Tuesday, 16 September 2014

All the things for all the pets...in one place!

All photos by PATS
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the PATS trade show this weekend as part of my day job. I generally work more on veterinary products and services, so to be able to get a look at the advances and innovations in the pet world was pretty awesome. Exhibitors ranged from the large distributors down to the little "single-product" manufacturer (seriously, who wouldn't want a Mr. Men poo bag dispenser?)

I also got to listen to a half hour talk by Dr. Roger Mugford, founder of The Company of Animals, and probably one of the reasons I got interested in animal training and welfare in the first place. I was given his book, Dr Mugford's Casebook when I was....not very old (it was around 20 years ago!), and it sparked a lifelong interest in animal behaviour. Dr. Mugford's methods sit very much in the middle of the two styles of dog training that we see on the TV - the "positive only" at one extreme and the "dominance based" at the other, but I have noticed that in some quarters his methods have passed out of favour. My understanding is that he is what I would term a "balanced" trainer, in that he advocates the use of both positive and aversive methods in training, but as he was at pains to stress during his highly entertaining and informative talk, "aversive" is not the same as "punitive" - merely withdrawing attention from a misbehaving dog is sufficiently aversive if they are sensitive to human affection (as most family pets are). I think in the wider pet training community often punitive and aversive have come to mean the same thing, and so almost by definition if you are not a "positive only" trainer you are an advocate of the use of physical punishment. And while I personally would never lay a hand on my dogs, I wouldn't think twice about withdrawing affection or offering a verbal rebuke if my pair were knowingly misbehaving. Which to be fair to them they don't do very often - it's more likely to be insufficiently reinforced training, misunderstanding or my lack of supervision that leads to them metaphorically heading off in the wrong direction.

The thing that utterly blew my mind though was the sheer scope and variety of pet (especially dog) food on display. How anyone ever makes the right decision on what to stock in their stores - or what to buy for their pet - is beyond me. I instantly fall back on the hard work done by the founder of All About Dog Food when I need answers, but that just isn't practical on the PATS scale.

All photos by PATS

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