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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Should we go over an update AND Reading work of Al Parr’s book on ‘’Training Dogs Cesar’s Way?”

Should we go over an update AND Reading work of Al Parr’s book on ‘’Training Dogs Cesar’s Way?”

Greetings!  It’s me again on a Friday afternoon.  I talked to Katherine earlier this week.  It seems that Dakota has missed the problem with the Kennel cough at the Rescue place run by Marie and her husband, but he has gained an infection problem with his neutering, so had to work that off.  The word is that Katherine might meet Marie for a drop-off sometime next week, we’re not sure when.  I am worrying about when we’ll be able to get Dakota … first, because we don’t know how much training time he’ll need with Katherine, and second, is that we don’t know when we’ll be able to get the scooter or HoverRound.  The HoverRound is going to depend on what Medicare makes out of my medical records – we saw our doctor a couple of weeks ago.  We either may or may not get the HoverRound and we just have to wait for that.  Even though we can’t walk or stand for over 5-6 minutes, it may not be enough because I think their intent is to give them to people who have trouble with ANY walking within the house.  I can get up for these brief times and go chair to chair – so the decision will just depend on their criteria.

The Scooter however is ours for sure.  It is my mother’s and she doesn’t use it anymore.  But, we aren’t planning on being up in Minnesota where we can pick it up until July 24th through July 28th.  That’s about ten weeks away.  I don’t know if Katherine was intending to keep the dog that long.  The trip to South Dakota would have to be after that.  And, as an aside – we have until about that time to purchase some kind of ramp for the scooter.  We were looking at the Ramp King.  I think the Ramp King Elite is the one we want and sells for $160 at Amazon.  We’ve got more time and need to find out if we could get the HoverRound and its size dimensions.  We’re arguing in our head about whether we should have one OR two machines, we know we have the one, but if Medicare and our supplementary could buy the second it would be newer and better shape.  One is more for internal within a building while the other is external for being outside.  I’d like the option of being able to bring it in a store with Dakota.  We’ll have to wait and see.  I also liked the idea of Rich going on walks with us, but he said he wouldn’t use either machine.  So, maybe what we’re talking here is a back-up.  Just have to wait it out.  It could be another couple of weeks before we hear.
We did this week go in for our MRI as was part of the doctor’s evaluation.  The last MRI was done 8 years ago.  It doesn’t seem like that long, but I guess it was.  We talked over the results of the MRI with Dr. Marvin on Thursday, and he said that we should expect a call from our regular physician within a week and she’ll talk over the results too – with a little more authority on the subject.  Psychiatrists have to be medical doctors first, but since they don’t practice or specialize in medical, they aren’t the best resource for checking on these things – THOUGH he does have access to the test results and he DID share them with me.  I might need to spend some time on the Internet really understanding the terms.  We’ll give you a brief idea where we’re at.  Hmm, doctor might call us back Monday – we just checked.
The lumbar spine is normal alignment without any fractures.  There seems to be a fatty change in the L4 and L5 endplates which is progressive since the 2006 exam.  I think the fatty changes make treatment less successful.  There is progressive loss of disc height at L4-L5 and L5-S1.  It seems that my posterior spinal and bilateral psoas muscles (loin muscle) have fatty atrophy which means that there has been a gradual loss of muscle or flesh usually because of disease or lack of use.  I have had a progression of bone disease – arthritis in L1-L2, L2-L3, L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1.  I have a disc protrusion (bulge that cuts off nerves) in the right paracentral disc and right posterolateral disk.  Stenosis is present in three places – L4-L5 mild spinal canal stenosis, moderate right neuroforaminal stenosis and mild left neuroforaminal stenosis.  In the L5-S1 I have a mild diffuse disc bulge with some bilateral stenosis.  My understanding of stenosis is that it’s a narrowing or constriction of the spinal canal – which could pinch nerves.
