Friday, September 29, 2017

No Really, I Was There

The Best Memorials to Disasters That Never Happened
What, you’ve never heard of the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede?
Visitors take in the Elephant Stampede Memorial in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Visitors take in the Elephant Stampede Memorial in Brooklyn Bridge Park. All photos: Joseph Reginella
There are a lot of things to do in Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre green space that snakes along New York City’s East River. You can attend a reading or a movie or a concert. You can gaze across the river at the Statue of Liberty, tag along on a historic walking tour, or take a spin in a kayak.

And on certain days, you can pay your respects at the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede memorial, a recreation in bronze of that fateful day in 1929 when P.T. Barnum’s pack of circus pachyderms went rogue, trampling spectators all along the bridge.

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of this tragedy before, it’s because it never happened. Neither did the Staten Island Ferry Octopus Disaster of 1963, during which one of the borough’s famous orange boats was dragged below the East River’s surface by an enormous, tentacled beast—but there’s a memorial for that, too, in Manhattan’s Battery Park. Both are the work of Joseph Reginella, a native New Yorker who describes them as tributes to the city where he’s spent his life.
A close-up of the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede Memorial.
A close-up of the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede Memorial.
Reginella, who lives in Staten Island, is a professional sculptor. He makes sets and props for TV commericals, and displays for stores like Macy’s. Left to his own devices, though, he tends to create pieces that find humor in the juxtaposition of fear and innocence: a Jaws-themed baby bed, say, or his line of macabre “Toxic Teddies.”

A few years ago, he was on the Staten Island ferry with his young nephew, who put him through a classic kid interrogation. “He was asking weird questions—like, ‘Is this water infested with sharks?’, this and that,” says Reginella. “And off the top of my head I was like, ‘No, but you know, in the ’60s, one of these boats was pulled down by a giant octopus.’”

Reginella’s nephew was thrilled, and Reginella got inspired. “I was like, ‘Wait a second,’” he says. “That would be pretty cool if I could pawn that off on everybody.” He began concocting a full story, in which a ferry called the Cornelius G. Kolff “vanished without a trace” in a flurry of “large tentacles” on its way from Staten Island to Manhattan, with 400 people on board.
The Staten Island Ferry Octopus Disaster Memorial, on location in Battery Park.
The Staten Island Ferry Octopus Disaster Memorial, on location in Battery Park.
He picked a date: November 22, 1963, the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which would have ensured that this other tragedy got buried in the news. And he made the sculpture: a three-foot “bronze” replica of the sinking, sucker-stricken boat, placed on top of a “marble” column, and captioned by a sober plaque. (The whole thing, Reginella says, is actually made of painted styrofoam.)'

The statue was intriguing on its own, but Reginella was hoping to make a bigger splash. “You need to have a larger platform, I believe, to sustain [the story],” he says. So he brought in a team of friends to help him create a multimedia experience: staged crime scene photos; photoshopped news clippings; a short documentary, full of slow pans and shellshocked witnesses.

Reginella set up the memorial in Battery Park. When people came over, he handed them brochures for the “Octopus Memorial Museum,” also a hoax. The museum’s “location” was actually that of a cultural center on Staten Island.
Battery Park visitors get into the spirit.
Battery Park visitors get into the spirit.
“I figured if I’m going to send people to a fake address, I don’t want to totally dupe them,” says Reginella. “But then I started getting nasty phone calls from the people who were running the [cultural center]. People were going out and walking the grounds, actually looking for the [museum]… That was very stunning to me.”

Eventually, local news channels picked up the story, and the jig was up. Fans kept coming anyway, though: “People seemed to love it even though they knew it was fake,” Reginella says.

The Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede  7 min. 3 sec.

It was all enjoyable enough that he figured he’d do it again. This year’s story involves a deadly elephant stampede that just happened to occur on October 29, 1929, the same day as the stock market crash that kickstarted the Great Depression. The memorial shows three elephants mid-rampage, in front of the Brooklyn Bridge’s iconic pylons.

The website has another documentary, this time voiced by Disney Channel stars, thanks to Reginella’s relationship with screenwriter Ricky Roxburgh. There is also another brochure, more doctored newspaper clips, and a walking tour, narrated by New York punk legend David Johansen. “I’m lucky enough to have a whole bunch of people willing to go along with my insanity,” says Reginella.

