The Ministry of Silly Thoughts

February 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm 19 comments

Apparently, my dogs have all been tortured at some point in their lives. A friend just sent me this link to a position statement published by a group that calls themselves the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology or COAPE.

The loony nice people over at COAPE inform us that NILIF and “sit to get” are… TORTURE!

Seriously. COAPE compares these common, humane and widely accepted dog training methods to the kind of real, actual torture that people in prison camps are subjected to. Specifically they state that:

We’re all well aware of prison and internment camps around the world established in response to various conflicts, and with the debates about what’s been going on in such places, but we often fail to realise that there is a science behind torture. Effective torture entails 3 elements:

  1. The obvious one,:  something aversive/painful and this is what we usually think of as ‘torture’. But there are 2 other crucial elements involved as well:
  2. Control: in that the victim has no control over his situation.
  3. Predictability: in that the victim does not know what’s going to happen next and when.

By far the most damaging and stressful long term, both emotionally and physically (via the ongoing release of stress hormones and their impact on the victim’s neurophysiology and immune system) is predictability. But what has this got to do with our food-guarding dog? The answer is ‘lots’ in terms of owner feedback to the dog when applying a behaviour modification technique in such an emotionally charged situation. If you get this wrong then problems like aggression can soon be exacerbated. This is why, at COAPE and CAPBT, we start with assessing the science behind the emotional physiological mechanisms that reinforce the undesirable behaviour. The behaviour of food guarding, of itself tells us nothing.

This statement displays a level of confusion and ignorance about the behavior of real world humans and dogs that is absolutely stunning in extent. This group must be legislated under The Ministry of Silly Thoughts.

Even when it’s used by first time dog owners NILIF succeeds largely because it is predictable and because it’s wonderfully easy for the dog to control. The method is so simple that it’s commonly recommended for children and first-time pet owners. Instead of being overwhelmed by a lot of choices he doesn’t understand, the dog living under NILIF has lots of control. He gets asked a simple yes-no question; if he says yes, he gets rewarded and if he says no, he isn’t.

I don’t understand how this idea is this at odds in any significant respect from the “purely positive” idea of using the giving and withholding treats to train dogs.

Most of what’s posted in COAPE’s position statement appears to be the rambling, neurotic justification of a lot of bizarre ideas – I do not see any real, actual scientific evidence presented for this extremely radical (and, frankly – offensive) stance.

What COAPE really appears to be alluding to is that – unless you are a certified, advanced degree holding behaviorist – you have no business training a dog. Or maybe even living with it.

Hat tip to my friend Linda Kaim for the title of this post.

Entry filed under: dog training, dogs. Tags: , .

Who Knew? One Big Happy

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Viatecio  |  February 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    More and more these days, I’m getting that vibe that, unless you are an absolute EXPERT on dogs, you shouldn’t be owning one. And of course, there’s a pretty loose definition on what constitutes an “expert.”

    From the pure-positive trainers who think they know what’s best for your dog and what your dog wants/prefers (because they think my dog would prefer cookies’n’love to being given freedom within a specific set of rules?), to the dog food faddists who insist that organic is the way to go (well, I admit to being a partial-faddist, but not all-organic!), to overwhelmed rescues that refuse to place dogs with a more-than-competent permanent home (well, except for that intact dog or unfenced yard 😀 ), to this…then the H$U$ has won and PeTA is not far behind.

    Oh and I love their reference to the dog being a “victim.” Poor abused things…

    No wonder children are getting more and more out of hand. We can’t even give our ANIMALS basic boundaries without hurting their feelings. GAG.

  • 2. Pai  |  February 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    It’s the AR plan: redefine the standards of ‘pet guardianship’ to be so high/expensive/unreasonable that nobody can meet them, therefore making ‘pet ownership’ virtually impossible for the average human being to be able to maintain.

  • 3. Wild Dingo  |  February 5, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Oh my dog. i can’t even understand the language or train of thought in that last paragraph statement. WTF?

    My rescue dog came to me as food possessive and i was told NEVER to feed hiim next to another dog. it took me 2 nights to teach him with NO physical force, not to try to take my other dog’s food. all i did was tell him to leave the room (when he was finished with his dinner) and i body-blocked him from getting to the other submissive dog’s food that she was eating. After that, every night after dinner he’d come into my office and nudge me with his nose letting me know he was finished and he was not bugging his sister and he did good. He learned sooooo well, that one day after giving them both bones and leaving in the living room, his sister took advantage of him leaving his bone to go check out a noise. instead of fighting for his bone back, he came into my office and sat next to me and “told on her”. i knew he couldn’t have fiinished his bone becuase it was only 2 minutes. i went into the living room and laughed when i saw his sister had both bones. I took it, told her “no” and gave him back his bone. he learned to resolve conflicts through me in those 2 nights. I don’t how, i don’t know why it was so easy but it was. and I DO use food to train behavior.

    hello, i think i’ll just go to the store and take some food and say it is inhumane to make me pay for it because they are trying to exert control over me wanting to get some food for nothing.

    food trainng is predictable. it’s wonderful. we as humans do a job for money (for food/shelter). why can’t dogs do the same? do a job or a sit, down, stay, for payment? it’s not like they are being controlled this way 24/7. just when they are asked to do the job.

