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News from Optimum Choices, LLC

January 2005

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Current news
Price reduction!
Dog-friendly training methods
Upcoming classes
Book of the month
Contact us

Current news

Readings, Holistic Wellness Sessions & Personal Consultations at Journey Books

Russell Louie will offer Aromatherapy consultations and Tao Te Ching readings at Journey Books on Saturday, January 22 from 10 am - 7 pm by appointment. Discover which therapeutic essential oils can best help you with your physical, emotional or spiritual situation. Sample over 100 oils from Nature's medicine kit.

Tao Te Ching readings help in understanding how ancient wisdom can provide solutions for unsolvable personal transitions and business situations, as well as the guidance to manifest your dream business, career or life. Appointments are 20 minutes for $20 or 10% off if paid by January 15th.

Appointments: Call Journey Books at 303-239-8773
Location: Journey Books & Gifts and Metaphysical Center 1050 South Wadsworth, NE corner Mississippi and Wadsworth, Lakewood, CO

Holistic Health for Pets Fair

Margaret Auld-Louie will be offering mini massages at the Journey Books Holistic Health for Pets Fair on Sunday, January 23, noon - 5:00 pm by appointment. Choose from 10, 20 or 30 minute sessions for $10, $20 or $30 each. 50% of proceeds will be donated to the Misha May Foundation.

Russell Louie will offer a free presentation on Holistic Supplements for Animals at 2:00 pm.

Meet Boxers from Ho-Bo Care Boxer Rescue and play some of their fun games. At 12:15, watch a free Clicker Training Demonstration by Lorraine May of A Dog's Choice Holistic Training, LLC. Free clickers will be given out to the first 10 arrivals.

Massage Appointments: Call Journey Books at 303-239-8773
Location: Journey Books & Gifts and Metaphysical Center 1050 South Wadsworth, NE corner Mississippi and Wadsworth, Lakewood, CO

For more current news, see our news page: www.optimumchoices.com/news.htm.

Price reduction!

The manufacturer's suggested retail price for BioSuperfood and BioPreparation has dropped significantly as of December 1st and we are happy to pass these savings on to you. BioPreparation for pets formula F2+ has been reduced by $16 to $23 and formula F3+ has been reduced by $20 to $39. BioSuperfood for people formula F2 has been reduced by $20 to $49 and formula F3 is reduced by $40 to $99. To order online, click here or call us at (303) 271-1649 (Denver area) or toll-free at (866) 305-2306.

Dog-friendly training methods

Excerpted from an article by Lorraine May, MA
Owner of A Dog's Choice Holistic Training, LLC
Founder and Director of The Misha May Foundation, a non profit mixed breed dog rescue
(303) 239-0382 or info@mishamayfoundation.org

Training opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. There is no one method that is right for every dog. However, to some extent or another, they all boil down to two basic philosophies. One philosophy, "Positive Reinforcement", relies upon instruction, rewards, feedback, consistency and the learning process. People and dogs tend to look like they are enjoying themselves. The emphasis is on a relationship that is mutually respectful and beneficial, with the person being in charge for the good of both.

The second type of training relies upon "Methods that Lack Respect". It includes aspects of the disrespectful, harsh or violent. It depends on who is doing the training, the level of difficulty and the individual dog's makeup as to how much the training will reflect the use of these types of tactics. What I am trying to make clear is that even a small amount of the disrespectful, harsh or violent places the training in this camp. Why? Because a decision was made to allow "the ends to justify the means". Even if it is not in the dog's best interest, the trainer chooses to use some level of force, some type of annoying vibratory or painful shock collar, or some frightening noise. Even if the dog might be adversely affected, the trainer has gone to a more intrusive and invasive level of intervention than is actually necessary, because it gets him quicker results. The emphasis is usually on performance and results, with little to no tolerance for error. There is not as much concern for the cost to the dog or the human/canine relationship.

In this second type of training, people tend to look like they are in charge, or frustrated because they are not. Dogs vary from being shut down to out of control. One dog I met in a park, who was wearing a vibratory collar, was cringing slightly, probably anticipating the next "neck buzz". Her owner didn't notice; she was too busy defending her use of the collar for "getting her dog's attention". How sad. How uncreative. This is my idea of disrespectful. It may not kill the dog, but what is the dog learning about her world? Will this dog want to be around the person buzzing her neck? Maybe, maybe not. Personally, I am not going to take that chance. And, by the way, this was a sweet calm shelter dog with an unknown history, so it was a greater risk, since no one could be sure of her reaction, nor was anyone monitoring it closely. I can think of 100 better ways to get my dog's attention rather than to put a device around his neck, such as calling his name, kibble, training him to watch me, yummy sausage treats, chicken, clapping my hands, ice cream, making kissy noises, his favorite toy, etc.