Reginella makes the sculptures to entertain himself and others. He’s especially happy when they seem to tap into shared cultural fantasies or memories: the discovery that Salman Rushdie has also written about a Staten Island sea monster, in his 2015 novel Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights, thrilled him, and he combined two true past events to come up with this false elephant stampede.

But in this particular historical moment, he sees a lesson embedded in them, too. “I hate the term ‘fake news,’” says Reginella. “But one thing I do hope people get out of this is to do their due diligence. To do their own research, and not to believe everything they hear.”

Mostly though, he says, it’s a love letter to New York City: perhaps the only place in the world where events like these—for a moment, at least—seem like they might be plausible.

Earthquake Cookies

An Internet-Famous Cookie Worthy of Baking in Real Life

Last fall, an aberrant chocolate chip cookie turned up in my Instagram feed. As wide as a salad plate and flat as a flounder, it appeared thin, but it was somehow layered with slabs of chocolate. Oddest of all, it was ringed, like a tree trunk — as if a chunk of chocolate had been dropped in the center and somehow made waves out to the edges. I assumed it was a mutant, posted by a troubled baker as a cry for help, and I kept scrolling.

But soon, the rippled cookie appeared again: as a one-off from a bread blog, then in 42burners, the Instagram account of Martha Stewart’s vast test kitchen. It showed up, insistently, as baker/photographers like Ruth Tam kept posting it, crowing about the crispiness of the ridges and the softness of the centers.

I grew curious. It seems impossible that there’s anything new to say about basic chocolate chip cookies (a version from the pastry chef Jacques Torres, from 2008, is one we keep going back to, and for good reason). But a recipe that spreads across Instagram (and isn’t galaxy-, unicorn- or ombré-decorated) cannot be lightly dismissed.

When I spotted a new post that was simply a collage of photos of the cookie, I broke down. I tracked down the recipe, and then its author, Sarah Kieffer, who described the sacred rite of the ripples.
“It’s all in the pan-bang,” she said.

Here’s how it works: After the cookies have risen a bit in the hot oven, she pulls out the cookie sheet and bangs it hard on top of the stove, or on the oven rack. Just as a half-done cake falls in the center when bumped, the middle of the cookie collapses, pushing barely-baked dough out to the edges. She returns the pan to the oven and, at intervals, repeats the process, building up the crinkled rim that makes it possible to have both soft and crunchy textures in a single cookie. It is, I can attest, a leap forward in cookie technology.

It’s not clear even to Ms. Kieffer how the pan-bang came to her. But as a trained baker, she had the skills to develop a recipe around it that maximizes the ripple effect: making the cookies very large, chilling the dough balls before baking and using chopped chocolate instead of chips.

“I can’t imagine a better chocolate chip cookie,” said Ms. Kieffer, who makes and posts the cookies often, usually generating over 2,000 “likes” for each image. “But you never know what someone else will think of.”

Recipe: Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies

And You Thought Butterflies Were Pretty

The World’s Most Stunning Moths Will Set Your Heart Aflutter

Wired  Laura Malonee  9.25.17
Emmet Gowin's unlikely love affair with moths started 20 years ago in Ecuador. Driving up a mountain road one night, his guide pulled over and set up a powerful light. Over the next three hours, Gowin watched in awe as hundreds of moths fluttered out of the forest toward the glow. "They’re all so exquisitely beautiful and unpredictable," he says.

He went on to photograph more than 1,000 moth species in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana and Panama for his new book, Mariposas Nocturnas: Moths of Central and South America, A Study in Beauty and Diversity. And in a stunning departure from most collections of entomology photography, nearly all of Gowin's moths are alive.

"All the books have dead specimens pinned like little soldiers," Gowin says. "I have nothing against that ... But I liked the alertness that they exhibit in their feet and their wings, and the way their wings line up."

At 75 years old, Gowin has been photographing for more than 50 years, earning worldwide acclaim for intimate black-and-white images of his family living in Buck County, Pennsylvania. He never imagined he'd photograph bugs. But after that fateful Ecuador trip, Gowin found a new muse. “I felt an affinity for insects, for small things," he says. "And I wanted to understand more about tropical ecology.”

