Heavy rain and thunder in Southern Spain today – We had to postpone all classes at The DogSmith of Estepona due to the bad weather.
Jambo does not like thunder. You can see this just by looking at his body language in the photo of him eating his breakfast – His ears are back and his tail is low. He was, however, calm enough to eat and is now taking a nap in his much loved ‘puppy’ bed, in his ‘secure place’ under the kitchen breakfast bar – This is where the bed was placed when he was a little puppy so that he could sleep beneath my feet as I work on my laptop.
I put several strategies in place to help Jambo cope, including closing all exterior doors, windows, curtains and blinds; putting on the lights (helping to mask any lightning); playing calming classical music in the living room; putting the extractor fan on in the kitchen, providing ‘white noise’ to help block out the sound of the thunder; spraying his bandana with calming lavender oil…
His mattress is sprayed with Pet Remedy Pet Calming Spray and our Pet Remedy diffuser is plugged in. (Adaptil is another option)
His crate is always available should he need to take further refuge.
I use respondent counterconditioning and desensitisation to help elicit a positive emotional response to things he is frightened of. The sound of thunder, fireworks, gunshots have all been paired with his favourite peanut butter.
There is a yummy stuffed Kong, sealed with peanut butter, waiting in Jambo’s crate should he choose to go there.
He has also taken a Calmex for Dogs tablet to help him relax. (Please consult your veterinarian before administering any medication)
My arms are always open for a reassuring cuddle and my voice to soothe him – You Can’t Reinforce Fear!
Check out this post from Eileenanddogs – It has some resources for getting your dog through events with loud noises and some general tips about dealing with fear.
Elicit – A term that applies to Respondent Conditioning and reflexive behaviors. These behaviors are not under voluntary control and thus are elicited by the pet in contrast to evoked which is a behavior that is under voluntary control and subject to Operant Conditioning. Eye blinks, emotions and digestive juices are all examples of elicited behaviors – A Lexicon of practical terms for pet trainers and behaviour consultants is available from DogNostics Career Center. Click here to purchase.
Jambo is a Trick Dog Champion. In fact he was the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be awarded the Title. Jambo is an adorable, loving pet dog. Jambo is not an exceptional dog. He isn’t particularly athletic. He isn’t unusually intelligent. He is a dog who has been set up for success because of the way he has been taught. Jambo is not trained for hours every day. In fact, Jambo’s “training” sessions are always very short. If you asked Jambo, I am sure he would say that he doesn’t do any “training”. So what is the key to Jambo’s success?
Jambo has been taught using modern, rewards based, science based, force-free training. He has lots of fun learning new tricks (playing enjoyable games), learning new skills (playing enjoyable games) and practising old skills (playing enjoyable games). Everything he is taught is broken down into easy to understand lessons and is reinforced with things he loves. He is “paid” for having fun! When actions bring enjoyable consequences, those actions get stronger and are more likely to be repeated in future.
Food is at the top of Jambo’s list of reinforcers and obviously used in all of his training but Jambo’s “top gun” reinforcer is actually a ball. Unfortunately for me it happens to be rather large: a ten-inch boomer ball! I actually have photos that show the boomer ball “hidden”, out of sight, down the back of my top! If only we humans could choose the reinforcer – I’d definitely be choosing a tug toy or a tennis ball, something that I could pop into my pocket. Unfortunately, the choice isn’t mine. Jambo does not show much interest in tennis balls. He’ll fetch one a few times. Unless, of course, I am using the boomer ball as a reinforcer! If fetching a tennis ball meant access to his highest value reinforcer then he would fetch that tennis ball all day if he could!
Thank goodness for food! We all need to eat and Jambo is no exception! Many people, however, seem to have a problem with the concept of using food in training. I really don’t understand their objections. Food is such a great resource, why wouldn’t we make use of it? It is definitely a lot easier for me to fill my pockets with tiny pieces of hotdog than to walk around with a ten-inch boomer ball stuffed down my top! The majority of Jambo’s “tricks” are taught using food. I can cut it up into tiny pieces; it’s easy to deliver; it’s quick; it’s safe; it enables me to do lots of repetitions… In short, it’s the perfect resource!
After leaving university I took my first teaching post in a school in Cartagena, Spain. I was given many textbooks that I was told I needed to work through with my students. I found the classes quite tedious. The textbooks were, for lack of a better word, boring. They were dull and uninspiring. There were a lot of books. There were a lot of mundane exercises to complete and a limited amount of time to complete them in. If a student didn’t understand a certain concept they could often get left behind as the timetable meant there was little time to digress, to explain in more detail or to go back a step. If I, the teacher, was finding it difficult, how must my students have been feeling?