Hmm, that was pretty heavy and we’re still not sure what it all means as to treatability … we could get some cortisone shots I think, could go through physical therapy, and then if those two failed we could go through fusion surgery … but, most likely we’re going to be told that weight loss will help take pressure off the parts that carry so much pain, so that’s where the rest of the appointment with Dr. Marvin and us was focused.  I think we were in a depressed mode throughout and it didn’t get better until after we left.  One of the first lines of defense he’s drawing is that we should be recording everything we eat.  So that’s where we’ve been the last 24 hours or so.  We weighed in today at 293 and we’ve used our phone app recorder to note the food and drinks we’ve been having.  Most of that has been uploaded to Dropbox, so then the question will be if we can dictate it if we want to.  I think half the punishment of noting what you’re eating is that if you eat anything you HAVE to mark it down and nobody really wants to hear that they’ve gone off-course.  Of course it could work in the opposite too, but less likely because we’re not all that positive about it.
Of course, we know that exercise and weight loss has been all along a part of getting a dog.  It is to get us out there in the world and more active.  Just at this moment we’re feeling the heaviness of our commitments AND we added to that the REAL problems that are happening in our back that prevents us from doing any of the above without pain.  It’s just hard.
BUT, then again … we know we have to move on so that’s where we are right now.  We told you about the first book we read by Cesar Millan, but then we read a second book by Al Parr (2014) on Cesar’s training methods, and since then we’ve started another book again from Cesar directly.  I think the last (third) book is “Cesar Rules.”  Earlier today though we focused on the 2nd book by Al Parr – It is called, “Train Dogs Cesar’s Way; Cesar Millan:  His Life, Techniques and even Case Histories.”  All three books are on Kindle.  For Parr’s book, we skimmed the whole thing and took some pretty serious notes on things that really interested me.  It is now an eight page outline of the material he covered.  I was surprised by the number of things he took explicitly from Cesar’s philosophies.  It’s kind of an outline of them.  I did also read the case studies, but I wasn’t interested in them while we were taking notes.
I think the next best thing I can do is to re-summarize the notes more briefly than I had last time.  I’m going through a process of trying to internalize the notes.  Everything fits in what we’ve heard of Cesar AND Katherine before.  I think Katherine has a lot of good ideas specifically and can help us with ACTUAL training, but Millan does a lot more writing so he’s the one we’re gravitating to right now while we wait out the literal training that is going to take place with Katherine.  Some of the things that Parr says, we skipped because we’d heard them so often, but some of his basics, we recorded just because we wanted to get the gist of what was being said in an outlined form. So without further ado we’re going to jump in from the start.  Again, this is Parr, writing about Cesar Millan’s methods, and we are condensing the material into bite size bits that work for us.  Hehehe Kibble if you will!
The first thing that is always said is that we as the people who own or train dogs are the Pack Leaders.  This is REALLY familiar!  We are then asked not to humanize the dogs because it leads to stress and anxiety for them and it is better to understand their psychology which is understood from their point of view.  The goal is to have balance people, dogs and relationships.  Millan underscores as noted in the first book that first think in achieving balance is exercise, then discipline (setting rules, boundaries, and limitations), and only then adding affection.  He states as leaders, we are always responsible for projecting calm-assertive energy and we should place the dog’s needs first.
He gives us ideas on how to become the pack leader which always follows the format just noted.  We should do things like claim the dog’s favorite spot as ours; claim his favorite food, his favorite toy and the door coming in and out of our houses.  In general you block the dog until he is calm and submissive and then YOU as the owner of these things can share with the dog, but he has to understand they are all yours as the leader of the pack.  He also discusses being leader as you walk by walking at least 45 min in the morning using a leash, not talking to the dog as you walk, having the dog beside or in back of you – not letting him lead, commanding the dog through body language and giving him quick sideways jerks on his short leash until he corrects his walking behavior and is relaxed again.  You want to in general create a “zone of walking where you can both enjoy the process.”
One other thing he notes here is to say that you are ALWAYS conditioning the dog voluntarily, or involuntarily.  Voluntary control is the times you mean to be training the dog, and involuntary control is training that just happens as the dog pays attention to you and your behavior without you intending to be teaching him.  And, as a leader you always have to assert calm and firm dominance, establish rules of the dog staying submissive, learn to give affection after they have earned it and are calm and submissive, and that you need to avoid the dog being dominant.  Things that you can do for the dog are to control your voice – clear and strong without yelling, show calm assertive energy for the dog to be healthy and secure and to give your dog a social role which leads them to his sense of purpose.