He traveled to Central and South America nearly 40 times to photograph moths in the wild, often joining expeditions with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City. Gowan documented most in the middle of the night, kneeling before a UV light pointed at a white sheet or art print. They were tricky little subjects: Some flew away at the burst of the flash; others played dead.

Gowin worked with film and digital cameras, but almost always made sure he had cotton balls stuff in his ears to prevent a curious critter from crawling in. "I met a researcher who had a moth or beetle lodged in his ear and had to hike out and have it removed in hospital," he says "It's a story researchers tell to beginners, with good reason."

Gowan then spent hundreds of hours poring through millions of specimens preserved in drawers at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the British Museum of Natural History, and other places. Entomologists occasionally gave him hints when he was stumped, and he found the rest perusing taxonomy websites. He laid the images out in grids, each containing 25 moths that were photographed around the same place and time.

Just because they're laid out by the dozen, though, doesn't mean they're not distinctive. “Moths are almost totally lacking in expression, but they do have body language of a kind,” Gowin says. “That's what I tried to preserve—how the wings align, the tension in the feet."

The photos are an obsessive, exhaustive homage to a creature Gowin finds beautiful, even if most people associate it with chewed-up sweaters. He's aware of the problem. “I’m very keen on Persian carpets, and the moths like them too. It’s a constant little struggle,” Gowin says. “But in a balanced world, we find our place among these things.”

It’s the sort of wisdom you only gain at 2 o’clock in the morning, shining a bright light on a sheet, waiting for the bugs to arrive.


Mariposas Nocturnas: Moths of Central and South America, A Study in Beauty and Diversity was published this year by Princeton University Press.

A Lick o' Sense

Perhaps You’d Like to Purchase Art Sculpted by a Cow

Or a deer. Or a goat. It’s all happening at the Great Salt Lick Contest in Baker City, Oregon.
A particularly beautiful specimen from 2014.
A particularly beautiful specimen from 2014. Whit Deschner/Great Salt Lick Awards
Back in 2007, Whit Deschner was hanging out with a friend in his hometown of Baker City, Oregon, kicking back and looking at the scenery. There was his friend’s cabin. There were the grass, the clouds, the trees. And there was one of the town’s ubiquitous salt blocks—lunchpail-sized cubes of salt and minerals, set out regularly for local deer and livestock.

As always, animals had licked this formerly boring salt block into a much stranger shape, carving out whorls, curves, and concavities. “We’d had a couple of beers,” Deschner remembers. “I kept looking at [the salt block]. I thought, ‘You’d give an artist $100,000 for one of them if they blew it up.’”
A 2014 Great Salt Lick contestant brings his entry up to the auction block.
A 2014 Great Salt Lick contestant brings his entry up to the auction block. Whit Deschner/Great Salt Lick Awards
Eleven years later, Deschner’s dream has nearly come true. On Saturday, September 16, Baker City will host the 11th annual Great Salt Lick Contest, in which ungulate-tongued salt blocks are displayed, judged, and auctioned to benefit Parkinson’s research. Over the past 10 years, Deschner and other volunteers have raised $92,000 for Oregon Health & Science University by auctioning the accidental artworks. If all goes according to pattern, Deschner expects to send the total over $100,000 this year, he says.

The artists’ process remains simple. Human patrons provide participating animals with 50-pound blocks of salt, which can be found at feed stores for about $6.50. The blocks are left outside, and the artists go to town, licking them for hours and producing intriguing scoops, divots and swirls.
"Herefords Revenge," submitted by Mike Hutton and made by some cows, was a first-place winner  last year.
“Herefords Revenge,” submitted by Mike Hutton and made by some cows, was a first-place winner last year. Whit Deschner/Great Salt Lick Awards
Then, it’s contest time. The best works receive cash prizes, which range from $50 to $150. They do even better at auction: one year, the grand prize winner fetched $1800, the current record. Related categories—such as “Best Forgery,” which once saw a sugar cube called “Sweet Deception” sell for $270, and “Michael J. Fox Lookalike Block,” which asks human sculptors to do their best to honor another spokesman for Parkinson’s—are also lucrative. “The community really gets into it,” Deschner says.