When, a couple of years later, I started working as a private tutor, I realised that I didn’t want to teach in this way. I wanted to teach in a way that I would like to be taught. I wanted the lessons to be fun. I wanted the learner to understand each step and marvel in their success rather than feel miserable in their failure. I didn’t want my students to feel frustrated because they found the lessons too difficult. I did, however, continue to make use of those old textbooks. If you look closely you may spot them in one of my videos – they make great props: a single textbook is a small platform but stack a few together and I can create more height, which is very useful for teaching hind leg lifts!
Whenever I have something new I would like Jambo, or any other dog (or human) to learn, I always think about one thing: How can I break this behavior down into easily understandable pieces? Why is this so important? Because if I break the behavior down, I am setting my learner up for success instead of failure! Each new piece of information or new behavior that is successfully learnt, not only builds on the previous knowledge set, it also increases the confidence of the learner. How much better do we feel when we successfully complete a task than when we struggle on and on and yet are still unable to grasp how to do it or to understand the knowledge being shared with us?
I previously stated: “When actions bring enjoyable consequences, those actions get stronger and are more likely to be repeated in future”. This statement applies to all learners. So what is the key to Jambo’s success? A loving relationship, lots of fun, clear communication and motivation through appropriate reinforcement – Jambo is motivated to learn and that very learning creates a cycle of more learning!
I was in two minds as to whether to write this article but I thought it important to do so for the sake of many people and their dogs.
Jambo, my beautiful Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and I recently took part in an event to help raise money for our local dog rescue, 4 Paws Adoptions. Jambo had his very own kissing booth and was able to help out some of his less fortunate canine friends by selling kisses! When photos of Jambo in his kissing booth were posted on Facebook there were an awful lot of negative comments. Why? Because Jambo was wearing a muzzle! Many people stated that they thought it was cruel to muzzle him, some said that we were giving the breed a bad reputation and many more said that they would never put a muzzle on their dog! I understand that muzzles can sometimes look a little bit scary but I was amazed at people’s reaction and that is why I thought I should write this article. In defence of all muzzled dogs and their owners/guardians!
There are diverse reasons for using a muzzle and I think that every pet owner should teach their dog to feel comfortable and relaxed while wearing one, so that, if the time comes when a muzzle is required, extra stress isn’t placed on their beloved companion!
Many veterinarians and groomers will muzzle your dog. Sometimes when you visit the vet’s your dog will be taken into the back for treatment. If your dog shows any signs that they may bite, they will be muzzled. If your dog is not used to wearing a muzzle then this is going to increase their fear and anxiety and could mean an escalation of their nerves the next time you visit the vet’s! Some of you will be thinking that your vet doesn’t require you to muzzle your dog but I assure you, if your pet is unfortunately in a lot of pain or injured then a muzzle will and should be used to protect those that are caring for him. In this situation a dog’s reflex reaction can be to bite! You yourself should also muzzle any dog that is injured before you attempt to give first-aid. A dog bite will still be reported to the relevant authorities whatever the circumstances and the last thing you would want to do is add to an already worrying situation.
A muzzle can be an indispensable tool when working with an aggressive dog. The muzzle allows you to work on a programme of behaviour modification using force-free methods to help overcome the dog’s reactivity. A muzzle allows the trainer to work in the vicinity of other people and dogs, keeping everyone safe.
I would go as far as saying that if your dog acts aggressively towards other dogs or people, they should be wearing a muzzle when in public. The muzzle will not only protect other dogs and people it could also protect you and your dog! If your dog bites someone, you could be fined a substantial amount of money and your dog could be seized and even euthanised! The muzzle shouldn’t, however, be used as a substitute for working on your dog’s issues as this could lead to an escalation of their reactivity. If your dog is overly reactive you should not take him/her to places frequented by lots of people and dogs. You should work with a certified force-free trainer who will use positive reinforcement, desensitisation and counter-conditioning, in a behaviour modification programme.
Breed Specific Legislation in some countries requires that certain breeds of dog must be muzzled and on leash when in public. This is the reason why Jambo has to wear a muzzle. Although I vehemently disagree with legislation that targets specific breeds, failure to abide by the law could result in a hefty fine and even the seizure of your beloved pet! You may be lucky and not have this type of discriminatory legislation where you live but what would happen if you were to travel somewhere that dictated muzzle wearing as mandatory? How much happier would you be if you knew your dog was happy to wear a muzzle? Some countries also require muzzles for all dogs over a certain weight. Local legislation where we live now requires all dogs that weigh over 20 kilos to be muzzled and on leash when in public. This is the reason why Tessa, my beautiful German Shepherd must now be muzzled when we go out. I advocate against Breed Specific Legislation, which “condemns” a dog because of the way it looks without taking into account the way it behaves. I do, however, acknowledge that having these restrictions placed on us is much better than an outright ban (which some breeds face in some countries).
