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« Playgroups continue | Main | Top 5 +1 for April, 2013 »

May 03, 2013



Interesting reading! I sent the link on to local directors of the humane society and animal control, both try very hard to get animals out the door alive.

With that said, I do wish that we would start using proper terminology for the killing of shelter animals who are very adoptable. As long as we couch the killing in terms such as "put down" or "put to sleep" or "euthanasia" then the public has a very different perception than what is truly happening. Many of those animals are purely and simply being killed.


I can't say I'm impressed with the Balanced Trainers site - not because I don't think there are important discussions to be had about corrections, punishment, etc. but because both the cited blog and the site as a whole quickly devolve into the kind of name-calling and generalizations that neither convince many people nor advance the broader conversation. There's not actually much solid research linked from the site, either - it's mostly anecdote-driven.


Andy, unfortunately it's been my experience that the conversation as a whole tends to devolve quickly, regardless of who is hosting it. Which I think is very unfortunate for the animals affected.

This isn't unlike many public debates in this country where it seems that people gravitate toward the fringes and into us against them -- and sort of rules out the chance for intelligent conversation.


Saint Louis City animal control and Stray Rescue are not open admission, they will not take an owner surrender. (Even volunteers from Stray Rescue are forced to surrender strays they find or their dogs to other facilities.) They may be saving lives or helping to save lives, but they are shifting their burden of responsibility to the public by pushing owner surrenders onto HSMO, APA and Saint Louis County. I include Stray Rescue in that burden because they accept city tax payer dollars. The Chris Hayes story is okay, but completely accurate in that it leaves a lot out, but that is to be expected since animal welfare in Saint Louis is an oddly political and complicated menagerie of organizations and government. I like Chris, but his understanding of the industry and the local nuances of animal welfare is not complete. Which leads to a skewed representation of what actually occurs in Saint Louis.

To be clear this is not an indictment, comment, or endorsement on how any organization mentioned is run. I just feel that Chris' news segment while fairly accurate omits a lot of what actually occurs in the area.

Animal Welfare is always full of conflict and drama, but Saint Louis seems to have a special kind of drama unique to this area.


Well, I appreciate this blog a lot for what intelligent conversation it's been able to facilitate. Sorry to be a bummer on the link - I just think that site's not a good starting point for a healthy discussion. Granted, I'm not a fan of prongs or e-collars, but there are shelter trainers I know who do use them that I have a great amount of respect for, and who are very much worth engaging.


Thanks Andy -- and it may be fair that the BT site isn't the best starting point (I confess, that outside of a cursory glance, I've not spent much time there). I mostly took the single blog entry at face value, that while, I didn't agree with it in its entirety, or necessarily tone, as a stand-alone it has merit as part of the conversation.




I confess that I'm not intimately involved in the St. Louis scene, but from what I know of it, it doesn't seem terribly unique in the drama amongst groups. In fact, the situation there seem fairly similar to what we've seen here in KC over the years. There's always drama between groups, city and private, etc. I've never seen a situation where there is not this conflict...

And no doubt that a lot is left out -- no news station is going to create a documentary to highlight all the nuance. I did think he noted that St. Louis City and Stray Rescue were accused of turning people away and putting burden on other shelters. So it does seem to highlight this, although not go into detail.


You can start here,

The assumption would be that there is progress, and there has been. But at the moment the animal control and investigation in the city of Saint Louis at best inadequate. At worst it is borderline criminal in that it doesn't meet anything resembling a normal department of health animal welfare system. The citizens service bureau phone number is a joke among most city residents, especially those working with animals. HSMO operates a city R&I that is much more effective.

I'm sure it looks like run of the mill drama from just watching Chris' reports and reading a few articles. It isn't super special drama, but I haven't seen similar in other cities.

Either way, I enjoy the blog and appreciate the work that goes into it.


I posted the same video twice, my apologies. I meant to post this one first.


Oh dear. I have to resort to one of my all time favorite quotes, applied to a totally different context, from German composer Robert Schumann: "In the hands of genius, everything is genius; in the hands of a fool, everything is foolish." So a not-so-good trainer is going to get not-so-good results, regardless of method, and the brilliant trainer is going to get brilliant results, regardless of method. What irks me is the Straw Man argument: offer a faulty position statement of the least competent practitioners of a method and then knock it down. By this person's definition, I'm an aversive-free trainer... which is a seriously weird term, because -P is aversive as heck--that's why it's called punishment:) The live release rate at my shelter was 98% last year... not too shabby, I'd say. What isn't mentioned in this article is the endless stream of dogs who come to shelters with behavior problems and issues precisely because someone who didn't know what they were doing used inept punishment-based training methods. The biggest single problem facing my shelter dog population is fear-based issues; every veterinary behaviorist and Ph.D. behaviorist I've ever heard says outright that punishment-based methods are counter-indicated in fearful dogs. Some of the P+ crowd likes to make out that these folks are ivory tower intellectuals who don't really train dogs... oh my stars, yeah, right. BTW, the 4 Quadrant thing is only an operational model; in practical terms from the animal's point-of-view, there are only two directions: Seek or Avoid aka Pleasure or Distress. What counts is what happens in the animal's brain at a neurological level: the pleasure centers light up or the distress centers light up. What causes them to light up--R+ vs. R-, say--is immaterial, operationally different for the trainer, but no different in the animal's Seek/Avoid systems. So if a trainer is canny and competent in their craft, it matters not one wit if the combo is P+ (avoid) and R- (seek) or P- (avoid)and R+ (seek)--the same brain centers light up and learning occurs. If they're not canny and competent, that's another story...


Well Emily, if your initial point is that if you're a crappy trainer, you'll get bad results, regardless of how you go about it, it's hard to argue that.


BTW, I do recognize how annoying it is to be instantly type-cast into a certain group regardless of whether it's true or not. And I don't think this author was advocating for "punishment based methods" of training -- I don't know of anyone that thinks that that is proper training.

I do know some very good dog trainers on both sides of the coin -- some bad ones too. I kind of like letting the individual dog determine how they are using whatever tools in the tool box create the most desired responses for that dog.


Yep :) But honestly, Brent, if someone is going to call training ideology wars a "silent killer" of hundreds of thousands of animals, I'd like to know what thin air they plucked their stats from and let them make their case with real data and real science. The idea that lots of poor dogs are dying because some bleeding hearts won't let anyone near 'em with a choke chain... well, choke-chain is still the method of choice in a whole lot of rescues and shelters in my area. It deserves study and research, Brent, truly it does... but let's start with accuracy and intellectual rigor, not sweeping accusations and dubious science.

People get their knickers twisted over the idea that since there are "4 Quadrants" there are "4 TOOLS." There aren't four tools. There are 4 operations for 2 tools. Until everyone--including many trainers--can get that clear in their heads, the "my quadrants are better than your quadrants" nonsense is going to carry on and make 'em all sound silly.


RLN -- thanks for the links. It is worth noting that both of these reports were also done by Chris Hayes. Both are older, I hope that his coverage of the issue has helping make things better....although I'm sure there is a long way to go.


Hi Brent. Regarding your Breed ID link above, I've lately been doing my own non-scientific analysis on the difficulty in visual breed identifications. I've started two pinterest boards: one with photos of dogs that, by visual identification, appear to be "pit bulls"; but whose dna does not indicate the presence of any of the common "pit bull" breeds. The second board is photos of dogs that would not be visually ID'd as pits, but whose DNA indicated at least 25% of their genetics was attributed to "pit bull" breeds. Doing what I can to dispel the myths that a pit bull can be visually identified, and that that identification even matters!

Brad Page

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