Deschner himself owns a bunch of the works, some of which he has even had cast in bronze in order to better preserve them. Over the years, he’s noticed that different species fall into different schools: “Goats and deer are more realist,” he says. “Cows are more impressionist. The horses aren’t artistic at all.”
"Cooperation of Block Coordination," John Heriza, also won a prize last year. Unusual bock colors result from  different proportions of minerals.
“Cooperation of Block Coordination,” John Heriza, also won a prize last year. Unusual bock colors result from different proportions of minerals. Whit Deschner/Great Salt Lick Awards
He leaves the actual judging to a panel, which generally hews to a particular theme. This year’s judges are all brewers, vintners, and distillers. In past years, Deschner has successfully recruited local clergy, as well as city council members. “They couldn’t agree on anything,” he says. “So I had them do the salt lick judging, and they finally agreed.”

The contest has proven so successful that last year, the other half of Deschner’s original vision came true: a four-foot-tall, solid bronze replica of a salt lick sculpture was installed in Baker City’s downtown.
Baker City's new salt lick statue.
Baker City’s new salt lick statue. Whit Deschner/Great Salt Lick Awards
If you’d like to score a high-saline artwork for your home, keep an eye on the Great Salt Lick’s Facebook page, where Deschner says they may set up a system for online bids.

But if your favorite goes too fast, or sells too high, never fear: it’s a flexible medium, and you may get another chance. “Some people just throw ‘em back out,” Deschner says. “And if they’re there next year, they bring ‘em back in and sell ‘em again.”

Antisociality Encourages Self-Sufficiency

When It’s Good to Be Antisocial

Bees are emblems of social complexity. Their honeycombs—intricate lattices dripping with food—house bustling hive members carrying out carefully orchestrated duties like defending against predators and coordinating resource collection. Much of our own success is due to this sort of division of labor. Clearly, in the animal kingdom, it pays to be social: Certain neurons make us resent being alone. You could be forgiven for assuming that complex social organization is the—or at least a—pinnacle of evolution.

Yet out of the 20,000 known species of bees, only a few are social. Some bee species have even given up social behaviors, opting for the single life. Why?
Sometimes everybody wins when you go it alone.
For one, as introverts know well, socializing requires lots of energy. Highly complex societies of insects require an elaborate arsenal of chemical and physical signals to direct their communal behavior. 

Social bees have more highly developed exocrine glands than their solitary cousins, and solitary halictid bees have less sensory hairs on their antennae than their social precursors. Solitary and social halictids also have different odorant systems, which play an important role in social bee communication and recognition. As the environment comes up with new demands, and the genetic makeup of the hive adapts, these features might just stop being worth the investment.

For another, being social can be stunting—sometimes bees have to grow up fast to survive. 

Researchers at Whitman College in Washington found that the region of the newly hatched antisocial orchard bee’s brain responsible for foraging ability is about as developed as the corresponding region in the experienced forager honey bee. 

Antisociality encourages self-sufficiency. Orchard bees must each fend for themselves, and they emerge into the world knowing how to forage for food. For honey bees, on the other hand, only a portion of the hive has to forage at any given time.

How do solitary species evolve to reap these benefits after having been social? After all, antisociality cropping up, in conjunction with other stressors, can mean the collapse of the entire hive—by increasing the minimum amount social bees needed to sustain a hive, and decreasing the maximum amount of bees a hive can stably carry. So the prevalence of loners is not exactly favorable.
Photograph by Orangeaurochs / Flickr
Variability in social behavior is one possible answer. H. rubicundus, a sweat bee descended from social ancestors in the Halictidae family, has both solitary and social populations in Europe. Bees living in different environments prefer different behaviors: In warm climates, H. rubicundus populations favor hive-formation, while in the cold, they tend to go solo.

It also turns out that, even in a highly coordinated hive, antisocial individuals persist. And they appear to be tolerated by other bees in the colony. If a few loners find themselves in a new situation where solitary behavior is advantageous—say the growing season is short and bees need to get up and go without dividing tasks—an asocial species could arise.

