The Modern Dog Trainer Podcast – Ep. 4 The IAABC Shelter Program with Molly Sumridge

The Modern Dog Trainer Podcast – Ep. 4 The IAABC Shelter Program with Molly Sumridge

In this podcast we invited Molly Sumridge, board member of the IAABC, to talk about their new shelter animal behavior program for shelter volunteers, staff, and trainers.

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Episode 4 – The IAABC Shelter Animal Behavior Program

The IAABC shelter animal behavior programMolly Sumridge runs Kindred Companions in Frenchtown, NJ. We discussed all of the information available to members. Animal shelter volunteers can receive a discount. The IAABC library contains a tremendous amount of reading and handout materials in addition to access to world-renown animal behavior experts. We also discuss how Molly juggles the challenges and benefits of having a business that involves dog training, pet sitting, and a physical pet store.

About the Hosts

Links mentioned in the show:

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Top 10 Reasons To Join The IAABC

There are many professional organizations out there for dog trainers to join.  How do you possibly decide which one(s) to give your money to?  I recently joined the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) as a basic supporting member, and could not be happier with my decision.  Following are the top 10 reasons to consider joining the IAABC:

  1. Free videos for CEU’s – Once you join the IAABC, even if you are joining at the basic supporting membership level, you have immediate access to free lectures and webinars.  These are changed/added to on a regular basis.  But not only are they free; you can actually earn CEU’s for watching them and answering a few quick questions!
  2. Conference registration discounts – I was given the honor of attending the IAABC’s dog behavior conference in Chicago earlier this year, and I can honestly say it was one of the most educational and beneficial conferences I’ve ever attended.  As a member of the IAABC, you get discounted ticket prices to their conferences.  They already have their dog and cat conference scheduled for 2016, and for 2017 they are hoping to add horse and parrot conferences as well.
  3. Member discounts – Enjoy discounts to Dogwise, Tawzer Dog, The Clicker Company, Behavior Works, E-Training for Dogs, and Dogsafe.
  4. IAABC Animal Behavior Consulting courses – As part of their education initiative, you can take online courses that are interactive and educational.  The first one they are offering is “Conducting Remote Feline Behavior Consultations.”  IAABC members get a 15% discount on the course, but they also offered a code to audit it for free.  They are soon going to be collaborating with the Karen Pryor Academy to offer discounts on coursework.      
  5. Discussions – The IAABC offers many different ways to converse/consult with fellow members.  You can talk to people via their very active Facebook member group, LinkedIn, and Yahoo groups.  There is a general members Yahoo group along with species-specific groups.  As a member, you are welcome to join any/all of the species-specific groups to benefit from the shared knowledge.
  6. Appropriate for all skill levels – There is no need for advanced degrees and decades of training experience to join the IAABC.  Trainers of all skill levels will benefit from the offered courses, conferences, and discussions with other members.
  7. Inclusive of all science-based trainers – Here at The Modern Dog Trainer, we endorse force-free training methods.  The IAABC follows the LIMA principle – Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive.  That means there may be some people you interact with that use training methods/tools you might not agree with.  However, so much can be gained when people are able to have honest, level-headed, thoughtful discussions with those from different backgrounds/philosophies.
  8. Multi-species – When you sign up with the IAABC, you choose a “division” – dog, cat, parrot, horse, or working animal.  That being said, you are permitted to join the other divisions’ discussion lists and watch any of the videos.  Even if you never plan on training anything but dogs, there is always something to be learned from watching other species get trained.
  9. Upcoming Principles & Practice course – Launching in 2016, this will be a multi-week, multi-module, multi-speaker self-study course.  This course will provide an overview of the many facets of animal behavior consulting for all species, from domestic animals to exotics, appropriate for experienced animal behavior consultants and practitioners as well as those newer to the field.            
  10. Committed to higher standards – The IAABC heavily promotes continued learning and has an extensive Code of Ethics that members must follow.  The IAABC is constantly evolving and adding new educational opportunities and programs for members.

Are you a member of the IAABC or other professional organization?  Tell us about it!

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IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 2

IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 2

Due to the generosity of IAABC President Michael Shikashio, The Modern Dog Trainer was able to send a writer to the Animal Behavior Conference in Chicago, IL.  Notes from day 1 can be found here.  

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Living With And Loving A Pet With Behavior Problems, by Kristin Buller, LCSW and Kelly Ballantyne, DVM

Kristin and Dr. Ballantyne conducted a small research project on the impact that living with a pet with behavior issues can have on the owners.  The research consisted of 63 participants, 40 of whom answered all questions.  The questions covered how their pet’s behavior impacted their social and personal lives.  Their results showed the impact is huge, sometimes devastating.  Owners feel stress, guilt, embarrassment, and socially isolated from friends and family.  Couples can have increased arguments due to disagreements on how to manage/care for the pet.  People can feel judged by society, friends, and even family.

They spoke about how even professionals occasionally come across as judgmental to those with difficult pets.  How many times have you heard, “there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”  Imagine the impact that one simple statement has on a person who has tried their hardest and still has a difficult dog.