You will often see elements of both kinds of training used together by one trainer. You need to look at the overall philosophy and determine if each of the methods was appropriate. Even the most positive of trainers will use an intervention such as a squirt bottle to deter nipping or jumping up. But it is crucial to know when to revert to an intervention such as this and when to stick with patience and consistent rewards. Remember, training is communication, and you always want to ask yourself, "what is my dog learning about the world"?

Be patient with the positive. The first time I worked with a woman and her big, beautiful, rescue dog, I could see that they adored each other. Through our work, the dog had begun to trust her even more, and she was becoming adept at communicating with the dog. Her friends, however, thought the progress she was making was too slow. They encouraged her to see a better trainer than I. By the time she returned to me she was yelling "sit", "down" and "stay", and the dog was looking a little uncertain. I asked her why she was yelling at her dog. She replied that the other "better" trainer told her she needed to be the boss. She almost cried as she watched me use body language and whispers to invite her dog to perform those same behaviors. She didn't want to yell; she saw that she could demonstrate being in charge in a kinder, quieter way.

Good training is communication. Do you respond better if someone communicates with you through yelling and intimidation all the time? Neither do dogs. At the very least, they will tune you out. If they feel threatened, they may resort to stronger behavior. Reserve the loud voice and the big "NO" for when you really need it.

Let's look at some characteristics of each philosophical camp of training:

Positively Reinforced Methods

  • communication based
  • respectfully cooperative
  • the end doesn't justify the means
  • strengthens your relationship
  • builds feelings of trust and safety
  • fun and enjoyable, games and exercises
  • dog is learning and making choices
  • creates a bright, independent, calmer dog
  • doesn't create stress-related problems

This type of training primarily utilizes treats, clicker, praise, hand signals, tone of voice, petting, play time, toys, attention, and time together as feedback for correct responses or acceptable behavior. The dog is consistently rewarded for what is appropriate. Mistakes are seen as taking risks in the process of learning. "Is this what you want? No? How about that?" The dog learns happily and voluntarily.

Feedback for incorrect responses includes: saying "uh-oh" which communicates to try again, turning away which says "I give you nothing when you do that", or teaching an opposite behavior. For example, if your dog jumps up on the kitchen counter, you teach her to do a down stay in the kitchen instead. Why does this work? Because in a down stay she can expect something good, like your attention or a treat. Competent trainers are in the background. Their dogs are responding to whispers, slight hand movements, body language and relational expectations. They are calm, and always tracking the dog for signs of stress. The work is always executed in the best interest of the dog, and the human/canine relationship.

Methods Lacking Respect

  • may use punishment, force or coercion
  • disrespectful, harsh or violent
  • not necessarily in the dog's best interest
  • can damage your relationship
  • can create additional behavior problems
  • can cause a dog to become aggressive or fearful
  • focus is on performance
  • the end product justifies any means
  • works only on dogs who allow it

The methods contained in this group tend to place importance on performance rather than relationship. There is an expectation that dogs should always do what we want regardless of their needs or instinctive behaviors. And, if they don't want to, we can force them to, through hurting them, scaring them and more. Inappropriate behaviors and incorrect responses are 'corrected' with anything from a leash correction using a choke collar to electric shock, or worse.

Almost no trainer is going to admit to being harsh or violent. And some others are completely unaware of how disrespectful they are. You must be the final judge on what is acceptable to you on behalf of your dog. Many trainers simply don't want to change their methods because it suits them fine to do things the way they have always done them, regardless of the impact. It is not supposed to suit them--it is supposed to suit the individual dog! Trainers may be actively deceptive about, uncaring toward, or just plain ignorant of, the damage they are doing. You must stand between your dog and any trainer that appears to be disrespectful, harsh or violent.

Trainers will rationalize the use of these methods by saying they work, they stop bad behaviors. What they are not so willing to talk about are their failures, because of the side effects that this training can cause. Many dogs become more aggressive, or extremely fearful, no longer able to be with their families.

The saddest part is that the dogs are generally blamed. What they were guilty of most of the time was trusting us to keep them safe. If they fight back, they run the risk of being dismissed as beyond hope and summarily euthanized as a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog. This training only works on dogs who submit and allow it. They learn that their lives are controlled by collars that shock them for doing something wrong, or vibrate when their attention is needed. Why wouldn't you just use a dog's natural desire for attention to get their attention, and then build upon that?