Changes in host plants can also lead social bees to revert to solitary behavior. Depending on the bee’s environment and needs, specializing on one plant is usually more beneficial in a hive context, where the whole activity of the hive can be coordinated around a constant resource. Solitary bees are usually generalists—they buzz along from plant species to plant species.

Sociality is no pinnacle of evolution. It’s just another result of the process. Reclusive bees and other species are doing just fine—and sometimes, even better. Clearly social behavior has advantages, seeding the survival of species and communities. But being a good neighbor is not the only benefit to the hive. Sometimes everybody wins when you go it alone.

Sort of Like Pokemon Go, But with Miyazaki Characters

Studio Ghibli in Real Life

More  KOJER  Aug. 2016

The animation work of Japan's Studio Ghibli was combined with the actual background.
■ BGM : (xclassicalcatx - Spiríted Away: One Summer's Day (Viola Cover)
■ Nausicaa Of The Valley Of Wind :
■ Laputa: Castle In The Sky :
■ My Neighbor Totoro :
■ Kiki's Delivery Service :
■ Whisper Of The Heart :
■ The Princess Mononoke :
■ The Spiriting Away Of Sen And Chihiro :
■ Howl's Moving Castle :
■ Ponyo On The Cliff :
■ Youtube :
■ Facebook :
■ Instagram :
■ E-mail :

Watch It HERE

from:Archie McPhee's Endless Geyser of Awesome

For this awesome video short entitled “Studio Ghibli in Real Life,” Korean visual artist Kojer painstakingly combined character animations from classic Studio Ghibli with video footage shot in actual locations around Japan and Korea, bringing beloved anime characters from movies such as including My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away into our world.
“It’s not like Kojer just randomly slapped some anime characters onto the filmed footage either. For each segment of his video, he made sure that the characters’ positioning and coloring worked with the physical locations and lighting he inserted them into. He also made sure to keep the environmental effects consistent.”
To get a better sense of just how much effort went into this mashup of the animated and the real world, check out this behind-the-scenes production video:

Studio Ghibli in Real Life Behind the Scene [Eng Sub]

Watch it HERE

More  KOJER  Aug. 2016

Hello, I',m Kojer
Studio Ghibli in Real Life Behind the Scene
Thanks for Watch :)
■ Studio Ghibli in Real Life :
■ Studio Ghibli in Real Life Behind the Scene Location :

1. Roto scope
2. Paint Touch
3. Sky Replacement
4. Sun Light Setting
5. Graphic Effect
6. Color Correction
7. Shadow

■ Youtube :
■ Facebook :
■ Instagram :
■ E-mail :

Fun with Music

Antithesis | Async | Ryuichi Sakamoto

Watch it HERE

Ryuichi Sakamoto | async
International Short Film Competition
Rotates the tree trunk from the east.
It grows 43 days for every inch.

Intrude metals from the west.
they travel 43 seconds to break any form.

Hums the unknown from another dimension,
leaving us no time to connect each other.

Animation by Kachi Chan
Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Disintegration(Async)

Special Thanks to Art and Culture Outreach


Making music with ravens...

ANDREW HUANG Published on Dec 19, 2016 3 min. 20 sec.

A Cat Is Not a Chicken

Except maybe this one...

Sorry folks...  Cats should have hair.

Things in Space


Puppis A Supernova Remnant
Image Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman
Explanation: Driven by the explosion of a massive star, supernova remnant Puppis A is blasting into the surrounding interstellar medium about 7,000 light-years away. At that distance, this colorful telescopic field based on broadband and narrowband optical image data is about 60 light-years across. As the supernova remnant (upper right) expands into its clumpy, non-uniform surroundings, shocked filaments of oxygen atoms glow in green-blue hues. Hydrogen and nitrogen are in red. Light from the initial supernova itself, triggered by the collapse of the massive star's core, would have reached Earth about 3,700 years ago. The Puppis A remnant is actually seen through outlying emission from the closer but more ancient Vela supernova remnant, near the crowded plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Still glowing across the electromagnetic spectrum Puppis A remains one of the brightest sources in the X-ray sky.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Dog Is Not a Horse

The Problem With Head Halters

Before reading this article, please understand the basic concept presented: Head halters, like ALL training equipment, need to be used carefully. Why readers are sometimes violently angry with me over this concept is beyond me - all I'm pointing to are potential problems that need to be taken into consideration. If you like head halters and they work for you, great! But like all training equipment, they are NOT appropriate for every dog. Humane trainers need to be aware of and carefully consider the ramifications of any training equipment.