I didn’t record all the axioms that were listed, but some of my favorites were:
  • Living in the present – in the moment (not past or future)
  • Take responsibility for leadership of the dog
  • Understand that in 10 seconds a dog can change from follower to leader or back again
  • Dogs lead with their senses – first nose, then eyes, and then ears
  • All dogs need to spend time “waiting”
  • Imagine and visualize positive and don’t nurture the dogs fears and instabilities
  • Challenge his mind and work for affection (after calm and submissive)
  • Realize the dog needs on-time AND off-time
  • Let the dog earn food and water and experience in the world by walking which will stimulate their mind and exercise his body
  • Dogs need to work (activity) for food and water to feel fulfilled
  • Packs help to accomplish balance
Parr then went into talking about conditioning.  He established pre-conditioning with Pavlov’s dogs by its salivating, next ringing the bell before being fed, and then letting the dog eat uninterrupted.  Conditioning was then the repetition and reinforcement of the above pre-conditioned behavior – usually 2-3 times a day for several days.  And then, Post-conditioning is the measuring of the saliva; ringing the bell without the dog being fed to see how much the dog learned to salivate.  He stated the basic components to classic conditioning were the unconditioned stimulus – that which elicits the normal response (food), unconditioned response – natural reaction to the unconditioned stimulus (salivating), the conditioned stimulus – that which “comes to elicit” the target response (bell), and the conditioned response – which is the natural reaction to conditioned stimulus (salivating due to the bell).  He states that a dog is conditioned when he “learns” to “respond” automatically to some sort of “stimulus” with fear, joy, excitement, or anticipation.
The next thing Parr does is discuss conditioning the dog – our service dog if you will.  He states that it can be done with both voice and hand signals, but we should always use one-word commands with the same tone and inflection after we say the dog’s name to get his attention.  With conditioning it is better to move slow and practice one thing at a time.  He explained the optimal hand signal space as being in front of the dog’s head and that it is a good idea to wean him of the verbal commands.
He describes rewards and punishments by explaining the word “mark” as something you use when the dog does something right (could be devises such as bells, whistles or keys to generate unique sounds).  Contrary is “no-mark” which should be used when the dog does something wrong.  Each mark or no-mark is independently created by the trainer/owner, but things used as marks include food treats, positive reinforcement like pats on the head or back of pet, praise, or a favorite toy.  He states we need to ALWAYS reinforce behavior only if the dog is calm and submissive – not over excited or over-stimulated.  To reward the dog with food he suggests placing it within two fingers and a thumb and let the dog sniff and as he’s sniffing slowly lift the treat above the nose height and gradually over the head and then slightly back toward the shoulders until the butt naturally touches the floor.  If he jumps at the hand – take away the treat and repeat the exercise.  When he sits calmly and easily we can give him the treat.  No-mark on the other hand is a matter of saying “Tsch” and poking him with two fingers in the area of his neck or chest.  You can also block him or use your foot to gently tap his flank.  If the dog doesn’t respond then he should have a consequence of being taken away, or giving him a time out, or taking away a valuable resource.  The two finger poke is like his mother poking him with her nose and used to “snap” a dog out of his current behavior.
There are other important factors to training like the “No contact rule” which means “no talk, no touch and no eye contact.”  It is used for meeting a new dog or calming a dog down who is overly excited or seeking attention.  When the dog is in a calm submissive state you can pet or praise him as a reward, but always ignore bad behavior.  Time outs are places with low stimulus until he calms down, and before you leave him you should tell him what to do by commanding he sits or lies down.  Light leash jerks are to help the dog concentrate on walking and not focus on surroundings or other dogs.  You have to get his attention “back in place.”  Parr states that training takes real time to see improvements and suggested we set home boundaries, but we need to have unwavering mental strength and confidence to gain the dog’s trust and respect during the training sessions – it’s never too late to work on training with yourself or other pack members.  He states it is easier to start the dog when young then when older and the dog is in need of rehabilitation
For training new tricks in specific, Parr suggests that the Pack leader always has to be firm and secure and remember his marks for good behavior and no-marks for bad behavior.  The dog has to be paying 100% attention; the lessons should be kept short, we are to speak firmly, but never with anger or frustration, and end the session on a positive note.  It’s important not to overload the dog, because it will cause him stress if we ask him to remember too much or don’t consolidate the lessons with him.  We’re supposed to know the dog’s personal limits and to train in careful stages to keep the dog’s confidence high and to set him up for further success.  Rewards are good and we keep the motivation high and the dogs receptive, if they are first knowledgeable about the desired reward.
