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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Dog Whisperer blames careless owners, trainers for abuse
Dog trainer Caspar Durant says the aggression training and abuse given to pitbulls by irresponsible dog owners and trainers contribute to the incidents of maulings and deaths, as the dogs are turned to hate humans.
He said the same pitbulls that are demonised as vicious killing machines in the media are used as therapy dogs or service dogs for the blind, the disabled, in hospitals, retirement homes, schools and prisons in the US and other countries.
Durant said: “They put on a dog bite suit to give the dogs aggression training with a stick in their hand, they harass the dogs, provoking them to attack and into hating humans. I don’t do that.
“Protecting your property is natural to them, you don’t have to teach them that and aggression training.
“Your home is their territory and their boundary, my dogs are not trained to use deadly force to stop an attack, but only as much force as is necessary to neutralise the situation.
“In the scenario of an armed intruder, I don’t teach my dogs to go for a specific part of the body. I leave them free to improvise and do what is convenient to them as the situation presents itself.”
He said a dog trained in the method he employed, Schutzhund (German for “protection dog”) was the only dog capable of this feat.
Durant said the dogs were never aggressive unless he or his owner were under immediate attack.
He said all his dogs were brought to that standard and the same applied to dogs he trained for clients.
Durant explained the difference between a watch dog and a guard dog: A watch dog warns its owner of an intruder or trespasser by barking. A guard dog guards the property or livestock of its owner and is capable of stopping a threat.
If a bandit was foolhardy enough to set foot in Durant’s yard, he had to contend with Durant’s seven guard dogs—two pitbulls and five Rottweilers.
He said the pitbulls, Blase and Pancake; Eve the Rottweiler and Sultan, one of her four offspring, were trained to protect their territory even when he was not around. They recognised him as the Alpha male or leader of the pack and were all eager to follow his commands.
There were chickens roaming freely in the yard and the dogs were well trained, leaving them alone even with their inherent high prey drive. Durant’s yard was not enclosed, yet his dogs remained within the boundary of his yard and wouldn’t even touch nearby garbage bags.
He said his dogs did absolutely nothing without his say. He used as few words as possible, it was done through body language.
Durant gave a demonstration. On his command his dogs would sit obediently, go to an area, play together, stop play, and go into their kennels and stay there with the doors open.
No fighting or jealousy
When he was playing with one of his dogs, there was no fighting or jealousy among them for his affection or for food. When he demonstrated training to poison proof the dog by feeding just one of them, Durant rewarded the dog with a positive hug or pat.
Just like Cesar Millan, world-renowned “Dog Whisperer,” known for his ability to communicate with animals, Durant has no formal training or education in animal behaviour, however his uncanny ability to have his dogs follow commands almost silently is similar to Millan’s.
He did have a security company in the ’70s with several foundation dogs, and now that he is a retiree at 61, he wants to devote his time to his passion and first love, rearing and training dogs.
Durant reads voraciously books on dog psychology, behaviour and police dog training, but he has found that there was always something missing such as making the dogs do something they wouldn’t do naturally.
Eschewing the word “training,” he preferred to use “manipulating” because a dog cannot be taught anything it was not born to do.
Durant said he didn’t have to teach a dog anything, all he did was manipulate what it would normally do such as run, sit, stand, bark, bite, jump and eat, but only when and where the owner wanted him to do it.
He said he was fascinated when he learned how certain types of dogs were selected to lead the blind, one of them being the pitbull.
It was the same pitbull, maligned in the press as responsible for several attacks and deaths, that was also used for rehabilitation and therapy work in the US.
Durant said it was what people did with their dogs, the abuse that made them resentful towards humans.
He revealed that the pitbull was the most popular family dog in the beginning of the 20th century in the US. The mascot romping with children in the 1930s movies The Little Rascals, was a pitbull named Pete.
Durant said the pitbull was one of the most loving dogs he came across. His children used to climb up on them to get into their beds and sometimes when they were playing they would fall on top of the pitbulls.
He said that dogs can detect changes in human body odour, sense someone’s intentions and will know how to react or how much force to use. Durant said because of the high prevalence in crime, there was still a high demand for pitbulls and other guard dogs.
Looking for exotic dogs
He said some homeowners who could afford it, were looking for exotic dogs in excess of 100 pounds such as the Akita, American Bulldogs and mastiffs.
Durant said unfortunately criminals also wanted a hardy dog such as the pitbull which was hard to kill, and they were experimenting with creating bandogs, crossing pitbulls and mastiffs to guard their illicit activities.
He said he was not in favour of the Dog Control Act which targeted breed specific dogs, especially the pitbull.
Durant said there was nothing wrong with any dog.
“Don’t try to blame the dog or ban the breed for what people did to them.”
He called for the tattooing and microchiping of dogs to be made mandatory and that they be registered by veterinarians.
Durant said if a dog bit someone, the owner should be held responsible.
He said over a period of time different breeds of dogs were labeled as killer dogs, Rottweilers were called devil dogs, German Shepherds were described as mad dogs and Dobermans went for the throat.
Durant said he had too much knowledge to let it die with him and there was just too much misinformation out there on dogs that he would like to correct through his training.
In the earlier days, obedience was a matter of forcing the dogs to learn and given corrections and rewards were only given by voice (praise).
These dogs were also not well socialised, and the end result was a correct but submissive working dog. They had no pleasure doing their work because of fear of correction that would follow a mistake.
After that period, a younger generation of dog manipulators invented a whole new method using “stimulation with reward” based on “play and learn” with no pressure and forcing anymore.
The end result was a fast dog which emanated a joy in doing whatever it did, with a minimum of submissiveness.
The modern set of manipulators are now using a new method invented and developed by American dolphin trainers, which is called “the positive learning method,” based on each dog learning for himself without any sign of pressure from the owner and no corrections made by the trainer.
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