photo source 

Past that, here's the REAL message: NO training equipment can substitute for a strong, mutually respectful relationship

Pulling on lead is NOT respectful, and points to underlying problems in the relationship which need resolution. Halters or any other piece of equipment might be important crutches to lean on while resolving the real problem - pulling is just a symptom of that real problem. Pay attention to trainers like Turid Rugaas, and realize that it is the relationship, not the training equipment, that allows you to gain the dog's voluntary cooperation.

To answer a question many ask, "What is your preferred training equipment?" My answer is always this: A respectful, committed relationship built on trust, mutual respect, attentiveness and empathy, backed up with a buckle collar or martingale collar and a leash to keep your dog safe. Anything else is a band-aid or a crutch that may have to be used for a while as we work toward that kind of relationship.

Read carefully!

Going against the tide of popular opinion, I have to say I am not a big fan of head halters of any design although I have used them with success, just as I have used prong collars, various no-pull harnesses, choke collars, buckle collars, martingales and even electronic collars. 

I consider head halters an equipment choice of last resort for several reasons: resistance, psychological impact and physical considerations. Having said that, let me state very, very clearly that head halters are like any other piece of equipment - they are an option which may or may not be used, according to the individual dog and the situation. And like any training equipment, halters must be used with care and with complete awareness of the possible effects on the dog (physically, mentally & emotionally). 

My approach to dog training seeks to engage the dog as a willing partner. In my actions, words and choice of training equipment, I try to avoid anything that will create resistance in the dog. Resistance often springs from fear, discomfort, distrust and defensiveness - none of these are states of mind I want in a dog. Resistance is hardly conducive to learning, and is not supportive of the relationship between dog and human. I view resistance as communication, and in my mind, communication from the dog must be respected and listened to. Where I find resistance, I need to find another way. Head halters, in my experience, frequently do create resistance.

From a psychological point of view, even if the halter does not create much fighting and resistance (I've seen some dogs only mildly fuss before resigning themselves to it), it can have an unpleasant effect on the dog overall. At a clicker seminar a few years ago, I watched a well known trainer work with a lovely little Lab bitch. Enthusiastic and happy, she came charging into the seminar room, towing her hapless owner. The poor dog had been chosen for this demo because she pulled. (Side note: dogs only pull on lead. I have never seen a dog pulling off leash - ever! It takes two to play the pulling game, and perhaps what we need to invent are ways to correct the handler who makes pulling possible! But at no time did this trainer address the handler or her responsibility in the problem behavior - i.e., pulling.)

At any rate, the halter went on, and the change in this dog was awful. From alert, eager and happy, she became a very depressed dog who stood with tail slightly tucked, head lowered and no longer interested in engaging with the trainer. In short, there was an overall suppressive effect similar to that on dogs experiencing non-contingent punishment. This is a good thing?The trainer in question seemed to think the results were wonderful.

When I put my hands on an animal, figuratively or literally speaking, I don't want the effect to be a negative. I am not looking to diminish the animal in any way, but rather to guide them, to channel their spirit and mind. I may ask for more self control. I may ask the animal to focus. I may ask the animal to be with me. But none of this is ever done in a way that results in a dog drooping with the light in their eyes extinguished. I'm after a dog who is calm, relaxed, trusting.

The easiest test I know of whether or not the head halter is having an overall suppressive effect on the dog is this: take it off. Does the dog visibly brighten? Does his body posture change? Does the light return to his eyes? I'm not talking about the joy of simply being set free to run and play. I'm talking about the difference between the dog standing there on leash and collar but without the head halter vs. the dog wearing the head halter. If there is a difference, I think the aware trainer has to ask, "Then why am I doing this to this animal?"

There may be valid reasons for using this equipment - such as an owner who has totally lost control of a dog, and the equipment is being used on a temporary basis as remedial training takes place; such as an aggressive animal where there is a serious need to control the dog's ability to bite (some head halters allow you to tighten the muzzle loop and thus close the mouth.) There may not be any good reason for using this equipment except that it's a popular fad, the quick control gained is often viewed as a suitable substitute for real training and a solid relationship. But the question needs to be asked - and answered honestly: Why am I using this head halter on this dog? 

