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Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog (Karen Pryor Clicker Book) Paperback – December 15, 2004
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"A breath of fresh air. Emma Parsons's presents practical applications gained through years of experience." -- Ken Ramirez, VP for marine mammal programs and animal training, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago
"Clear and easy "recipes" for success make Click to Calm a must read for pet class instructors and owners." -- Fran Masters MEd, CPDT, NADOI, MasterPeace Dog Training
"Here is the soundest, kindest, and most practical advice available." --Karen Pryor, author, Don't Shoot the Dog!
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Karen Pryor's Don't shoot the Dog was a breath of fresh air when it came out in 1984. Unfortunately, it took a decade or more for her kind techniques to be fully taken up by dog trainers. The author of this training guide, Emma Parsons, is a Pryor acolyte and obedience competition vereran who came to Pryor's operant and classical conditioning methods while trying to help her own aggressive, traumatized dog. Parsons bravely discloses her own failure in handling her (then) mildly aggressive retriever, handing the dog over to an "aggression expert" who hung the prong-collared dog until it soiled itself, and then taking the dog into that animal abuser's class and making the dog participate. I cannot like a woman who could fail to protect her dog, and who would then meekly take the dog through the abuser's training program. Parsons paid the price for her mistakes, though. The abuse made her dog a highly aggressive basket case. Using classical and operant conditioning, Parsons helped her dog to function in the world again.
What I like most about Click to Calm is the emphasis on behavior rather than diagnosing the source of that behavior. We cannot know whether a leashed dog aggresses against an approaching dog out of fear (under socialized), trauma (bad encounters in the past), resource protection (the owner), ego (feeling big while attached to owner), hormones, genetics, habit, or a mixture of all. But we can shape the behavior of the dog to focus on us for instruction when faced with challenging encounters. We can redirect the dog's mind and in doing so calm the emotions. Having just paid a lot of money to a trainer who advocates using the "Jolly Routine" for my high-arousal, herding breed dog (changing the emotion to change the behavior), I was thrilled to find this book. It makes eminent sense: if excessive emotion and concomitant hormones are the problem, then a rational, methodical, dispassionate training procedure is called for. Stirring up a dog ("Yay, friend!!!") who goes bonkers at the sight of a strange dog or person is illogical.
There are a few things I disagree with. Parsons includes a few dominance practices that I find excessive. She advocates feeding your dog in his crate and making him stay in there for 45 minutes (while he has to potty?), which is -- unless you have a dog prone to bloat -- just mean. But her overall plan is sensible, well organized, user- friendly, and blessedly free of ego or condescension. She is a dog owner who admittedly let her own ego and impatience contribute to the ruining of her own dog. She is an appropriate source of advice on how to undo such damage.
I found "Fired Up, Frantic and Freaked Out" by Laura VanArendonk to be better suited to my particular dog though.