Muzzles can be an invaluable tool to use while introducing your dog to another dog, a cat or any other animal that is to become a member of your family. The muzzle can give you peace of mind while you employ a programme of desensitisation.
A muzzle may be used to discourage a dog from picking up, chewing, eating and ingesting foreign objects. Supervision, management and positive reinforcement training should also be used.
There are a few different types of muzzle but the main ones are basket muzzles and mesh/nylon muzzles. For most situations, I recommend a basket muzzle. Although a dog wearing this kind of muzzle can look a little scary to people who aren’t used to seeing them, it allows the dog to pant (and therefore regulate their body temperature) and to drink. It’s also easy to feed your dog through the slots in the muzzle, which is an absolute must for carrying out your positive reinforcement training! Mesh/nylon muzzles do have their advantages too as they are ideal for quick use, for example a visit to the vet’s and can be easily folded and put in your pocket/bag. I wouldn’t, however, recommend them for longer periods of time as it is more difficult for the dog to pant and keep cool. “Softie” muzzles can be an ideal option as they offer a comfortable fit that also allows the dog to pant but I wouldn’t advise them if the purpose for wearing the muzzle is a dog’s aggression. Please avoid using Gentle Leaders, Haltis or other head halters as substitutes for a muzzle. They may partially close a dog’s mouth, but will not prevent bites!
Tessa and Jambo both have basket muzzles and nylon and mesh muzzles.
Please measure your dog carefully before purchasing their muzzle as it is important that it fit correctly! There are even sizes that are especially suited to shorted nosed dogs!
The soft muzzle Jambo wore in his kissing booth is cut in such a way as to be especially suitable for the shape of his face. It has a narrower band than the typical soft nylon muzzle and is also a looser fit, allowing him to open his mouth sufficiently to pant, drink, eat and of course kiss, while not allowing full opening or the ability to bite. It is also slightly padded to make it more comfortable. I chose this muzzle for the day as normally, if Jambo were to be wearing his muzzle for such a long period of time, I would use his basket muzzle (the blue Baskerville Ultra he is wearing in the photo below) however, I didn’t think people would appreciate a hard piece of plastic bashing in their faces!
Whatever the reason for the muzzle, whether it be dictated by law, to enable you to work on your dog’s reactivity issues or for that “just in case” future event when a muzzle might be required, it is absolutely ESSENTIAL to make sure your dog is happy wearing it! Here is a video that I made which shows you in simple, easy to follow steps, how to “muzzle train” your dog:
You want your dog to view the muzzle as something positive! If you follow the techniques I use in the video your dog will learn to love their muzzle!
Please remember: Don’t just use the muzzle for visits to the vet’s! Put the muzzle on your dog and do something they love! If they only ever wear the muzzle when “bad things” are going to happen, then they will quickly build a negative association with it!
Please do not put a muzzle on your aggressive dog and let him loose in the dog park! (Contact a qualified force-free trainer and work on his issues in a stress free environment.)
Please do not muzzle your dog because he is chewing your furniture! (Keep him away from temptation and provide him with lots of chew toys.)
Please do not muzzle your dog because he is reactive towards strangers/children/other dogs and they have come to visit! (Put your dog in a different room and contact a certified force-free trainer to work on his issues.)
Please do not muzzle your dog because he suffers from separation anxiety and can be destructive while you are out! (Contact a qualified force-free trainer to work on his issues).
Please do not muzzle your dog because he raids the rubbish bin while you are at work! (Move the rubbish bin!)
Please do not muzzle your dog and think you can safely leave him unattended!
When muzzles are used for the right reasons they can be a positive tool but they are not a replacement for training your dog!
The next time you see a dog in a muzzle please realise that they probably have a very responsible owner who is doing their upmost to keep their companion and others safe. When more people begin to use muzzles in routine training, for travelling and even as an opportunity to do something fun with their dog, then their appearance will become less startling and hopefully, the stigma of the “aggressive” dog will disappear!
Remember to have fun with your training – Lots of positive reinforcement (rewards) and no force, fear, pain or intimidation!
Whether teaching Jambo new behaviours or reinforcing ones he already knows, we implement a “hierarchy of rewards”.
There are “lower level” reinforcers that are fine at home without any distractions or when reinforcing a behaviour that he finds very easy to do and there are those reinforcers that are at the “top of the tree”, the real “big guns” that we use to reinforce something very difficult.