I would suggest that many handlers choose halters because it is easier on them, because they can mechanically control a dog that they otherwise could not (due to a lack of training or relationship problems or both). Any training equipment that is used to substitute for training and a solid, healthy relationship is just a crutch. And every piece of training equipment and all the rewards known to mankind can be used as a crutch, whether it's a buckle collar, a head halter, an electric collar, a frisbee or a pocket full of hot dogs. Sometimes crutches are necessary but not as a lifelong solution.

Proponents of the halter claim that it is no different from halters used on horses - a concept in use as long as man has tried to control horses. With 34 years of horsemanship under my belt, I assure the reader that this is simply not true. There is a profound difference in effect and fit. For the horse, the halter sits well down on the long, bony part of the muzzle, far away from the eyes, not just under the edge of his eyes. For many dogs, the halter nose piece comes just under the inside corners of the eyes. 

I'm not a dog, but I know that this is a sensitive area with many nerves and thin skin on dogs and on most animals. The construction of the canine head does not really loan itself to haltering - thus, for centuries on end, folks have used collars for dogs, reserving halters for animals better suited to it.

If I have to rely on training equipment to literally provide a sedating/inhibiting effect for a dog, then I'm probably way ahead of myself - that dog is too greatly aroused to be working at that level; his arousal needs to be addressed long before I begin teaching him anything else. Much of the training equipment in existence is needed because the dog is being asked to work in situations where he does not have the skills or the ability to think clearly and behave appropriately. When we work slowly and carefully to keep the dog engaged and thinking, the need for equipment begins to fall away very quickly. If we push the dog (or have never established a solid working relationship with him), we'll need equipment.

In terms of psychological effect, there is another difference between dogs and horses. For the dog, the muzzle area is rich in psychological impact. Dams gently grab errant puppies by the muzzle (or even the entire head, depending on their age), much of the canine greeting ritual is directed at the muzzle (subordinant animals often lick at the muzzle or even gently grab the muzzle of a dominant animal), and quick disciplinary grabs are often directed at the offender's muzzle. Just taking your hand and putting it across the bridge of a dog's nose is a very meaningful communication. Would you try it with a dog you do not know too well? Why not?

There's a very good psychological reason why so many dogs wearing halters look so depressed while horses and cattle don't. Horses and cattle do not use the muzzle or the bridge of the nose in this way. 

You will not see a mare grab her foal by the muzzle to correct him - she has other ways of communicating with him. The halter is a physical annoyance to the horse, but I've yet to see a horse who was depressed in any way by wearing a halter. The most I've seen in horses or cattle was a reaction to the unaccustomed feel, just as a puppy finds a collar annoying but not depressing. 

There are times when the overall suppressive effect created by head halters IS useful, thus the halter's popularity among many behaviorists who are trying to find solutions for difficult behavior cases where the dog/human relationship has gone badly askew. 

There are times when the ability to direct a dog's head and close his mouth (a feature of some head halters, if not all) is really critical to an owner's ability to safely control a dog with serious problems. In such cases, I do choose a halter for just that reason, and use it with care. Everything has a purpose sooner or later.

On a physical basis, the halter is probably the one piece of training equipment that appalls me most - the potential for injuring the dog is simply too high. I'm not talking about snapping the dog's neck or crushing his trachea - I'm talking about soft tissue damage and damage to the spine, particularly the cervicals. At numerous APDT conferences, I've had the opportunity to spend entire days watching trainers and their dogs. Many of these dogs wore head halters, not surprising since APDT attracts many trainers who are interested in humane and positive approaches to training; the head halter is seen as both. What horrified me was the number of people (remember, these are professional trainers and serious dog folks!) who would simply stop at a booth, allowing the dog to drift ahead until he reached the end of the lead and then had his head brought sharply to one side. Watching this repeated over and over again, I began to feel that I was watching people casually moving boats in water - as if the leverage and force made possible by the head halter had little more impact to the object on the end of the lead than a canoe might experience!