They said that as trainers, we have a responsibility to keep in the mind how any management instructions we give our clients will impact their lives and possibly create isolation from friends and family.  Most of the participants said that their trainers and veterinarians provided hope and trust.  That’s not to be taken lightly!  Kristin runs a support group for people living with difficult pets, where owners can come and talk to other people who truly understand.  No training tips, just emotional support.

They spoke about euthanasia for maybe two minutes, and how it is the last show of love we can give our pets, yet people often don’t extend this grace when the decision is made for a behavioral/mental illness in the pet.  This leaves owners again feeling judged and blamed.  Just a personal note here, but just in the couple of minutes that this was discussed, the entire room was sniffling and many were wiping eyes.  It was profound to me to see how many of us had obviously been touched by a shared experience of euthanizing a beloved pet or helping somebody else come to that decision.

To end, they discussed how trainers are first responders – people reach out to us in a time of crisis.  This is a huge responsibility.  We might not have the tools for dealing with the emotional crisis and that’s okay.  We cannot be trainers and therapists or we get compassion fatigue and burnout.  We don’t have to have all the answers.  So what can we do?

  • Let clients know it’s normal to have these feelings; validate them.
  • Let them know it’s okay to still love their pet.  When people accept the dog they have, instead of the dog they wanted, everybody is happier.
  • Use reflective and empathetic listening.
  • Use self-care to avoid compassion fatigue.
  • Read a book entitled “Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others” by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky.

Introducing Highly Reactive And Aggressive Dogs by Ken Ramirez

The author of this blog having a fangirl moment with Ken Ramirez.

The author of this blog having a fangirl moment with Ken Ramirez.

Ken received a grant to do research on introducing three reactive/aggressive dogs to each other, using the same techniques used in zoos and aquariums.  The research is still proprietary so cannot be shared to those who were not present at the seminar.  However, trust me when I say it was fascinating and you should definitely keep your eyes peeled for when it becomes available to the general public.

Simplifying Complex Training Tools by Ken Ramirez

Ken considers an advanced concept anything that ventures beyond “reward desirable behavior and ignore unwanted behavior.”  He made sure to specify that just understanding the theory isn’t enough – you must have the practical skills before using a tool, let alone introducing it to a client.  He said that training is all about adapting and changing procedures based upon the animal’s behavior.  He discussed many different tools that trainers should have in their toolbox:

  1. Keep Going Signal/Intermediate Bridge/Tertiary Reinforcer
  2. Jackpots
  3. No Reinforcement/Reward Markers (NRM)
  4. Time Outs
  5. Least Reinforcing Scenario/Stimulus (LRS)
  6. Differential Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors
  7. Recall Signal (not a tool but included in lecture due to frequency of misuse)
  8. End Of Session Signal

For each of these, he discussed what the science has shown, how and when to use them, and whether he personally uses them or not.  He ended by talking about how all tools exist for a reason.  Many are very specialized and seldom needed, but we shouldn’t throw them out of the toolbox.  We need to understand all the tools and how to use them if we want to help people STOP using them.  On the other hand, don’t use a tool just because you have it.  Successful use of complex tools depends on thorough understanding of the benefits and challenges of their use.

Final Thoughts Of This Writer

I cannot thank Michael Shikashio and the IAABC enough for his generosity in providing The Modern Dog Trainer a ticket to this conference.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and I learned so much.  It is frustrating as I know the blogs I wrote of this conference cannot convey the sheer brilliance of the speakers that were present, nor the massive amount of information they so generously shared with all of us.

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IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 1

IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 1

iaabcDue to the generosity of IAABC President Michael Shikashio, The Modern Dog Trainer was able to send a writer to the Animal Behavior Conference in Chicago, IL.  

On April 18th and 19th, the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) held a conference on animal behavior at The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago.  It was two full information-packed days.  Fortunately, I had taken my laptop because 14 pages of single-spaced, typed notes later, I was floating on an education high!

Steve Dale – Being Real About The Human/Animal Bond

Steve started the weekend with a bang, throwing out some sobering statistics about the state of pets in our world today.  Obesity issues, behavior issues, health issues, end of life issues.  However, as he pointed out, many of these issues are because we love our pets so very much.  Loving them to death, you could say.  He did offer some other reasons we are seeing so many more behavioral issues in our beloved pets:

  • we pay more attention to our animals, so we are bound to notice more issues
  • “latch key” pets, home alone for much of the day
  • genetic predisposition
  • aversive training techniques
  • lack of training/socialization
  • not listening to real experts, only Google “experts”
  • treating pets like people

So, as a modern dog trainer, what can you do to help combat this?