Small pieces of food are the main reinforcer/reward we use as I can deliver it to his mouth quickly and therefore maintain a high rate of reinforcement but we also use certain “non-food” items, which include everything from balls to tug toys, access to things he wants and even people!
Jambo’s “hierarchy of rewards” isn’t static. What he finds rewarding one day might be of little interest to him the next. If he were reasonably hungry and in a non distracting environment he would probably find kibble/dry dog food reinforcing for a behaviour. If, however, we were to try and do that same behaviour in a more distracting environment, at a greater distance or perhaps when he had just eaten, then the kibble would be of very little, if any, value. If Jambo was in a playful mood then his tug toy would have a much higher value than if he was ready for bed!
The main thing to remember is that just because because you think something is a “reward”, it doesn’t mean that your dog does! Some dogs will do just about anything if you throw a tennis ball for them to chase, while others would much rather that you go and get it yourself!
How enthusiastically would you work if your boss said that he wasn’t going to pay you anything and that, in future, you would just receive a pat on the back? Perhaps, worse still, that, as his subordinate, you would just have to do as you were told? You might still do the work (especially if you thought you might be punished for not doing it) but would you be happy and would you work with enthusiasm? Jambo loves to share a “cuddle” with me but that doesn’t mean he would want to “work” for them! A cuddle from “Nando” though, who he doesn’t see very frequently…
The things that Jambo places at the top of his hierarchy will not be the same for your dog! His “big sister”, Tessa has no inclination whatsoever to play with a “boomer ball” and it would therefore not even make it onto her “hierarchy of rewards”. For her, kibble (dried dog food) would hold much greater value! One of Tessa’s biggest value reinforcers is going out for a ride in the car! Our last Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s highest value reinforcer/reward was his “tugga” but, as you can see from the following table, it’s actually of quite low value to Jambo. The table does not include all of the food items that we use as reinforcers as there are so many, but I have attempted to include the main ones.
I think you will all be surprised at what is at the top of Jambo’s hierarchy!
Jambo’s highest value reinforcer: “The Nando Boomer” by Jambo® coming to your high street soon!
You have a “strong” dog so you must need to use lots of force to control them, right? Wrong!
Using positive reinforcement is not only based in science, it is also a fast, effective and fun way of teaching your dog new behaviours. It establishes a pattern of learning and trust allowing you to bond more deeply with your dog. You can increase desired behaviours and decrease unwanted ones.Positive reinforcement training uses rewards not force!
Many behavioural problems can be solved by channelling your dog’s energy into something constructive. Is your dog constantly getting himself into trouble?.... “Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog Champion”is very mischievous and has bundles of energy, but working with him to learn new “tricks” helps to use up some of this energy while, at the same time, creating new positive behaviours! (I put the word “tricks” in inverted commas as even behaviours like “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “come”, “leave it” etc. are taught as “tricks”.)
As most of you probably know, Jambo is the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to achieve the Title of Trick Dog Champion. He achieved this title at just 16 months old! I think you could say that Jambo is a typical “Bully” – he has a lot of energy! He was a very “nippy” puppy and he was also the ultimate thief – his favourite game was “snatch, grab, run and destroy”! How did we go from this to him being a Trick Dog Champion? The answer is simple – I use rewards!
All dogs (in fact all animals) learn in the same way. They repeat behaviours they find rewarding and they avoid doing things that they find unpleasant. You can therefore train with rewards or punishment. You can reward them for walking on a loose leash (reinforce the behaviour you like and want to see more of) or you can punish them with a choke, prong or e-collar. If you choose the punishment route, it will work, but at what cost to your dog’s physical and mental well-being and at what cost to your relationship? Why train with force, pain and fear when you can train with rewards?
Some people mistakenly believe that “Strong” dogs need a “strong” hand. There is lots of talk about being your dog’s “pack leader”; about not letting them “dominate” you; that you need to have the physical strength to be able to handle one of these dogs; that you need to “keep them in their place” and “show them who is boss”, that you have to be a certain sort of person to “own” one of these dogs! I’ve got to admit that when I read a lot of the “training” advice written about “strong” breeds it makes me despair.
I’ve had the pleasure of being “guardian”/”Mum” to a Dobermann, two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a German Shepherd Dog. I was brought up with German Shepherds, Border Collies and Chow Chows. Apart from the Border Collies, I think all of these breeds are what people would call “strong” dogs. My dogs have always been loved and cherished as an integral part of my family. Of course we have certain “rules”, but I don’t use fear, force or intimidation to implement them. It’s quite simple really: I use rewards and reinforce the behaviour I want to see more of!