NOTHING in the dog's physical construction or his nervous system prepares him for the force of an unexpected, externally directed, sideways and upward movement of the head while his body is still moving forward (sometimes at considerable speed!). For the horse, the leverage is similar but with key differences: the force is directed sideways and downward, and the muscles of the horse's neck are among the most powerful in his body. There is also a considerable difference in force that can be applied to a 1000 lbs. of horse vs. 25-75 lbs. of dog. Interestingly, when working with young horses, ponies and miniature horses, care must be taken in the use of the halter with allowances made for the height difference - knowledgeable handlers do not apply force upwards and sideways, but turn the animal's head in the same plane as would happen with a larger horse.

I've heard people defend the sideways snapping movement that occurs in the head and neck by pointing out that this is part of being a predator, that dogs who hit the sleeve in agitation work or try to move a sheep or take down a deer experience this same motion?but at even greater speeds and with greater force. This is true, but there's an important detail missing in this argument, details that can be found in almost any physiology book. Signals from the brain serve to prepare the body and muscles for the task at hand; roughly described, such signals help the muscles "lock" in preparation for the anticipated impact/force. You've probably experienced this yourself when going up or down stairs. If you've miscalculated and there is one step more or less than you anticipate, you find yourself badly jolted by either stepping into empty space where your brain had anticipated solid floor, or by stepping down and landing hard - your brain had prepared your foot for landing further down on the next stair. This preparation by the brain serves to protect the body. It is what makes rough play and work possible. 

Dogs happily throwing themselves at each other only rarely hurt themselves or their playmate. Dogs who are blindsided and t-boned unexpectedly are often hurt - nothing in their brain prepared their body for the coming impact. When we see a dog rushing at us in play, our bodies prepare for the impact. 

When a dog surprises us, we can be hurt - our muscles were not prepared. When working with a head halter, the dog is moving along with his brain and body working on the assumption that he will be proceeding forward. Anytime the halter is used in such a way as to actually turn the dog (unless preparatory signals are given, such as fingertip pulses that in essence "ask" the dog to make the turn), there is no warning to the dog's body. The greater the force used to turn the dog and/or the greater the speed the dog is moving at, the more profound the impact. 

Imagine if you were walking along with a similar contraption on your head. What might it feel like if your head was pulled sharply to the side with no warning? What if you were running? It's not hard to imagine how painful that might be. (And think what you like regarding anthropomorphizing - in this case, the anatomical responses are pretty much identical.) There's a good reason that one of football's most severe penalties is reserved for "facemasking" meaning, a player grabs the face mask of another player in motion - severe injuries and even death are possible. Not too surprisingly, in my seminars when I ask proponents of the head collars to put one on themselves and allow me to demonstrate the basic "oops" maneuver that many dogs experience when pulled by their heads, NO ONE has ever volunteered. Not once, though over the years more folks than I can count have willingly put prong collars around their necks and bare arms.

What if you received light signals that asked you to turn that way before a stronger signal came? Your brain would have to time to prepare your body to protect it. But if you were both able and willing to respond to light signals, why would you need a head halter anyhow? Why couldn't someone have taught you to respond to light, soft signals on a buckle collar? Teaching an animal to respond to soft, subtle signals is training, and it requires time, persistence and handling with awareness and skill.

Despite their popularity, head halters, in my opinion, have many drawbacks and offer much potential for pain and discomfort. (I'm not even going to address the long term effects of such insults to the soft tissue of the neck other than to say that the ultimate result of any repeated insult to soft tissue is dysfunction.) In their very application, resistance is often created which simply adds to the problems already at hand which necessitated the halter in the first place! In some situations, head halters might be a suitable choice, but should be viewed as a temporary phase, not a life long solution. Based on what I seek when working with a dog - willing partnership, a calm mind free from resistance, and only the equipment necessary to allow me to communicate?clearly and quietly with the dog - there are other choices that work much?better for me. 

Many trainers find head halters truly useful training tools and feel comfortable with this as a humane choice. This article is not an attempt to condemn head halters as useful training tool. It is an attempt to get trainers and handlers to stop and truly consider the ramifications of using a head halter, be aware of the potential dangers and choose training equipment wisely.

"Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Clothier. Used by permission of Suzanne Clothier. All rights reserved. For more information about Suzanne please visit"