  • community involvement
  • education of clients/public
  • social and traditional media
  • introduce yourself to public officials
  • good marketing – senior discounts, kitten classes, work with a shelter
  • emphasize the importance of end of life care

Dr. John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB – Fear Based Aggression

As a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Ciribassi said the issue he sees the most is fear based aggression.  He discussed how so often it is made worse by well-intentioned owners trying to punish the behavior out of their dogs to maintain pack leadership.  Doing this simply creates what he calls conflict aggression.  The dog is throwing submissive body language – he is not at all confident.  But he has learned that humans are unpredictable and that aggression gets him out of the situation.  Dr. Ciribassi said that conflict/fear-based aggression generally shows up either at sexual maturity (6-8 months) or, more likely, social maturity (1-2 years).

Dr. Ciribassi’s protocol for treating this is:

  • counter conditioning
  • remove exposure to inciting stimuli
  • desensitization
  • appropriate use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals

Dr. Ciribassi said he does not advise taking dogs off pharmaceuticals if they are working.  Work with a vet to taper them to the lowest effective dose, but trying to wean a dog off is similar to trying to wean a diabetic off insulin.  It’s a disease that isn’t cured, a medical abnormality.  He did say that it’s a lifelong process, that we never “cure” these problems; we just help people manage the problems so the dogs can stay in the home.

Dr. John Ciribassi – Possessive Aggression/Resource Guarding

“Dominance – assertion of one member of a group over another in acquiring access to a piece of food, a mate, a place to display, a sleeping site, or any other requisite that adds to the genetic fitness of the dominant individual…” E.O. Wilson

When Dr. Ciribassi talks about resource guarding, he has two different tests for it.  The first, the equal opportunity test, involves putting a valued resource equidistant between two dogs and releasing them at the same time.  The dog that gets the resource is more dominant when it comes to equal opportunity.  However, the next test, the established possession test, is more telling.  In this test, one dog is given a valued resource and allowed to enjoy it and establish possession.  The other dog is then released.  Whichever dog ends up with the resource is more dominant when establishing possession.  The established possession test is the one Dr. Ciribassi was talking about during this session.

He pointed out that resource guarding has nothing to do with hierarchy between a dog and a person.  It is all about resource holding potential.  If it were based on dogs being dominant over people, it would imply that dogs would be able to come over and get us to leave something we have that they want.  It is simply not about hierarchy.  It is about value, possession, and the need to maintain control over a resource.

When it comes to resource guarding, punishing the dog or taking away the item is the worst thing to do.  It increases the likelihood of the dog increasing their guarding or moving on to guarding benign objects.  Dr. Ciribassi emphasized that hand feeding is not recommended because it keeps that conflict present with the dog.

Dr. John Ciribassi – Separation Anxiety

Dr. Ciribassi started by saying that people cannot cause separation anxiety.  It’s a genetic abnormality.  What people can do, however, is exacerbate the issue.  He said that before beginning treatment/b-mod, it is essential to not only get an extensive behavioral history, but also a physical exam and lab work to rule out any medical issues.  This is especially critical when the issue suddenly rears its ugly head in a dog that is full-grown.

Dr. Ciribassi said that the overall goal of treatment is to reduce dependence on owners and reduce significance of departure and arrival routines.  This is managed through an extensive treatment plan that would require its own blog.  He does pair the behavior modification with anti-anxiety medication.

Dr. Ciribassi listed several factors that can affect the outcome of treatment:

  • the older the dog at time of diagnosis, the poorer the prognosis
  • a dog with multiple diagnoses (noise anxiety, conflict aggression, etc) will have a poorer prognosis
  • can the owners follow through with the extensive modification to their lives?
  • can the owners follow through with medication compliance with their dogs?
  • basic living situation of the owners

Laura Monaco Torelli – From Exotic To Domestic Animals

Laura spent some time telling us of the lessons she learned from working with exotic animals that have helped her become a more effective dog trainer, especially on the human side of things.  Here are some of her tips:

  • When working with your clients, it is important to remember “WOOF.”

W – What you want

O – One thing at a time

O – Observable and definable

F – Five words or less

  • Be an empathetic teacher to both animal and owner
  • Give discrete criteria that is easily followed, less than 5 words:
    • “leash thumb in pocket” or “leash hand along seam”
  • Have owners practice the skills before the dog gets involved
  • We shape human behavior – avoid flooding your clients!
  • Teach proactive husbandry care
  • Slow steps = progress
  • Learning is dynamic

Finally, Laura shared with us what she teaches first to clients – TACOS!

T – Targeting

A – Attention to handler

C – Cue a behavior

O – Offer a behavior

S – Stationing or settle on mat

Dr. Ciribassi, Steve Dale, Ruth Crisler, Michael Shikashio – What Is A Veterinary Behaviorist, A Behavior Consultant, A Trainer?

This was a panel discussion to round out the day.  Many ideas were bounced around and much emphasis was made on the point that trainers, behavior consultants, vets and veterinary behaviorists all have to work together as a team to aid clients.  Here are a few basic points that were thrown out for discussion:

  • Trainers prevent problems behaviors
  • Behavior consultants solve problem behaviors
  • As trainers and behavior consultants, we never make diagnoses – we refer to vets
  • There are only about 65 true Veterinary Behaviorists in the United States.

That was all just on day one!!! Click here for notes from day two!

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