Thursday, February 16, 2012

Zelda's Vocabulary


Here are all the words/commands I could think of for Zelda. Many of these I taught her using positive reinforcement with food as the reward, but treats are no longer required for her to obey them (so much for the "it's only BRIBERY!" theory from anti-treat trainers). Though I'll still use treats every now and then to keep her interested in the "pointless" tricks like "sit pretty" and "spin". Others have the reward built-in, like "uh-oh": for the game of fetch to continue, she has to bring the ball close to me. When we were training for flyball I rarely used food because the game of fetch itself was reward for running and getting a ball from the box. Others were taught (and continually used) using negative reinforcement. IE, I put some kind of pressure on her, and then release that pressure when she does what's asked ("get down"; "drop it").

~ "Come"
~ "Sit"
~ "Lay down"
~ "Roll over" (both sides)
~ "Sit up"
~ "Stay"
~ "Wait" (when walking next to me "stay here for a moment" or when waiting in doorway/threshold)
~ "Up" (meaning: "jump up on the object I'm pointing at")
~ "Go" or "OK" (release word - I really tried not to make 'ok' a release word, but it just kinda happened)
~ "Go potty/Hurry up" (aside from recall, having a dog pee on command is the best thing ever)
~ "Bed time" ("get in your crate")
~ "Get in" (car, bath tub, etc)
~ "Drop it"
~ "Off" (when jumping on someone)
~ "Leave it" ("whatever you're so interested in, leave it alone")
~"Bring it here" (bring that object you're so interested in to me)
~ "Wait/easy" ("don't eat the cookie I just set on your paw until I say so")
~ "Go get it" ("go get the last toy you played with")
~ "Do you need out?" (If she runs to the door, that means "yes". If she sits and stares at you, that means "no, I want a hotdog, stupid monkey". )
~ "Jump" (when holding the hula-hoop, means jump through it)
~ "Uh-oh" (when playing fetch "oops, you seem to have dropped the ball out of my reach. Please bring it closer so I can throw it for you again")
~ "Who is it?" (meaning: "bark wildly and run to the door" - this one I kinda, uh, taught her by accident)
~ "Sit pretty"
~ "High five"
~ "Shake" or "Gimme your paw" (left and right paws)
~ "Behind" (both sides - for agility - sends her behind me in a circle ready to launch at an obstacle)
~ "Over" (in agility, when pointing at a jump, means go over that jump)
~ "Spin" (both directions; need hand signals)
~ "Get off/down" (usually get off the bed or couch)

Things we're working on:
~ "Go get _______ (kong/rope toy/ball/slippers/car keys, etc)" (distinguishing between different toys/objects by name and fetching them.)
~ "Tunnel"/"Walk it"/Through"/"Climb" etc (in agility, distinguishing between two or more obstacles that are placed close together)
~ Carry a basket trick
~ Play dead trick
~ "Take it to Tom" (take an object from me to someone else)

Things I should work on, but am mostly just managing when it crops up:
Jumping on people to greet them
Chasing the cats. Oddly, only happens indoors under very specific circumstances.
Toy possessiveness with other dogs

Friday, February 3, 2012

Horse slaughter and puppy mills

"Slaughter has become the garbage can for the performance horse industry."
--Patricia Hogan, VMD, ACVS

I'm not sure if I've made my position clear, but I'm not against the killing of horses, per se. Not against people who eat horse meat. Not against rendering plants that turn horses into dog food, glue, and leather. Nor zoos and big cat sanctuaries who accept horses to feed their animals. Nor am I against taking old Bessy to the back pasture and putting her down with a bullet in the cowlick. Or even, if that's your thing, raising a nice fat Percheron and then calling in the mobile slaughter truck to turn it into steaks for your own freezer.

No. These things are not necessarily bad. Horse slaughter, however, as practiced right now, is inhumane and unnecessary.

The apologists say it's the only means that some people have of disposing of horses they can't care for or horses that are old/lame. They cry: better a horse suffer a short time at the slaughter plant than a long starvation, right?


Horse slaughter is not about disposing of unwanted horses. That's just a side effect, and really a small one at that. Most of the horses in the above situation - old, sick, lame - either cannot legally go to slaughter, or the kill buyer won't buy them anyway. They make more money per shipment if the horses are fat and healthy.

Horse slaughter is about making money.

Like puppy mills, it's a symbiotic relationship between three parties: the souless (or occasionally clueless) breeders, the breed registries who apparently only exist to make money on new baby registrations, and the middle man, which in the case of horses is the meat buyer, and in the case of puppy mills, is the pet store.

The main difference is that in the case of the puppy mills, the "culls" being sold from the middle man (the pet store) end up in a home instead of in a Frenchman's stomach.

But the effect is the same: the middle man gets money, which in turns encourages the breeders to continue over-producing a product because, hey, if it don't sell at a premium price, there's still some money to be made.

In both cases the majority of the public just want a pet. Either a horse they can show or jump or ride the trails. Or a dog the kids can play with. Breeding only matters insomuch as it provides them with an animal that fits their needs.

In both cases there is simple fix: take money out of the equation.

Make horse slaughter illegal and breeders can't make easy money off of their unwanted three year olds that they didn't bother to train. Hopefully it forces them to slow down production and focus more on quality instead of quantity.

Make it illegal to sell puppies in stores, and you strike a blow to puppy mills. True, disreputable breeders will always find 'loopholes'. I can, for example, easily picture a puppy mill disguising itself as a 'rescue' and continuing business as usual, except calling the sales "adoptions". However, right now puppies and kittens sold in stores are overwhelmingly from puppy mills, and there's no need for it.

Indeed, the ease of online advertising also means it's easier for ethical breeders to compete with puppy mills for advertising eyeball time, whereas ethical breeders wouldn't dream of trying to compete by selling their pups in a store to the first person to slap down the cash.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Belated Announcement

I've gone and fallen off the deep end and started my own animal rescue. Saint Jude preserve us.

No website yet, just a Petfinder and Facebook page.

I'm already deeply involved with Mikey's Chance Canine Rescue, but I guess I felt I needed more things to do in my life. I and my co-workers are constantly rescuing and rehoming cats, anyway, so we decided to make it official. With me as president, apparently. This wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been deeply disappointed with the local animal shelter, but that's a story for another time. Next steps: a website and legal non-profit status. Then maybe some Petco grants. And then: the world!

Please. Send money and cat food.