Apr. 13th, 2016
02:55 pm - Farseer rereading
Over the last couple of months I've reread the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, plus Fool's Assassin and Fool's Quest. I started because I wanted to experience Nighteyes again now I'm a dog owner, but quickly got wrapped up in Fitz and kept going past Nighteyes' death. ( MoreCollapse )
The only problem with all this reading is that my body doesn't like it and I end up with a stiff neck and shoulders just as I do if I spend too much time at the computer. I admire anyone who has the discipline to only read in an ergonomically-correct position! I had a professional standards review last month and had to clean my house in preparation, since I work mostly from home and the reviewer would spend the day here. Relocating spiders alone was a long, three-step process – first I moved the big ones, then I realised there were many more medium-sized ones, and once they were all gone I saw the small ones! Tedious as it was, I had to admit that housework agrees with me physically far better than reading.
Jan. 12th, 2016
09:43 am - In memory of David Bowie
Jan. 4th, 2016
Focused Heeling with Michael Ellis - 4 hour Leerburg DVD
Michael Ellis demonstrating focused heeling (interspersed with play rewards) with his own dog
This one is fairly technical. Luna and I have been making progress on focused heeling (the dog walking exactly at your side looking at you and mirroring your movements) as an offshoot of eye contact work, and I thought I'd better learn more about it before trying to go any further.
The best part of this DVD is watching his students make mistakes. It all seems fairly straightforward when Ellis is explaining what to do, but obviously isn't so easy to put into practice. Over and over he says things like "Your hand should be higher / further forward / further back", which sound fairly easy to change, but the student goes right on doing what they were doing before – they know it's wrong but can't help themselves. Or they're too slow and their dog loses interest, or they reward the dog in the wrong place and undo the good work they did before. Developing the right mechanical skills and timing clearly takes some doing.
He explains that whether or not you have any interest in competition, this type of heeling work is great for forming a strong bond with your dog. I can certainly believe that – just the little bit Luna and I have achieved so far has been incredibly rewarding. It's great to have the dog staring up at you (hopefully) saying "This is fun! Where are we going now?"
( Tons of notesCollapse )
Dec. 29th, 2015
The Power of Training Dogs with Food with Michael Ellis – 2 hour DVD
This is a Leerburg-produced DVD featuring Michael Ellis, who seems to be widely admired in the dog training world. (Here’s a clip of him playing with / training one of his own dogs – especially impressive is the last few seconds, when he tells the dog “We’re done” and the dog accepts it without a moment’s hesitation.) He uses food extensively in the early stages of training to teach new behaviours and attention.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of marker training, this Leerburg article explains it.
A lot of the material in the DVD I’d encountered before, but I got two big things out of it and will probably get a lot more as I progress enough to be able to recognise the finer points. Those two things are:
1. Delivering rewards with movement is more motivating for the dog than rewarding while the dog is stationary, and
2. Delivering a variable number of rewards helps to keep the dog’s attention since it never knows when another reward might be coming.
A DVD or video is a tedious way for me to learn theory, since I can read much faster than I can listen, and my memory works best when I’ve seen something in print. It’s great for the practical demonstrations, though. Ellis demonstrates each thing himself and shows students practising with various dogs, sometimes making instructional beginner mistakes.
( Notes on the DVDCollapse )
I kind of miss the years that Yuletide took me days to get through. Now a few hours seems to be enough, since I haven't kept up with any new fandoms and the obscure stuff seems to get increasingly obscure! Anyway, I'm too busy learning about dogs.
Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet – 4hr Leerburg DVD
My friend with the German Shepherd from the same trainer as Luna loaned this DVD and another one to me. It describes how Ed Frawley of Leerburg Kennels, who runs one of the biggest dog training resources on the internet, recommends you introduce a new dog to your home. Some of it seems a bit extreme on first hearing about it, but I can certainly see how it prevents all sorts of problems. Definitely an interesting perspective to keep in mind, in any case.
The article The Groundwork to Establishing Pack Structure with Adult Dogs covers some of the ground in the DVD. I love the last sentences: "When we established a meaningful bond with our dog we will both wake up every day wanting to spend time together. Don’t ever underestimate the happiness this kind of relationship can bring to your life."
Leerburg is a "balanced" training site (recommending both positive reinforcement and physical corrections) and strongly disagrees with a pure positive philosophy. I am nowhere near experienced enough to weigh in on that argument at this stage! It's a battleground out there. I'm already heartily sick of people arguing semantics and making personal attacks on other trainers, and I just don't know what to think about the underlying issues. Possibly the answer is simply that different things work for different dogs and people.
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Dec. 20th, 2015
Dec. 13th, 2015
How To Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Dr Sophia Yin. Despite the somewhat strange name, this is a general dog training book.
Sophia Yin was a leading veterinary behaviourist who committed suicide last year at age 48. This article talks about the prevalence of depression amongst vets.
This book contains the best discussion I've yet read of the problems with force-based methods, though she didn't rule them out entirely and said she might use them 5-10% of the time. "After considering the side effects, the personality of the dog, and evaluating what the owners can do, I generally conclude that most clients will not be able to perform even the simpler punishments safely."
( Those reasons areCollapse )
( Other notesCollapse )
This is probably the best reasonably short training book I've come across so far. It's well written and illustrated, and every chapter is broken into short sub-headings. It includes a good chapter on troubleshooting what you're doing wrong if your training isn't working.
In fannish news, I've started my Star Wars rewatch in preparation for the release of The Force Awakens this week.
Dec. 1st, 2015
I'm still virtually a beginner, so I may look back on this in the near future and realise I have it all wrong, but these are the most important things I've learned that I didn't know three months ago.
