidence is almost as important as finding the criminals themselves.

There is no "best" way. But depending on the task at hand, one of the specific styles will fit best. Dogs can master multiple styles.

Which brings me back to the first question. Can we teach our dogs tracking for search-and-rescue? The answer to that would be a no. When we are searching for a missing person, we want to find them fast, and a tracking style is too slow to be an option. When there is still a track available we can use trailing, or when too much time has past and the track has evaporated, we can use air scenting.

On the second question about using treats on the track during training sessions, the answer would depend if we are talking about trailing or tracking. With tracking, treats on the track are needed to learn the dog to slow down, and also to let the track itself become the reinforcer. When the reward would first come at the end of the track, all dogs would rush ahead to get their reward. Using treats on the track and no reward at the end creates trackers - no treats on the track and a reward at the end creates trailers.

Kenzo is getting quite savvy in both air scenting and tracking. And since last month's nosework camp, we have been training a lot with following the individual footsteps as required in tracking, and getting his focus back on the track. Before nosework camp, I trained Kenzo without treats and a reward at the end which explains the problems we encountered. It made him move towards a "trailing" style, not "tracking". Her is the last video from yesterday's session, and you can see the progress he made. He is very focused and moves his nose from one footprint to the next:

What do you think? Does it make sense to follow only trailing or air scenting style in search-and-rescue? And what is your opinion on using treats when training tracking?


All illustrations are from the excellent book about scent, "Scent and the scenting dog" by William G. Syrotuck. If you want to know more about the world of scent this is definitely the book to read. It is obligatory material on police K9 training schools. It is not so much a training manual, but more a thorough description of what scent is all about, and what your dog can do with it. After you have read this book, even a routine dog walk will never be the same. Welcome to the dog's world of scent!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I am The Poop Fairy

are you finished scooping?
Don't you hate it when people don't clean up after their dog? I do. And so does Amy Burket from Last Friday Amy launched a great initiative, "I am The Poop Fairy", as her contribution to Blog The Change.

Amy is a firm believer that you shouldn’t complain about something unless you’re willing to take action to make it better.

In addition to picking up after her own dogs, every day this quarter Amy will pick up at least one doggy deposit that does not belong to her dogs.

I will join Amy in her "I am the Poop Fairy" initiative and hope you will too. Why? Because two years ago, poop that was not scooped almost became fatal for Kenzo.

He contracted the "French heartworm" - angiostrongylus vasorum. Little devils that use poop and slugs as intermediate hosts. Although a rare heartworm, they are present all over the globe, though mostly in Western Europe and Canada. They follow the poop. No kidding.

It is fatal for dogs. The worms reproduce inside the heart and travel from there through all the organs in your dogs body - see this animated video. They eat your dog from the inside out. As soon as you notice the hemorrhages around the eyes and gums, and blood in their poop, it is already too late. Internal organs have suffered fatal damage.

In Kenzo's case, it started when we got a letter from our vet informing us the French heartworm was on the loose in our local area. She had a case of a dog with the French heartworm in her pratice and adviced all of her clients to be tested for the heartworm. We had to leave for a trip to Holland - Kenzo included - at the end of that week, but I delivered the necessary poop samples of 3 consecutive days to our vet before we left.

If something was wrong she could call us. I was not the least worried and did not give it a lot more thought. One of the days I had problems with incoming calls from Denmark that were disconnected before I could answer them. The same day my wife called that Kenzo had started to cough up white slime. It looked and sounded a lot like the Kennel cough.

First thing I did was to call our vet in Denmark. As you probably already guessed, it was her that has been trying to reach us as Kenzo's test turned out positive. And she was really worried when she heard he was coughing up white slime. The white slime was filled with French heartworm larvae causing inflammation in his lungs.

The prevention and cure for the French heartworm is the same: Advocate / Advantage Multi. But I had to get it A.S.A.P. Like in yesterday. We could still have a chance to prevent damage to internal organs. Getting a Dutch vet deliver Advocate - a prescription drug in Holland - on such short notice was not easy, but my vet was a great help and send faxes to their office explaining what we needed it for.

Kenzo got his Advocate that same day. A necessary evil, as it kills the worms, but the body has it difficult to cope with all the dead foreign bodies at once. It doesn't always have a happy ending. The little guy now quickly felt very sick and it started to show. It took two days where he didn't do a whole lot more than laying down. But on the third day, he stood up again. Kenzo made it ! It was a close call.