Any animal can be taught using Positive Reinforcement so there really is NO excuse for using force! Take the time to teach your dog what you want them to do and reward them for doing it! It doesn’t matter what breed of dog it is. Remember all animals can be taught in the same way, so why use force when you can use rewards? No excuses and no exceptions. If you don’t have the time then maybe you shouldn’t have a dog…
Aggressive training can actually lead to aggressive behaviour. If you have a “strong” dog you are under a greater obligation than ever to train them properly and make sure that they are well mannered members of society. Don’t make your dog fearful/aggressive by “training” with fear, force and intimidation!
This is a copy of a recent article that I wrote forThe Pet Professional Guild: “Actions Speak Louder Than Words!” (pages 38 and 39) You can read the full magazine here: BARKS from the Guild Magazine Summer2014
Running Jambo’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion has brought me into contact with a lot of people and pages that are passionate about the “Bully” breeds and want to see an end to Breed Specific Legislation. All these people and pages have one thing in common: They believe that the “Bullies” are unfairly discriminated against not only by legislation but also by the public in general. It does, however, seem quite contradictory to me that, although all these individuals and pages look to convince the general public that the “Bullies” are not to be feared, that they aren’t inherently dangerous and that they are in fact just like other dogs (many would say better), they also believe that they need to be trained with a “stronger” hand. I’ve lost count of the number of times I see these very people (and sadly I even include rescue shelters) talk about these dogs needing a certain kind of owner, one who will be able to be an effective “pack leader” and not let their dog “take charge”! I find it very difficult to understand how someone can say these dogs are no different to other dogs but also say that they need to be trained differently. They seem to believe that although positive reinforcement training may well work for some breeds it isn’t going to work with the “Bullies”! One post will show a picture of a “Bully” giving kisses and the next will show a picture of one wearing a prong collar. One post will be a story about an amazing “pit bull” therapy dog and the next will be advising their fans to make sure they “show their dog who is boss”! I was absolutely stunned when an article which I had posted, explaining why prong and e-collars should not be used, actually received comments from people who said they were “sad” and “disappointed” to read this. They believed that thousands of dogs’ lives had been saved by rescue shelters using these tools to change the aggressive behaviour of dogs in their care and that, without the use of prong and shock-collars, these same dogs would not have survived. They were “disappointed” and “angry” that I was saying these collars had no place in training! These are very strong words and very strong opinions. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I think Jambo’s page shows just what can be accomplished without the use of these punitive tools, many of these individuals could not or would not be convinced. What amazed me the most was that they weren’t even willing to listen to the reasons why these tools shouldn’t be used! One individual even commenting that she couldn’t understand how I could say that prong collars or e-collars were a “punishment”! Despite explaining that the reason these “training tools” work is because the dog stops doing what he is doing, for example pulling on the leash or lunging, in order to avoid the prong collar being jabbed into his neck or a shock being received and that these “training” tools might well stop a behaviour but at what price to the dog’s physical and mental well-being, many of these individuals were so upset by what I was saying that they decided to “unfollow” Jambo’s page! I was absolutely flabbergasted to see that they would rather continue to treat their dogs in this way than even listen to an argument for training without force! The “pack leader” mentality is, unfortunately, so ingrained in some people’s minds that they cannot even consider the possibility that it could be wrong! How do we get through to these people when there are still shows on the television with thousands, if not millions, of fans that regularly feature dogs being alpha-rolled, choked, shocked, kicked, prodded, poked, sprayed…? How do we show these people that in order to successfully advocate for the “Bullies” and against breed discriminatory legislation they really do need to stop saying that you have to be a certain sort of person to “own” one of these dogs?… They need to stop propagating the myth that these dogs can only be “trained” using force! They need to stop saying that you need to be a “pack leader”. They need to stop “abusing” the very dogs that they are advocating for! How can they expect to convince not only the general public but also legislator’s that the “Bullies” shouldn’t be treated differently to other dogs if they themselves continue to say that they need a different method of training?… I don’t doubt that these people want the absolute best for their dogs but they need to realise that what they are doing to them on a daily basis is not only detrimental to their pet’s well-being, it is also propagating the myth that they are indeed different to other dogs! Their treatment of these dogs actually facilitates legislation against them! Not only that, but these punitive “training” methods and tools could also turn out to be the very reason their dog “bites back”!
So how do we convince the general public and the “powers that be” that the Bullies shouldn’t be discriminated against? How can you we convince people that they don’t need to use force to train their best friend? How can we be “the best ambassadors” possible?