Until recently I thought dog training was mostly a matter of drills (like practising "Sit" and "Stay" enough times so eventually the dog would do them really reliably). Now I see it's mostly about attention. If the dog is focused on you, getting it to do things is relatively easy. If it isn't, it won't respond quickly even to very simple commands.
( The most important things I've learned that I didn't know three months agoCollapse )
Having a dog is pretty great, I must say. I'm a little sad that at almost 45 I probably only have enough life left in me for maybe another two (ETA: ONE!) big dogs (assuming continued good health and sequential acquisition).
Nov. 27th, 2015
05:58 pm - Cesar's Rules by Cesar Millan
Cesar's Rules by Cesar Millan
In this book Cesar Millan (the TV "Dog Whisperer") interviews a variety of accomplished dog trainers and behaviourists, many of whom don't agree with some of his methods, to provide an overview of the various options.
( NotesCollapse )
Nov. 23rd, 2015
Nov. 20th, 2015
Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide - Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog by Brenda Aloff
The local instructor I went to recommended this book as one of the best of its kind. It's almost 400 pages, mostly of photos with interpretations. It's a book to study, not just to read.
( NotesCollapse )
Nov. 14th, 2015
A Modern Dog's Life by Paul McGreevy
Paul McGreevy is an Australian veterinarian, animal behaviourist and university professor.
Something I'm still thoroughly confused about at this stage of my education about dogs is the "pack leadership" concept. Some trainers and authors say it's critical to your relationship with your dog, others say it's entirely passé and there is only training or lack thereof. Cesar Millan gets a lot of criticism heaped upon him for espousing pack leadership, while Patricia McConnell can write a booklet called How To Be Leader of the Pack and Have Your Dog Love You For It and no one seems to go after her. (I appreciate that the training methods they use aren't the same.) I don't much care in any case – I'm interested in practicalities rather than theories.
McGreevy is in the anti-leadership camp and he takes the view that you should be your dog's "life coach" and help your dog to thrive on three things: fun, exercise and training.
( Notes:Collapse )
Nov. 13th, 2015
I borrowed Dog Training My Way by Barbara Woodhouse from the library mostly out of historical interest. It was published in 1973 and the cover has a picture of a group of dogs all wearing enormous check chains that I don't think are even on the market today. Modern theories on the best ways to train dogs have moved on, but I figured there must be some valuable information in the book and I really enjoyed her writing style.
( NotesCollapse )
Nov. 11th, 2015
The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs explores the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids, so communication is not necessarily straightforward.
( NotesCollapse )
Nov. 9th, 2015
10:00 pm - For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia McConnell
I've been reading dog books pretty much non-stop for the last three months and thought I should really be making some notes as I go along. Quite often I read something that finally clicks in my mind when expressed in one author's words, then on reflection realise that many other people had told me the same thing, but without it making the same impression – or maybe it's the repetition that matters. In any case, I'm learning a lot!
For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia McConnell is one of the four books recommended as background reading in Brenda Aloff's Get Connected With Your Dog. I also own and have read The Other End of the Leash by the same author, and will cover that one another time.
As an aside, I'd forgotten how time-consuming it is to make any sort of study of a new subject. To read all the recommended further reading listed in For the Love of a Dog would take years.
Patricia McConnell is an animal behaviourist with a PhD in Zoology.
The book covers how to read dog body language and has detailed chapters on fear, anger and happiness, quite a bit about how the brain works and many anecdotes about her own dogs and her work with clients.
The chapter on reading dogs' expressions starts in a memorable way: "Peter and Barbara thought Buddy was "fine" because he wasn't barking or growling, but to me he had a neon sign over his head that said "I AM GOING TO BITE YOU IF YOU GET ANY CLOSER." She goes on to refer to the contrasting responses by the audience to a video of a dog hovering over a toy: "The dog trainers go on alert when the dog's face becomes still and his eyes go round, because they know what's coming next. In contrast, the general public watches the video in innocent silence, gasping in shock when the dog lashes out, snarling and lunging towards the owner."
( Notes on some of the practical advice in the bookCollapse )
Jul. 4th, 2015
03:06 pm - Uprooted by Naomi Novik
After the Great Wall hiking trip finished, I joined a long weekend trip run by Beijing Hikers to the grasslands near the Mongolian border. It took 5 1/2 hours on a bus to get there, and 8 1/2 hours to get back to Beijing thanks to the longest traffic jam I've ever been in.
The most interesting thing about this trip was the people on it. Hiking is not a popular activity among Chinese people, so Beijing Hikers attracts mostly expats, on this occasion from Germany, England, the Netherlands, Italy, the US, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Some had devoted years of their lives to studying Chinese to allow them to pursue their chosen career there, others worked only in English. Their jobs ranged from teacher's assistant at the British embassy school to a senior Microsoft executive who was close to retirement. Most were living there voluntarily rather than at the request of their employer. A couple in their 50s from England were on their third Chinese posting, and felt China had been a far better place to raise their children than England due to lower levels of personal crime and violence.
( PhotosCollapse )
Jun. 30th, 2015
09:11 pm - China: Dragons and Temeraire
I was conscious of China being Temeraire's country of origin and I'm sure that added some extra enjoyment to my trip.
I wish I'd started taking dragon pictures earlier, but ( here are two from my last dayCollapse )
According to Wikipedia, there are examples of Chinese dragons dating back to 1600BC.
A rec from some Temeraire fanfic reading I did while I was away: Sixteen by quigonejinn, a very short (900 word) story about the first harnessing of Longwings.
The final Temeraire book is apparently still being written and no release date has been set.
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