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Tag: dog training

White God: It’s not the nerds getting revenge in this haunting Hungarian film

In terms of its story line, White God isn’t too different from any other movie in which the bullied rise up and get even with the bullies.

What makes it different — and makes it shine — is that in this case the bullied are abused and mistreated dogs, a species that already knows (perhaps better and more instinctively than us) that there is strength in numbers.

Perhaps the most talked about scene in the much talked about Hungarian film — winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Prize Un Certain Regard Award and an official selection of Sundance Film Festival — is when a pack of 250 dogs, all mutts, stampede through the streets.

And what makes that scene even more impressive is that it was achieved not through computer graphics, but with dogs.

Director Kornel Mundruczo first issued a casting call for 100 dogs for the scene, then decided bigger would be better. More than 200 dogs ended up being involved, many of them from local animal shelters.

The scene serves as the movie’s climax, and it was a first of its kind achievement for the dog trainers involved.

Under the leadership of Hungarian dog trainer Árpád Halász, a team of humans was able to train the dogs to stampede in a pack in what was, in reality, a massive rush for treats.

One of the dog trainers involved, Teresa Ann Miller — daughter of a trainer who worked on films like Beethoven and Cujo — was interviewed about the movie on NPR this week.

Miller helped cast and train the two dogs who shared the role of Hagen.

The movie’s story begins when a young girl is forced to give up her dog, Hagen, because it is of mixed-breed heritage. Her father, unwilling to pay the fee required to keep a mutt, abandons Hagen in the streets.

Young Lili tries to find him, and Hagen tries to find her, but eventually he joins forces with, and becomes the leader of, hundreds of other abandoned, abused and mistreated dogs living in the streets.

As a pack, they rise up to seek revenge for the indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of humans.

(If the film has one fault, it’s the notion that dogs would seek revenge. They’re better than that.)

Miller told NPR that director Mundruczó wanted the stampede scene to look as real as possible — a goal complicated by the fact that no one has ever seen hundreds of domestic dogs running as a pack.

It was first rehearsed with 100 dogs running together.

Trainer Halász watched and then said, “What about 150?” Miller recounted. “And 150 looked so good that he says, What about 200? And each time Árpád learned, as he acquired the dogs and introduced other dogs into the pack, that it was possible.”

It took four months to prepare for the scene, she added.

“And that was amazing to see; that was fascinating. I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never seen such a large pack of dogs run together. And, quite honestly, I don’t think we’d ever do it here (in the U.S.) just for the time that it takes. It’s so much easier just to CGI it, but the director didn’t want that effect at all.”

Fetching: Who needs a human when you have a catapult?

It may take two to tango, but fetch is a game that can be played solo, assuming you’re a dog with a catapult in your back yard.

This video was posted on YouTube last month, under the title, “This is What Happens When an Engineer Owns a Dog.”

An anonymous dog owner apparently built the contraption, then taught his dog to operate it.

Rocks, as opposed to softer projectiles, seem to the object of choice for this dog, who places a tennis ball-sized stone on the launch pad then jumps twice on the other end of the board, activating a spring that sends the rock flying across the yard.

The dog fetches it, and repeats the process.

The video was featured on the website of yesterday’s New York Daily News.

What part of “no” don’t you understand?

You know how frustrated you get when you have to tell your dog something over and over again?

Come here. Come HERE. Listen to me. Get over here right now. Don’t make me say it again. COME HERE!

In this video, the shoe is sort of on the other paw.

John Ventresco, of New Hampshire, is trying to persuade his 11-month-old husky, Blaze, to get into her crate.

Not only does Blaze physically (but peacefully) resist, refusing to budge, but she says what sounds like “no” — 30 times by my count, at least 10 of those quite clearly:

“Noooooo!”

Posted on YouTube just two weeks ago, the video is approaching 5 million views, meaning a lot of people are getting a chuckle, and learning how not to train a dog, and debating whether Ventresco — as gentle and good-humored as his urging is — is going to get bitten one of these days, and, if so, will he have deserved it.

Eventually one of them will have the other properly trained, I’m just not sure if it will be Ventresco or Blaze. Right now, it appears to be a draw.

The bigger question it raises, to me, anyway, is whether the day will come when dogs really do talk. I predict it will — that they will someday talk, on their own, without the aid of implants, headsets, devices that monitor their brain waves and apps that translate what they’re thinking into words.