Parr then explains a few myths that people have over Cesar’s philosophy and suggests better understanding them to get the most out of the relationship with the dog.
Myth #1 – The first myth is that you only train him during training times.  This is false because you are training the dog constantly as he picks up verbal and nonverbal cues.  Parr gives a list of key words and explains their value in training.
  • Bonding or building rapport – is the quality time you spend with the dog talking, playing and taking him for long walks and this helps to achieve a responsive and attentive bond.
  • Consistency – the dog’s thinking should be built on black and white thinking rather than gray – so we are to use the same commands with all family members while training, praising and reprimanding.
  • Timing – This is the amount of time between dog’s actions (non-actions) and corresponding praise (or reprimand).  There should be no more than 2-3 seconds for him to associate words with his actions.   Do not reprimand actions in the past because the dog lives in the present and he might associate being told off by the action of him coming toward you.  We’re to ALWAYS praise a dog for coming toward us.
  • Repetition – Dogs are creatures of habit and repetition, so for things to be automatic, he needs refreshers throughout his life so he does not lose the conditioned responses.  It is easier to prevent than have to make a correction later.
  • Session length – We are to keep the sessions short and enjoyable to maintain good concentration.  It is always quality over quantity and we need to end the training session on a positive note.
  • Attitude – We need to be responsible in our expectations.  It takes time for the desired results.   It is best to take a long walk to settle him down before the learning session.
  • Praise – We need to praise the dog as SOON as he correctly completes the exercise.  When praising, we have to look directly in his eyes so he understands the connection between our voice or touch and his action.  We can again praise with our voice or patting/stroking, but we shouldn’t over-chatter to confuse him and disrupt his concentration.  We shouldn’t rely heavily on food and instead alternate it with displays of affection – this will especially overcome problems.
  • Eye contact – Eye content is more important than verbal and when there is a close bond, we will find he looks into our eyes and will try to read our intent.
  • Hand Signals – First we work with hand and verbal, and then we wean off vocal.  When using our hands we should keep them in front of and above the dog’s head as that is their best vision
  • Voice Signals – Use one command per one action and use the same tone and inflection – and always say the dog’s name before stating a command to catch his attention.
Myth #2 – You need to understand and communicate in “dog language.”  This is wrong.  You CAN read dog’s body language and need to understand different reasons your dog whines or barks, but as to speaking to them in THEIR language?  Dogs are intelligent animals and understand you are not a dog.
  • Use of the body to communicate
o   If his backside is in the air and tail wagging – he is keen to play and have fun
o   Tail right behind the back legs – he is scared of something or someone
o   Wagging tail (loosely) – he is feeling friendly and happy, if his tail is relaxed and still, he is feeling content, but if his tail is high up and wagging rapidly, it could mean aggression
o   Raised hackles – means he is frightened or ready for battle
o   Rolling over – is a sign of submission
o   Sniffing – the dog sniffs when he is trying to figure out something.  He will sniff to identify a person or other animal.  If sniffing the outside floor, fence, or lamppost, he’s caught the scent of another dog that has marked the territory, and if he’s inside sniffing the floor, plus pacing or circling, he may need to relieve himself.
o   Tense posture – When he tenses and is slightly lowered, he is indicating anxiety (also his tail will be partially lowered).
o   Crouching – he is ready to pounce.  This is a predatory position for both squeaky toy and intruder.
o   Prancing – back and forth with a tail wagging usually means he’s feeling happy
  • Use of head and face for communication
o   Ears – ears close to head pointing back or forwards indicates aggression, perked up ears with head turning from side to side indicates that he is alert, slightly flattened and partially back indicates he feels anxious, perked up and pointing forward means curious or excited (or ready to start a predatory chase), straight up might display a degree of dominance, ears flattened and laid back against head usually indicate fear
o   Eyes – narrowed eyes indicate aggression and challenging behavior, slightly narrowed eyes couple with partially back ears indicate anxiety, wide open and staring coupled with dominant posture and ears straight to convey his dominance, eyes narrowed with lots of white showing indicates fear or submissive, wide open sparkly ready for game or fun, wide open intently focused on something – part of predatory behavior
o   Mouth – lips drawn back to expose teeth coupled with snarling indicates aggression, closed or slightly open indicates alertness of dominance depending on his posture, slightly open mouth makes him look as though he is grinning can actually indicate anxiety, open mouth coupled with panting can indicate excitement and curiosity, mouth open to expose teeth with drawn back lips indicate fear, relaxed mouth slightly open is normally a friendly and relaxed gesture, slightly open mouth with bared teeth indicates that dog ins on guard, open mouth coupled with excited panting can indicate playfulness and eagerness
Myth #3 – The “Dog Whisperer” methods are superior because it’s the most gentle and human.  Wrong!  His methods include quite a bit, but the different methods and techniques are not the most “gentle.”