I believe the only way we are going to do it is through actions! We need to show everyone just what our dogs are capable of when they are trained with rewards and not force. We can write as many articles as we want (and yes, there will be people who listen) but as the saying goes “the proof is in the pudding”. Let our actions and those of our dogs be the “pudding”! There are disc dogs, agility dogs, fly ball dogs, obedience dogs, trick dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, dock dogs… who all happen to be “Bullies” and who have been taught using positive reinforcement! There are also lots of amazing family pets freely offering their kisses, cuddles and good behaviour who have all been trained without force! My beautiful boy, Jambo, is the First Staffordshire Bull Terrier To Be a Trick Dog Champion! (click the link to watch his Trick Dog Champion video). He achieved this title at just sixteen months old and guess what? I didn’t need to use a prong collar or give him any electric shocks! I managed to teach him all the behaviours using tiny pieces of food, a tug toy, a boomer ball and lots of love, patience and consistency!
The more people see and hear about these dogs, who I believe are a testament to Force-free Training, then the more people will be convinced that what they themselves are saying is true – “The Bully breeds aren’t any different to other dogs! They are not to be feared! They aren’t inherently dangerous!” They are, in fact, just like other dogs and guess what?… They can be trained in the same way – without fear, force or intimidation!
So, how do I believe you can be the “best ambassador possible” for the Bullies? Show people that they aren’t any different to other dogs in the way that you train them! Show everyone that there is absolutely no need to use punishment when you can use rewards! Celebrate the achievements of all those dogs that have been trained using rewards! Share training articles and videos that show people how they can effectively train their dog without being a pack- leader! Train your own dog without force! Show your friends and neighbours what an amazing dog he is! Let your actions and your dog’s actions speak for themselves! Maybe we need to stop telling people what they shouldn’t do and show them what we can do!
Breed Specific Legislation categorises a dog as dangerous simply because of what breed it happens to be. This is the same as if we were to say, for example, that all people with long blond hair should be put in prison. A few people with long blond hair have indeed acted aggressively so it makes total sense to lock them all up! Oh gosh, what am I saying? I have long blond hair, better incarcerate me now, just in case!
One of the members of my family happens to be a gorgeous Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Where we live (Spain) he is categorised as a “Potentially Dangerous Dog”. Strange wording in itself as surely all dogs are “potentially dangerous” if treated in the wrong way? This Breed Specific Legislation affects him and all of us in many ways, none of which happen to be good. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not, however, affected by B.S.L. in the UK, unless the authorities decide that they are “pitbull type” (don’t get me started on that one!). How can a breed of dog be dangerous in one country and not another? Are Staffies born in Spain somehow more dangerous than those born in the U.K.? But wait, it gets even more ludicrous. The list of potentially dangerous dogs in Spain includes the following breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; American Staffordshire Terrier; Rottweiler; Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasileiro; Tosa Inu; Akita Inu. Crazy enough in itself, but now here is the absolutely unbelievable bit… Different states/regions also include other breeds eg. some areas include the Doberman, others all Mastiff types and others the German Shepherd Dog. If you live in my region then the Doberman is affected by B.S.L. but if you live 30 minutes away you’ll be safe as Dobermans aren’t on the list! My beautiful German Shepherd girl isn’t considered “dangerous” where I live but we better not relocate to a different region as, if we were to do so, she would then become “dangerous”! Legislation also includes any crosses of the above breeds and any dogs with the “right measurements” – width of chest, head, mouth; length of leg; weight; short hair…. Oh wow, guess I’m okay on the last point, with my long blond hair. I better not cut it just in case! Watch out though if you are a dog with short hair! Thank goodness Tessa is a long-haired German Shepherd and not a short-haired one! The same ludicrous situation is apparent all across the United States where, in some areas “pitbull type” dogs are legislated against and in others they aren’t!
Let’s go back a minute to my long blond hair and the fact that, based on the “logic” of B.S.L., I now need to be incarcerated just in case I act aggressively. So, all people with long blond hair are exactly the same, aren’t we? We all act in exactly the same way, have the same characters/personalities, the same thoughts and desires (to act aggressively)… We all definitely need to be “registered”, muzzled, kept on a short leash, locked up or maybe even given a lethal injection! The general public would be much safer then, wouldn’t they?
Of course we aren’t all the same! In fact, how ridiculous does it sound when you explain Breed Specific Legislation in this way?
Just as every person is an individual so is every dog! They have so many different character traits! They are also affected by the way in which they are cared for. Mistreat any person or animal enough and eventually they will either give up, surrender, shut down… or they will try and protect themselves, fight back or even just lash out at the first person/animal they see!
