What a year! Year 2013 has been a journey for all of us at Smart Animal Training Systems, on many levels. It was a year of many beginnings, of exhilarating moments as well as growing pains. In March we launched the blog. In April our Facebook page and Twitter account were up. By the end of the year, the first product, the Pet Tutor®, was presented to the public. Through our team’s hard work, but most importantly because of the enthusiastic support of the dog training community, we now have a website with over 50 blogs, a Youtube channel, 6000 Facebook friends, 3500 Twitter followers, and are now taking orders for the Pet Tutor®!
Back when we first started, I had never blogged in my life. Since Wes Anderson, the founder of Smart Animal Training Systems, and I both come from a scientific background, I was eager to have the opportunity to present some of the studies I find the most interesting on animal and human behavior. We’re living in exceptional times where more and more scientists are focusing on understanding pets’ behavior and cognitive abilities.
As I wrote one blog after the other over the course of the year, it was exciting to watch our readership grow and gather reactions, feedback and comments from many. As we look back and remember how far we have come, I wanted to share the 10 most popular blogs of the year:
- New study sheds light on serious to fatal dog bites: ‘4.5 million dog bites are reported in the U.S. each year. Fortunately the vast majority of bites cause only minimal injuries. In almost 800,000 of cases however, medical care is needed and in rare cases, the dog bites lead to human fatalities.’ From poor supervision or care, to misinterpretations of canine psychology, this blog highlights some of the main reasons why humans get bit and sometimes killed by dogs.
- Impulse control – the 6 keys to teaching dogs calm and polite behavior: ‘Dogs can be impatient and pushy.’ Impulse control is one of the most important concepts to teach any dog, regardless of size, breed or age. Unfortunately, our natural tendencies tend to exacerbate the problem. This blog outlines effective ways to deal with our bouncy, pushy and rambunctious pooches.
- New findings on shock collars – why the UK wants to ban them: ‘In the dog world, few subjects are as controversial as the debate on shock collars (electronic or e-collars)’. This post brought forth the results of two recent and extensive studies on the efficiency of training with such devices and their potential effects on the dogs.
- 10 effective ways to help our dogs feel safe: ‘Many behavior issues that directly affect the dog’s welfare can be attributed to stress and fear. These emotions dominate the dog’s life experience and are often responsible for the human/dog relationship breakdown.’ In this blog I outlined 10 ways to help the dog develop more confidence.
- Punishment affects both the dog and the owner: ‘Dog training is not just about training dogs. It’s also about building an identity and a way to relate to other beings. From my experience in working with dog owners but also with the prison population, this blog exposes how – just like the dogs that we train – the more we practice a behavior, the more it comes to us naturally. The more we resort to punishment with animals, the more we’ll tend to be critical and judgmental with our fellow humans as we’ll focus on what they do wrong. Applying ourselves to paying attention to what animals do right and rewarding those behaviors, also reinforces feelings of compassion and care within us.
- The matching law – key to dog behavior: ‘The matching law directly influences the efficiency and accuracy of our training…According to the matching law, the chances of choosing one behavior over another are the direct equivalent of how much those behaviors have been reinforced.’ This post exposes the importance of understanding and paying attention to the influence of the matching law on the animal we’re working with.
- Pet Tutor® – Smart Technology for positive training: ‘Designed to offer trainers and owners ways to apply positive reinforcement when training or working through behavior problems, Pet Tutor® is an incredibly versatile and reliable remote treat dispensing device.’ This blog uncovers some of the main features of this new technological device designed to help us train, feed and play with our dogs.
- Bob Bailey – Don’t settle for good enough: ‘More than anybody else, Bob Bailey has mastered the science of animal training.’ When working with animals, many of us could benefit from upping our game, improving our timing, our reinforcement rates, our criteria setting, etc… This blog outlines some of the principles that can make a good trainer into a great trainer.
- What happens to fear when left untreated?: ‘Helping the dog overcome his fears will not only prevent many of these behaviors from developing, but will also help him gain more confidence in general.’ This post sheds light on the importance of treating fear as soon as possible and the best ways to address it.
- Separation anxiety in dogs – a consultant high tech toolkit: ‘In dogs, separation anxiety accounts for 20-40% of the behavior consultant’s case load and is one of the most common behavior problems… Treating separation anxiety is not easy.’ This blog explores the best ways to help dogs feel OK when left alone.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have read, commented, liked, shared my blogs, and taken the time to travel on this journey with me. On behalf of all of Smart Animal’s Training Systems’ team let me express our gratitude for all your support, positive encouragements and interest in our work. You carried us and helped us in our efforts to promote positive reinforcement training throughout the year.
Jennifer Cattet Ph.D.