So as you can understand I take scooping poop very serious. What I wanted to ask you is the following - in Amy's words:

In addition to picking up after your own dogs, will you pledge to pick up one pile of unclaimed poop? Could you do it every day for a week? Anyone brave enough to join Amy and me for a month? If you’ll commit to picking up with us every day for the quarter, you are Amy's hero. And Kenzo's as well. We may have to start a club – this could become a movement. Who’s with us?!?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tracking Revisited: Nosework Camp part III

Kenzo after his last track of the day ... sooo tired :)
We learned so much about tracking on nosework camp, now almost 2 weeks ago. Where to start without boring you with all the technical tracking details?

I could write a thousand blogs about everything we learned from Vibeke Gyldenkærne, our tracking trainer on nosework camp.

Trying to stick with the headlines of the tracking part of our nosework camp what does all I learned from Vibeke boil down to? Well, ahum. I have been moving ahead too fast. I know, I think I wrote in almost all of my former blogs about tracking "don't move forward too fast". And despite preaching that, I stumbled, tripped and fall down myself.

So we start from scratch again - sort of. And the good news is Kenzo is picking up like never before. Meaning I will still bore you with those thousand blogs. At least. Just not all at once. Kenzo and me are tracking again and we are happy about it. Here is a short video we took after camp, rehearsing with Kenzo that tracking is all about following the footsteps.

As this is the last installment of the nosework camp series, I want you to know Kenzo didn't only work, he had a lot of fun as well - and also made a lot of new pals. Qipoe the BC, Kiwi the Toller and Sally the Lab are some of his new favs.

There was even another Hovawart in the group. And we are going to meet him again on the international Hovawart show coming in September. Reminding me we have one more project this year, Kenzo is going to participate in his first dog show!

Last but not least, I can recommend everybody to spent a couple of days with their dog in some sort of camp this summer. Nosework, herding, agility, treibball, take your pick. It is an awesome experience to spent some holiday time together with your pet.

Playtime with Sally the Lab

Waiting in the shadow for our turn to track

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blog The Change: Fair Dog

Denmark 2011. A worst case scenario of a breed ban frenzy is still unfolding. While dogs are dying and prosecuted in a witch hunt, who fights for the rights of our dogs in this revival of medieval times?

It's not the politicians, all but one - Christian H. Hansen - either don't speak out, or worse, call for more breeds being banned.

It's not the existing animal welfare organizations, they limit their protest to their internal magazines and preach to the choir.

It's not the Danish Kennel Club, as their president seems to have an issue with some breeds.

It's not public figures like Irene Jarnved (the "Danish Victoria Stilwell") who still believes the myths that some dogs are genetically wired to hurt others and refers to "fighting dogs" as a collection of breeds.

And it is definitely not the press, which seems occupied finding incidental headlines instead of researching facts.

But there is somebody. Charlotte Andersson - together with a group of like-minded friends - decided to act. If nobody seemed around to help our dogs, Charlotte and her group will. They stepped up to the plate and erected the Danish non-profit "Fair Dog".

Charlotte thinks dog bites are a big deal - she herself has been bitten severely twice by non-listed dogs - but argues that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) will not solve a thing. Backed by scientific research and similar experiences of other countries, Charlotte and friends speak out asking for reason. Demanding the facts to come out and inform the public of the injustice we inflict on our dogs. They visit fairs, markets and events in real life. They blog, join debates and discuss in social media.

As Denmark doesn't have a reliable dog bite statistic, and politicians, police, animal welfare organizations and the Danish Kennel Club blame each other for not erecting such a statistic instead of doing something about it, Charlotte and friends did what no official institution would do. They set out to do it themselves. By researching every single dog bite incident in Denmark, verifying the information with vets, insurance companies, even the involved owners - they made a report.

Through the report the first real fact in the Danish breed ban finally surfaced. And not surprisingly, dog bite incidents have increased despite the breed ban. Although ignored at first, media started to shed some light on it, and even the Danish Kennel Club could not ignore anymore that Fair Dog's research is the best we have at this moment. With the report Fair Dog - finally - even earned some air time on Danish Television, where Charlotte was able to present the results and have a short debate with the Danish pro-BSL politician Marlene Harpsøe.