Tessa and Jambo are definitely both individuals. While out walking last night, I was thinking about how different they are in many ways. Tessa is extremely loving and gentle but doesn’t much like the company of strangers. She really isn’t comfortable with dogs or people that she doesn’t know getting in her personal space. She likes to have fun but anyone who doesn’t know her would probably say she is a bit “stand-off-ish”. She’s just more at ease with those she knows. She loves to go for rides in the car and long walks in the countryside. She’s definitely not the life and soul of the party. When we are out walking she really enjoys “reading the newspaper”, so much so that she has to read every single article and comment on it! She likes to walk slowly and take everything in. If she sees another dog or person in the distance then she prefers to go the other way and avoid them. She’s quite elegant and ladylike in most ways but get too close and she might just decide to tell you to “get lost”!
Jambo is the total opposite of Tessa. He’s the life and soul of the party and wants to say hello to absolutely every person or dog he meets. He gets so excited even just catching a glimpse of someone in the distance! If they’re prepared to say hello then they better watch out! He definitely doesn’t care about “personal space”. I suppose you could say that he is very “touchy, feely”. He loves to hug and kiss everyone! Like Tessa, he loves to go for long car rides and walks but that’s where the similarity ends. He has no time for “reading the paper”! He’ll quickly check out the most interesting articles and very occasionally “comment” on them but then quickly has to move on to see what’s coming around the next corner. Maybe there is something or someone up ahead. He’s what I’d call a “full-on, loving, mischievous, little tomboy”. He loves playing football, chasing around, rolling in the dirt and giving as many kisses as possible!
As you can see, they are both very different in many ways. They also have a lot of similarities though, many of which I believe are a result of the way we live as a family. They have both been taught using Positive Reinforcement. They have both been brought up in a loving home. As a result, even though their personalities are quite different, they are both gentle and loving in their own ways. They are both totally different and yet they are both totally perfect!
Is Jambo more “dangerous” because he is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier? I’ll let you decide!
The answer is simple – with Positive Reinforcement Training!
No force, no fear, no intimidation, no manipulation, no compulsion…..
Using positive reinforcement is not only based in science, it is also a fast, effective and fun way of teaching your dog new behaviours.
It establishes a pattern of learning and trust allowing you to bond more deeply with your dog. You can increase desired behaviours and decrease unwanted ones. Positive reinforcement training uses rewards not force.
Many behavioural problems can be solved by channelling your dog’s energy into something constructive. You can convert your dog’s energy and drive into productive behaviours. Is your dog constantly getting himself into trouble?…. “Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog Champion” is very mischievous and has bundles of energy, but working with him to learn new tricks helps to use up some of this energy while, at the same time, creating new positive behaviours!
Jambo is one of the “infamous” Bully breeds. He’s also the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Trick Dog Champion! So maybe “famous” would be a more fitting description than “infamous”!
He achieved this title at just 16 months old and we did this using positive reinforcement training! I think you could say that Jambo is a typical “Bully” – he has a lot of energy! He was a very “nippy” puppy – we nicknamed him “crocodile” as he would come at you “snap, snap, snap”! He was also the ultimate thief and very destructive! How did we go from this to him being a Trick Dog Champion?
The answer is simple – We used rewards!
All dogs (in fact all animals) learn in the same way – They repeat behaviours they find rewarding and they avoid doing things that they find aversive. You can therefore train with rewards or with punishment. You can reward them for walking on a loose leash or you can punish them with a choke, prong or e-collar. If you choose the punishment route it will work, but at what cost to your dog’s physical and mental well-being and at what cost to your relationship?
Why train with fear when you can train with rewards?
Force-free Training shouldn’t just be an option it should be an obligation!
Jambo’s Story so far: Dog Tricks, Positive Reinforcement Training and how B.S.L. impacts on his life.
Jambo is our second Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Our first beautiful Staffy was called Samson – he was the most loveable boy ever, calm, good natured, playful… He died at the age of 11. He was able to spend his life in freedom without the restrictions of BSL. His best friend was our Dobie/German Shepherd, Bess, who was a couple of years older than him. We would go for long walks in the countryside and on the beach where they were able to run around and have fun and freedom.