Several projects are underway that do just that — because we humans want to know what’s going on in their heads, and we want to know now, and somebody somewhere thinks it might make some money.

We’ll take advantage of technology to bring that about and get it on the market as soon as possible, rather than wait a few hundred or thousand more years when, I’d venture, dogs will have evolved to the point that they’re talking on their own anyway.

It’s only natural for that to happen, with them living so closely to us, observing us around the clock,  and watching too much TV. They will continue to pick up our skills – learning to operate a remote control, warming up some chicken nuggets, uttering words, then entire phrases.

Mark my words. By the year 2525 (and that’s just a wild guess), dogs will be saying “yes” and “no,” and more:

Feed me.

I want to go outside for a while.

But wait, there’s more. Details at 11. Ohmigod, they killed Kenny. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night.

Put me in that damn crate again and, I swear,  I’m going to call my attorney.

They may never have as sophisticated a vocabulary as us, may never be as erudite, snotty, self-promoting and adept at making barbed comments as us. But the day will come that they use words.

The question is not whether dogs will someday learn to talk. It’s whether, when they do, we’ll listen.

We already stink at that — in terms of listening to our fellow humans, and in terms of hearing what our dogs are silently saying. We’re so dependent on words we don’t hone our wordless communication skills, even though that mode is often more honest and meaningful.

My fear is that, through continued domicile-sharing with humans, dogs are going to learn to talk, but also – like Blaze, like Ventresco — not to listen.

It all brings to mind some lyrics from a song that has nothing to do with dogs — Don McLean’s “Vincent.” When you think about it, the misunderstood artist and modern day dog have much in common. We wonder what they’re trying to say, fail to see their brilliance, and don’t appreciate them fully until they’re gone.

Instead, often, we taunt, ridicule and shame them.

How much shorter might Van Gogh’s career have been, how many appendages might he have lopped off,  were he around in the Internet age, reading nasty comments from people about his paintings?

How much quicker might the civil rights movement have progressed if people had shut up and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., the first time?

Are we getting any better at listening, or quicker to turn a deaf ear?

As the song “Vincent” says:

They would not listen, they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will…

Let’s give it a listen.

B-More Dog sponsors free workshop at BARCS

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B-More Dog is sponsoring a free hour-long workshop this weekend on dog-handling techniques and learning to read your dog’s body language.

It’s for humans only, and starts at noon on Sunday at BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter) 301 Stockholm St. in Baltimore.

Study blasts training methods like Millan’s

The debate raging here on ohmidog! – and in the rest of the world, too — just had a little more fuel thrown on it: A new British study says dominance-based dog training techniques such as those espoused by Cesar Millan are a waste of time and may make dogs more aggressive.

Researchers from the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, after studying dogs for six months, conclude that, contrary to popular belief, dogs are not trying to assert their dominance over their canine or human “pack” and aren’t motivated by maintaining their place in the pecking order.

One of the scientists behind the study, Dr. Rachel Casey, in an interview with ABC News, said the blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people or other dogs is “frankly ridiculous.”

Read more »

She knows Bo: Meet the First Dog trainer

Before he showed up at the White House, Bo Obama was kept under wraps at the rural Virginia home of Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, a veteran dog trainer who says she has been deluged with attention and clients since word got out she was Bo’s trainer.

After being glowingly profiled in USA Today yesterday, chances are there’s only more of that ahead.

Sylvia-Stasiewicz declined to say anything about her work with Bo or her contacts with the Obamas — apparently she’s a firm believer in dog trainer-client confidentiality — but she did note that she has been besieged by dog lovers, the media and bloggers.

“It’s a little crazy, a little surreal,” she said. Even though she has been training pets for rich, famous or otherwise high-profile clients for years, Sylvia-Stasiewicz says she’s never had a reaction like Bo brought. Sylvia-Stasiewicz, who left DC five years ago for 5 acres in rural Fauquier County, has also worked with Ted Kennedy’s dogs, and one belonging to the mother of actress Sandra Bullock.

A housewife and mother of three who once took part in showing dogs as a hobby, including a Portuguese water dog, Syliva-Stasiewicz, half Portuguese herself, turned to training dogs as a career after a divorce. She’s the owner and founder of Merit Puppy Training, and a proponent of positive-reinforcement, which rejects chokers and harsh corrections and relies on rewards.

She says her newfound fame won’t effect the way she does business, other than possibly leading her to add more clients and classes. Thanks to Obama, it seems, Sylvia-Stasiewicz got her stimulus package.

(Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)