An inspiring example. When all public figures and politicians seem to move down the wrong path, a group of - not so - ordinary people can Be The Change. Keep up the good work Charlotte and Fair Dog, we cheer for you from abroad all we can.

If you like, you can leave a note of support on Fair Dog's Facebook Wall or sign the international petition below. Charlotte and Fair Dog will appreciate the international support in their fight against BSL in Denmark.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scent Discrimination: Nosework Camp part II

Kenzo sniffing apples
One of the topics of last week's Nosework camp was scent discrimination.

We could chose an item we would like Kenzo to search for by scent. Either an apple, a tea-blend, coffee, or something like money. Searching for money could quickly become expensive. You need bills with different amounts. New bills, old bills, etc. And as we already can search for marihuana, adding money to our curriculum could also give some the wrong impression. So we went for the apple.

To train scent discrimination you need a couple of tall glasses or cans. One of the glasses contains the apple, the others contain something that looks like an apple - sort of - like plums or oranges.

You might wonder why the tall glass? Simply because we don't want them to think it is an exercise "how to get the apple out of there and eat it".

What we want to achieve is to present the glasses in a row to our dog and have them indicate to us which one contains the apple. You can train this with a clicker - not necessarily though - but I will use the clicker in the examples.

Step 1. Put nose in glass

Introduce the apple in a glass. When your dog puts the tip of his nose in the glass, you click. Some dogs already got this in the first session. Others had some difficulty finding out what was expected. As an example, I took a video of the first session I did with Viva when we got home again. You can see she has no clue what I expect of her. When she shows stress by scratching herself I stop the session.

We only click when they put their nose down in the glass. If we would click on licking or tipping the glass over, we might create the wrong behavior.

Step 2. Chose the apple

After step 1, your dog probably thinks this is the "put nose down in glass excercise", so we have to introduce scent into the equation. Now you use two glasses, one with the apple and one with a plum or an orange. They will put their nose down in both of them. You click when they are down in the glass with the apple. This will teach them it is all about the apple. Here a video with Kenzo I took on return from camp. He is still with this step. Can you see where my clicker timing is wrong? I was not a big help in this session for Kenzo.

The last choices Kenzo made were very good!

Step 3. Indicate the apple

To rule out they chose by exclusion we delay the click. We now first click if we can see they stay with the apple, and they are telling us deliberately "it is this one!". First then we are sure they understood it is about the apple, not the glass or anything else they might think of. In the next video you can see Kiwi, she reached far and made it to this step already during the sessions on the nosework camp.

There are three more steps to go through: 4. distractions, 5. mark and 6. cue - and we tell more and show video's with Kenzo and Viva when we get that far!

It was very interesting to see all the dogs evolve through the steps. Kiwi made it to a first session into step 4. And one dog was able to demonstrate step 4 in its fullest. All dogs were able to leave the camp in step 2. That in itself is a very good result when you think the camp only took 3 days. It was awesome to see the differences in style between the dogs. Like Kenzo, who was carefully choosing his moves what to do, was in sharp contrast with Kiwi's high speed learning style.

It is important not to go forward too fast. First when they got it right 8 out of 10 times they are ready for the next step. It is also best to start each session with a short repetition of the steps you already master. Like a short rehearsal. If they show any confusion, it is probably best to move a step back or start from the beginning again.

Nosework tires. A session should preferably only take a couple of minutes, and they need a short break between each session. It depends on the indivudual dog, but with Kenzo and Viva I train this never longer than 15 minutes in all per day.

As you know, Kenzo can already search for marihuana. We trained this in a different way, but as our trainer pointed out the method we used didn't address searching by exclusion. And there was a risk Kenzo used exclusion instead of scent. Terminally worried I used the first available break to hide some pieces of cloth in the stone wall at the entrance of the camp. Some with and some without marihuana scent. I was relieved when Kenzo quickly found the marihuana and ignored the other pieces. Now when I think of it, I left the pieces in the stone wall ... oh my. Searching for apples has its advantages.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hovawarts and socialization

Kenzo in puppy days
It is always nice when you know your blog is being read. Even better - for us - when we hear it is actually used by visitors to form an opinion on Hovawarts.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Kenzo is Back on Track: Nosework Camp part I

Kenzo and Viva happily united again
Yesterday Kenzo and me returned from nosework camp. After three days of scent feast, my head is still spinning with all the info and advice we brought with us home. But more important, Kenzo is back on track!