Myth #4 – A dog that chews things is either terribly bored or simply trying to be vindictive – Wrong!  Dogs naturally chew when they are alone – it is just what they do.  Chewing helps to maintain healthy teeth and gums and achieves for the dog good jaw strength.  Puppies chew to teeth and it’s only a problem if the chewing is destructive to objects.  They need to be taught constructive chewing.  To prevent, we need to dog proof our homes such as moveable things can be sprayed with scents they don’t like (bitter apple).  If we find them chewing on the wrong thing, teach them to “drop it” or “leave it” as you are taking the object from their mouth.  Redirect – actively teach them while you are with them by trading an inappropriate chew object with an appropriate one, especially one good for their teeth and gums such as dental chew ropes and active toys like the “Kong Balls” which can be stuffed with food like peanut butter.  Lastly, give the dog praise for chewing on good objects.  One last thing is to take your dog for a long walk, but don’t “chew him out!”
Myth #5 – A crate is basically a dog cage that is like a prison for our dogs.  Wrong!  Confinement is different from dogs than humans.  In the crate the dog realizes he doesn’t have to do anything like protecting and alerting, or keeping us company.  Because he doesn’t have to make decisions he is hugely relieved.  Crates are nice safe areas for rest or peace and quiet.  They should be comfortable with soft bedding and toys.  If you need to keep your dog or puppy out of mischief, you can crate him for short periods of time, or when you go out.
There are at least five reasons to bond with your dog.  Building a strong relationship with pets is good for pet owners improving physical and mental health and keeping waist lines slim.  Focus on your pet with love and attention and indulge them with playtime and exercise to create a strong, healthy relationship.  A relationship with a dog will take focus, but will relieve emotional or physical stress as the bond is formed.
o   First – Improve emotional and psychological state of being, build coping mechanisms, and stop from feeling lonely by receiving a non-judgmental relationship.
o   Second – Dogs are good for physical health as is the health of your family members.  The relationship lowers heart disease, lowers doctor services, and reduces risk of asthma and allergies, and assists in making friends and improving relationships.
o   Third – Lose weight and improve moods.
o   Fourth – By having a well behaved dog your stress will be reduced.  If they have a strong connection to you, they will crave your attention which makes training easier and less stressful.
o   Fifth – Touching a dog will reduce human stress levels and can even lower cholesterol.  It releases “feel good” hormones including serotonin along with reducing the stress hormone – cortisol, which in addition regulates appetite and cravings for carbohydrates
Remember that affection is helpful to bonding, but it needs to be given at the right time.  Giving attention always reinforces the behavior directly before it, so share affection after a dog has exercised and eaten, and worked through discipline issues such as changing an unwanted behavior into a behavior you asked for, or he responded to a rule or command, or he entered a calm-submissive state.  Dogs WILL improve the quality of our lives, and if a dog were to talk to you he would say, “Affection and food are good, but what we like most is adventure.  Let’s get moving!”
That is it of our summary of Al Parr’s book.  It was a very easy book to read and there are other corresponding books to this one.  He seems to “stay very true” to Cesar Millan’s training methods and philosophies.  As to our own reading experience, we seem to be picking books right now that help us learn the right and wrong ways to handle our human/dog relationship with Dakota.  We’re hoping he is pre-reading too!  *Giggle* I know, I know … animals aren’t people!  I am looking for human checks and balances with Katherine to see if she validates our interpretations of dog training.  We want to know what really works and why.  I like that Cesar’s work gives a complete, but easy to understand dog psychology.  I have a BA in Psychology and have been interested in it for a very long time.  We are especially looking forward to looking into our dog’s eyes.  They say through the eyes we see the soul.  Good Dakota!  Good Dog!

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