    I agre with Viateco, especially on “positive only” methods. I use mainly positive. but guess what? life is full of stress and consequences. you can’t go out and beat up the kid at the play ground because you’re stressed out about your spelling test. there are consquences to human behavior. in the dog world and pack world, there are rank and consequences as well. and yes, “everyone” is an expert. i only know what i’ve experienced. I don’t rely on only positive or only compulsion, but i do remain consistent with my dog and that above all builds a solid, predictable behavior back from your dog. it almost doesn’t matter what methods you use (ok, as long as you aren’t beating your dog) as long as it’s consistent, the dog will respond consistently. people underestimate that word “consistent”. it means EVERY SINGLE TIME dog does behavior A, you do Behavor B. period. sigh. what an assinine report. maroons.

    what horse dung!

  • 4. H. Houlahan  |  February 5, 2010 at 5:15 am

    I have removed the blog of the publisher of Dogs Today from my blogroll. It was there because they had some coverage of the fallout from the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program. But as they are publishing this drek in their magazine, guaranteeing the miserable lives and early deaths of countless British pet dogs whose owners are easily influenced by idiots with degrees, I cannot let it remain.

    I was pretty close to brooming them when the publisher persisted in maintaining that bearded collies are untrainable and everyone knows it. Now we know why.

    These people nucking futz. They wouldn’t know a neurological process if one actually started in their echoing skull-vaults.

    And Coppinger again. May I please die now?

    The pozzies are reaping the logical absurdity of what they’ve sown. I don’t know any self-proclaimed pure positive trainer who doesn’t use some sort of NILIF. Now they are torturers. How’s it feel, guys? (I have this sinking feeling that some portion of the NILIF-pushing pozzies are going to experience a religious conversion and renounce their torturing ways after this.)

    From reductio ad Hitlerum to reductio ad Bin Ladum to reductio ad Abu Ghraibum. Wunnerful substitutes for having a coherent thought in one’s head.

    But what would I know? I’m a well-known terrorist.

  • 5. Nancy Richards  |  February 5, 2010 at 6:50 am


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  • 6. YesBiscuit  |  February 5, 2010 at 7:15 am

    While I don’t wish to downplay the value of basic manners training for dogs, I am so not into this trend that dogs are basket cases of mental problems which only rocket scientists can solve and if you try it yourself, you should be put in jail. There are many dogs out there who are easy keepers and can do well with a basic obedience class taught by most any experienced dog person. That’s one of the main reasons we domesticated them, isn’t it?

  • 7. Rob McMillin  |  February 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I would love to introduce these people to Maddy.

  • 8. Rob McMillin  |  February 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    But what would I know? I’m a well-known terrorist.

    But not, yet, a Jack Russell terrorist.

  • 9. H. Houlahan  |  February 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Oh! Something to aspire to! That would be badass.

  • 10. SmartDogs  |  February 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Dinch you guys know – they call them terrorist because the little bastards refuse to share their food.

  • 11. EmilyS  |  February 7, 2010 at 10:09 am

    this is gonna make some heads explode:

  • 12. SmartDogs  |  February 7, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Wow, a completely moronic superbowl ad. Will wonders never cease?
    Nice catch posting it under Ministry of Silly Thoughts 😉

  • 13. thetroubleis  |  February 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    What in the world? I don’t practice NILF and might be what some of you would consider too positive, but that is so illogical I don’t even know where to start..

  • 14. SmartDogs  |  February 7, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I don’t have a problem with trainers who are “positive” – I have a problem with mean-spirited proselytizers and people who don’t make sense. COAPE executed an epic fail in both categories!

    That position statement may as well have been written by the UniBomber!

  • 15. Linda Kaim  |  February 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    And yet another collection of pap from people who have never handled anything but a stuffed dog in their entire lives.

    It amazes me at the limited possibilities people reserve for dogs. Maybe a reflection of the limits they have imposed for themselves> I wonder. Since we all know that they would certainly choose death over a well times correction, even if it is the withholding of a tasty morsel.

    And now this.

    I will surely burn in hell.

    Thanks for the H/T btw.

  • 16. Ed  |  February 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    As far as I can make out from the quotes you posted, diapering a baby is torture.

    I usually see NILF used on dogs who were carefully taught to be obnoxius. And I think NILF is pretty harsh compared to starting a dog of right with balanced training. God knows I hate to be micromanaged.

  • 17. SmartDogs  |  February 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I look forward to seeing you there 😉

  • 18. thetroubleis  |  February 12, 2010 at 3:56 am

    @SmartDogs, I’m not a dog trainer, just a girl with a service dog in training who enjoys your blog.

    Sorry about my lack of replying in a timely fashion.

  • 19. SmartDogs  |  February 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

    No problems – readers like you make this project worth the effort.

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