One of the main reasons we went on camp was because we made no more progress with tracking. Just recently, Kenzo missed his tracking exam as a result of that. And despite the advice we got from our trainers, we didn't improve.

When we started on camp, I made a whole list of things that needed some work. And when Vibeke Gyldenkærne, the tracking trainer, started out by asking what issues we encounter on the track I spilled out my wish list. Without blinking an eye - to what for me felt like overambitious and mission impossible for just 3 days - she simply replied: "Lets solve that than...".

Let me explain that Vibeke Gyldenkærne is one of the few - and maybe the only one - in Denmark that trains tracking solely based on positive reinforcement. And she has proved it works, as a multiple Danish Champion in tracking. In a world dominated - excusé le mot - by old school police K9 training, training with Vibeke is refreshing and inspiring.

I noted that for each solution she offered for our issues, her advice was many times contradicting what our regular trainers advised in the past. But she was always spot on. She quickly find out what Kenzo needed and got him tracking again in no time. I am so thrilled. At one point, when Kenzo had to find a track, I thought he followed a wrong track and stood still. But Kenzo insisted! He didn't let go and was determined to follow the track. Vibeke was very pleased to see that. For me, it was awesome.

But more about tracking soon. We also trained scent discrimination together with Charlotte Lyngholm - the organizer of the event as well. Like Vibeke, Charlotte has an impressive resume in dog training. In a country without certificates, Charlotte sets her own standards and studied behavioral psychology, is attending seminars and academy's in the US and Holland. In short, a lady with high standards.

We should chose an item we would like Kenzo to recognize by scent. Either an apple, a tea-blend, coffee, or something like money, we could make our pick. Kenzo already knows how to search for marihuana, so we chose the apple. I was looking forward to see if we could make it in only 3 days. Marihuana took us a lot longer. If we made it, and how to start on scent discrimination with your own dog, is going to be part of the next installment, hang around!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Welcome to the "Wall of Shame": Marlene Harpsøe

Marlene Harpsøe
Marlene Harpsøe is Member of Parliament for the "Danish People's Party" (Dansk Folkeparti). The political party that is the engine behind Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in Denmark. Marlene Harpsøe holds the spokesmen position for animal welfare.

Yes, the spokesmen for animal welfare is actually in favor of a breed ban. Somebody that should have the interests of all animals in mind, has gone astray.

Animal welfare for Marlene Harpsøe and the Danish People's Party is not for all. Some animal species and breeds are different than others. Some need to be stigmatized, hunted down, killed and get rid off. First then can we all feel safe, is the message. Yet, it doesn't make me feel safe, it makes me feel obnoxiuos. It makes me feel the exact opposite of safe.

Marlene Harpsøe is not led by facts and she doesn't hide it. Being presented with facts that breed bans do not work, her standard response is "I feel as a person and as a politician, I cannot allow dogs to run around on our streets that are more dangerous than others." Politicians are allowed to have feelings, yet they have a responsibility to act on facts, not feelings. Dogs suffer and die to accommodate these populist statements, and blood flows once more because a politician doesn't live up to her responsibilities.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the Danish breed ban. Some media used it to present the research of Fair Dog that dog bites have increased, despite the breed ban. Marlene Harpsøe commented this by saying "I have never seen a reliable dog bite statistic in Denmark". Thats true, but how can it be the only serious and well-documented research so far is ridiculed and put aside in the blink of an eye. Marlene Harpsøe could also step up to the plate and demand those statistic to be provided once and for all, so she and other politicians can base their decisions on facts. One year ago, the lack of reliable statistics didn't held Marlene Harpsøe back from banning 13 dog breeds. How convenient.

To make her point, Marlene's favorite comparison are cats: "Some breeds of cats are more dangerous than others. I love the Norwegian forrest cat. But does that make a Tiger reliable?". Obviously Marlene either doesn't know she is putting the banned breeds in the same category as wolves, comparing domesticated with wild animals, or she does know, and is using spin and lies to promote her agenda.

So who is more dangerous? Certain dogs? Or certain politicians?

Welcome to the Breed ban "Wall of Shame", Marlene Harpsøe and the Danish People's Party.


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