Dog trainers train this way because they can. They use force against our sweetest buddies in the name of training. Do you think the trainers of large dangerous animals like killer whales use these methods and risk being killed themselves? Absolutely not. They are more respectful, hopefully not just because their lives depend upon it.

Editor's note: We are fortunate to live in a time now when so many positive trainers and books/videos on positive training are available to us. These methods enable us to mold our dog's behavior so they can live harmoniously with humans, without damaging our relationship with our dog. When I was a child, choke collars and force-based methods were the only thing available. When I tried to train dogs with those methods, it was no fun and it didn't even work. With positive training methods, not only do they work better but it's fun for both us and the dog! If everyone gave positive training methods a try with their dog, there would be fewer dogs surrendered to shelters because of behavior problems.

Upcoming classes

Beyond Aromatherapy: The Wonderful World of Essential Oils, Saturday, February 12th, 2:00-6:00

Add Years to your Pet's Life with Natural Pet Care, Saturday, February 26th, 2005

Using the Tao in Business, Sunday, March 20, 1:30-6:30

Book of the month

Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog

by Pat Miller
Publisher: Dogwise Publishing
Edition: 2004 Paperback, 262 pages
ISBN: 1929242158

If you want to know how to live harmoniously with your dog, buy this book. This is not just a training book--this book goes far beyond how to teach your dog basic commands, such as sit, stay, down, etc. This book teaches you why dogs do what they do and how to manage their behavior so that you can prevent them from doing the wrong thing and encourage them to do the right thing. The author, Pat Miller, is a leader in the field of positive training and president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She writes a monthly column for The Whole Dog Journal.

The book covers behavior and training concepts, puppy training and housetraining, basic training concepts, preventing and resolving problem behaviors and some additional related topics. Pat explains how to live with your dog harmoniously on a day-to-day basis, so that you are incorporating positive training methods into your daily life with your dog. It's not just something you do in a training class. This is emphasized by a chapter on "Living With Humans 101: The Top 10 Things Every Dog Should Know" which includes:

  • How to Live and Play with Humans
  • How to Accept Intimate Contact From Family, Friends and Relative Strangers
  • How to Share
  • When and Where to Go Potty
  • How to Be Alone
  • When and Where to Use Teeth
  • How to Come When Called
  • How to do an Emergency WHOA!
  • How to Walk Politely on a Leash
  • How to Play and Live With Other Dogs

Throughout the book, Pat explains why dogs do what they do so we can better understand them and work with them to change problem behaviors. For instance, she explains why dogs chew things, bark and guard their resources, and how to redirect and deal with these behaviors in more appropriate ways. She explains how to get cats and dogs to live together safely as well as kids and dogs (especially babies).

She also makes clear how the force-based training methods can damage our relationship with our dog, giving an example from her own life. Before she learned about positive training, she took her dog to obedience classes to prepare for competitions where the dogs had to retrieve different types of dumb bells. The accepted training method at that time was to fold the dog's ear over a choke chain and pinch, causing pain, which made the dog's mouth open, and then pop the dumb bell in their mouth. Her dog was OK until they got to metal dumb bells, which many dogs don't like. The trainer told her to "pinch harder...make her do it". So she followed the directions, thinking the trainer knew best. Every time she brought out those dumb bells, she reports "the light faded from her [the dog's] eyes and she gave me pleading looks, begging me not to make her do them. I persisted -- until one day when I brought out the articles and Josie hid under the deck and wouldn't come out. Finally, I realized how wrong the ear pinch was. I put away the articles and never brought them out again. If training meant destroying the relationship I had built with my dog then I was no longer interested."

Fortunately for us, Pat Miller later discovered positive training methods and is now one of the top trainers in the country. The book also includes thoughtful chapters on other topics that concern dog owners such as spaying/neutering, how often to vaccinate, holistic care, what type of collar to use, the use of head halters and anti-pull harnesses, doggie daycare and euthanasia. If you can buy only one book on dog training, this is the one to buy!

Contact us

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General Information: Russell@OptimumChoices.com
Webmaster: Webmaster@OptimumChoices.com
Newsletter Editor, Margaret Auld-Louie: Editor@OptimumChoices.com


866-305-2306 (toll-free)

Location (call first for appointment)

416 Plateau Pky
Golden, CO 80403-1533

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