A couple of years after Bess passed away we added Tessa, our beautiful German Shepherd to our family. She and Sam became best buddies but she only had his company for a couple of years as he was already 9 when Tessa joined us. Tessa was nearly 5 years old when Jambo came into our lives. We knew we would like another Staffordshire Bull Terrier but we could never have guessed the impact this little puppy was to have on our lives! Jambo was born in May of 2012. His pedigree name is “Warrior For Life” but I wanted a name that would reflect his personality and not be too “hard”. I also wanted to name him after our first Staffy boy, Sam. Jam rhymes with Sam and Jambo is the Swahili (think “warrior”) word for “hello” – Jambo just loves to say hello to everyone he meets. Jambo proved to be extremely loving, very mischievous, inquisitive, energetic and quite a handful! I started teaching him the basics straight away but as he got a little bit older I also wanted to do something fun to use up some of his boundless energy. Hence began our journey into doing Dog Tricks, which we were introduced at a Trick Dog Seminar given by Nando Brown. Breed Specific Legislation was also now in force in Spain (it entered in vigour in 1999) and I wanted Jambo to be an absolute example of how amazing the “Bullies” are. I think that if you have a breed affected by legislation in this way then you should do your utmost to show everyone how wrong it is. We were out to smash the stereotype! Jambo got his first Dog Trick Title at just 7 months old and by 14 months old already had 7 Trick Dog Titles including “Expert”. We also worked on general obedience and agility… We train everything using Positive Reinforcement and love to point out to people that it is a total myth that you need to have a “stronger” hand with this “type” of dog! I am not Jambo’s leader and I don’t command him to do anything. We work together as a team and he gets rewarded with food and play and cuddles and fun. I firmly believe that we would never have achieved what we have if I had tried to train him in any other way. The main thing Jambo and I do is enjoy ourselves!
At only 16 months old Jambo achieved what no Staffordshire Bull Terrier had done before – he became a Trick Dog Champion! We immediately launched his Facebook page, Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog, to celebrate his Trick Dog Champion Title and to promote doing Dog Tricks and Positive Reinforcement Training. We hoped to inspire others to do more with their dogs. We also wanted to do our best to help break the stereotype of the “Bullies” and show the injustice of B.S.L.! In 2013 he was featured as Dog Of The Week for Your Pit Bull & You.
He has won rosettes and trophies for Obedience, Agility, Tricks, Best Dog, Best of Breed. He loves people and loves playing with other dogs. His photos and videos have been shared by DDA Watch UK who work tirelessly to help dogs and families affected by B.S.L., as well as by many other groups fighting against breed stereotypes and Breed Specific Legislation.
At the end of the year he was honoured to be named as “Dog Of The Year 2013” by In The Doghouse DTC in recognition of all we had achieved and for his work as a Bully Breed Ambassador.
His name has become synonymous with Force-free Training and helping to break the “Bully” breed stereotype.
He is one of the dogs being featured in StubbyDog Project’s spay/neuter campaign and his photo will be on posters and flyers distributed in vets’ offices across the U.S.A.
His story has been shared across the Web and some of his trick videos have recently been airing on “Talent Hounds” a T.V. show on The Pet Network in Canada. Despite all of Jambo’s accomplishments, his training and his good character he is classified by the authorities as a “Potentially Dangerous Dog”! Jambo was born into B.S.L. and although there is no outright ban on his breed in Spain, B.S.L. affects everything we can and cannot do. Jambo had to be registered as a Potentially Dangerous Dog. He has to be kept on leash (1m) and muzzled when in public. We have to get an annual veterinary health report stating the inexistence of illnesses that could make him “especially dangerous”. He has a microchip – the number of which is registered as that of a potentially dangerous dog. He has to be enclosed by walls of at least 2m high (or kept on a chain – which we would never do as life on a chain is no life at all) and put in a secure location should visitors come to our home. He has to be registered with the local town hall. He cannot go near any area designated for children (play ground, park, school). I have to have a Potentially Dangerous Dog handler’s licence; a psychiatric report; no criminal record; a physical report stating I am able to “handle” him; public liability insurance for at least 175.000 euros. I cannot walk or transport more than one “dangerous dog” at a time…. Fines for infractions are up to 115.000 euros and the authorities have the right to seize and destroy if they see fit! The following breeds come under BSL here in Spain: American Pit Bull Terrier; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; American Staffordshire Terrier; Rottweiler; Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasileiro; Tosa Inu; Akita Inu. Different states/regions also include other breeds eg. some areas include the Doberman, others all Mastiff types and others the German Shepherd Dog. Legislation also includes any crosses of the above breeds and any dogs with the “right measurements” – width of chest, head, mouth; length of leg; weight; short hair…. There’s to be no running free in the countryside or on the beach for Jambo….
By sharing Jambo’s photos and videos we hope to show everyone how awesome the “Bullies” are; To show how Positive Reinforcement Training is the ONLY way to train; To show that you don’t need to be a “Pack Leader” or bully your dog just because he happens to be a “Bully”; To show the fun you can have doing Dog Tricks and finally, to spread the word about the injustice of Breed Specific Legislation. Whatever breed is targeted, B.S.L. is, at its best, “racism” and at its worst genocide…..