Saturday, January 26, 2013

UK Seminar April 2013-Come On Over!

Talk about a great way to spend part of my Spring!  On April 8th and 9th, 2013, I will have the distinct pleasure of going to England and giving a two-day seminar in Cambridgeshire outside Huntingdon at Wood Green, a facility run by and serving The Animals Charity in the UK. The seminar is being hosted by Dog Psyche UK-the direct link is here: 

Although a general outline of the seminar is on the link, I have been asked for more details. Is this going to be worthwhile? (Geez, I hope so!). What can I learn? And honestly, who in the world is Jim Crosby to be telling me what to do?

Well, let's address the last question first. I am not coming to England to tell anyone what to do-nor am I going to tell anyone that they are "doing it wrong". To do either of these would require an enormous amount of arrogance. It is not my place to tell anyone what to do or how to do their job. It is not my place to tell anyone they are right or wrong. More to the point, I do not have the secret key, "The Way" to do anything, be it dog training, case investigation, evidence evaluation, or anything else. I don't have a secret stance, or mystical merging of energy, or any other drivel.

What I do have is experience in a specific field that I want to share with people; trainers, Police Officers, behaviorists, Animal Control personnel, rescues, SPCA staff, volunteers, owners, and anyone else who wants to listen. My experience involves encounters with dogs that are both normal and extraordinary. I have dealt with dogs that have been well behaved; poorly socialized and frightened; friendly and exuberant; and who have killed humans. Dogs that have presented some unique challenges and have led me to learn new skills, and sharpen and adapt those I already had to new uses.

So what is the course, and what can one learn by coming?  The seminar revolves around serious and fatal dog-human interactions, but the tools and skills we will discuss are applicable across a much wider arena.
I'm not going to spill all the beans here (after all, if I did that then there would be no reason for me to come and I would miss a super trip) but let me skim over a few topics.

First off, we are going to talk about aggression in dogs. Is aggression bad? What is aggression and why is it here? What are the uses of aggression, and should your dog have any?

What about biting? What happens to make a dog bite? We are going to discuss the reasons a dog bites, how and why a bite makes sense to a dog, and how we can work with our dogs and other humans to reduce bites. We will talk about quanitfying dog bites, and using classification to impute intent.

We will talk long and deeply about communication. Dog communication, human communication, and how those two can conflict. Can we learn to speak dog? Do we need to have a certain "energy"?

As we work through communication we will also dip into behavioral science. What is behavior, what affects it, and how do we change it? Is behavior cast in stone or can even long term behaviors be changed? How can a dog's past history and experience, even its diet and living conditions, affect behavior?

We are going to then put these blocks together and discuss working with and evaluating dogs that seem to be at risk for dangerous behavior. We will talk about negotiation-and I don't mean negotiating with a solicitor or your local Council: I mean negotiating with a dog. Yes, I negotiate with dogs, especially with dogs that have serious behavior issues. How else could I get a useful, specific and valid evauation of a dog involved in an incident-just watch them through the kennel door? Not me-I feel it is important to be able to establish, even briefly, a negotiated relationship with such an animal based on mutual trust and respect. No threat of force here-these dogs can do serious damage. And my mistake in such a situation may not only result in my injury, but may sign a death warrant for the dog. We need to both come out alive and safe.

While we are talking about evaluation we are going to delve deeper into just that-the uses, abuses, and limitations of behavioral evaluation. What can they tell us, and should a behavior evaluation be the live-or-die test for a dog? How can we then take what we learn in the evaluation(s) and use that information to make recommendations or develop treatment protocols for the dog?

About there we will break for the day. We will probably have the opportunity to get together over a meal and bat around ideas from the day, and maybe tell a few war stories. Share of bit of those "well, the dog I saw was sooooo bad..."

The next day we will jump into investigations and how they can be approached by Police Officers, Animal Control Officer, trainers and behaviorists, and anyone else who is affected by a dog-related case. Not that Police and Animal Control Officers don't know how to investigate-but I have learned a few things from trial and error, and from others, that can help make an investigation even more productive. Dog cases, especially dog related fatalities, contain factors that other cases don't, not limited to the idea that the weapon (dog) is a semi-independant, thinking being with their own agenda and outlook on the world. Fatal dog attacks are homicides-specialized homicides-and have distinct issues that need to be considered.

We will talk evidence. Specific, dog-related evidence. We will talk-and view-crime scenes. We will go over cases I have worked and see the nitty gritty details. We will put evidence, behavioral science, and evaluation together to build a picture of the incident-what really happened and perhaps even why.  We will discuss the potential role of the trainer or behaviorist in helping Police intepret events and place cause where it belongs. We will discuss blame versus responsibility and the need to assign responsibility properly. We will talk about other crimes, both revealed by the incident and perhaps crimes the perpetrator(s) are using the dog incident to conceal.

And by the end of the day we will discuss the nature of Dangerous Dogs, the classification of dogs as Dangerous, and varying points and attitudes towards breed regulation. Are the laws we have achieving what we want, or can we augment or adapt those laws to get better results with less effort? What does the public deserve, and what do the dogs deserve? What is the science behind appearence and behavior, and how interrelated are they?

After all that I will certainly be worn out-and I hope that each person attending will have both received and contributed to the topics. I intend this to be a highly interactive seminar. I want those attending to share information, share contact information, and share their outlook on the overall issues behind dogs and public safety to develop stronger working relationships. I hope that I will have been able to shed a small light into some murky corners, while taking back my share of learning from the attendees.

Where is this held again?

Wood Green, The Animals Charity
King's Bush Farm
London Road
PE29 2NH

(I just love English addresses. Ours are so boring. Imagine having a house with a name!)

Please join me, and hopefully a host of others, at Wood Green April 8th and 9th. Let's talk dogs.

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