Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Golden's Animal Interlude

Shaker alerted to the scent of ground hog crossing the yard north of where we sat. The chuckie ran through the hole in the wall of a storage shed before the golden looked up. Shaker ran directly to the animal’s path. He stopped to sniff; that was impressive. When he followed the path in the wrong direction, I realized how much the yearling had to learn.

Before he went too far Shaker turned around to go the direction the interloper traveled. He circled the shed before returning to us for approval, once obtained he meandered past the shed before headed off for other parts of the yard.

Positioned under the table by us he is waiting.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Language of The Legs

Watching dogs like I’ve never seen them before is a total preoccupation with me. If we are talking and there is a dog nearby, chances are I’m looking at the dog.

If you’ve read my posts on the “Satos” on the hill, you’ve read about stiff legged dog behavior. We’ve all seen it when dogs are introduced they may get up on their toes. It looks like their legs get stiff; gone is the relaxed lose gait.

So many times I’ve seen dogs react to each other without knowing what the signal was; haven’t you?

The stiff legs send the message, “Don’t mess with me.” On the toes means, “I am really ready.”

The street dogs or "Satos" send elaborate body language signals. One night a gang of dogs made a midnight visit to Stormy’s spot. They scoured every inch of my veranda sniffing out who knows. Stormy, a little Border Collie mixed with terrier is clearly unhappy his tail is down he follows them not on his toes, but with a stiff legged gait.

When they didn’t leave he laid down with his nose under the porch railing. Stormy signaled his displeasure, but not so loudly as to get his butt kicked.

Without having seen these exquisite displays I would have completely missed the exchange between Shaker and Cassie the rescue here to teach Shaker Rottweiler.

Cassie is a that’s mine kind of girl. Sometimes when it’s hot she doesn’t finish her food right away, but that doesn’t mean she’s into sharing. She’s here so they can improve their language skills, both dogs are abusers.

Cassie is sprawled in front of her dish. Shaker wants her food; she has her eye on him. We’ve seen this before; finally she gets up and eats her food, but not today.

Shaker stands tall, but not on his toes each step is with a very subtle stiff leg. I almost didn’t see it; it was minute. He walked right past her, as he began eating she turned her head away.

I put the two dysfunctional dogs together to work out some of their problems; what I’ve seen in response was a skilled communication. In the past I might have thought that he was trying to sneak past her, but know I know it to be a signal of how much he wanted that food. He relaxed when she turned her head away from the bowl.

I think it’s a big thing for a bully to give up resources to another dog that can’t take them by force. What caused her generous behavior? Could it be that he asked nicely?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Can This Bully Be Saved?

The no controversy continues on my list, we all have strong opinions.

Residing with us is Shaker; the Golden Retriever who at less than nine months of age was savagely attacked by a Golden male that ignored his surrender signals. The dog had to be ripped off Shaker.

When all of your verbal skills, your body language fails you, you lose faith with what you think you know. The abused becomes the abuser because you learn how to make it work for you. That gives you a feeling of power, which makes you a little less scared for the moment.

The dog that experiences this learns which are the weaker dogs to be preyed upon; it’s self reinforcing. The yelling and screaming that come after are a so what.

That’s the road Shaker is on when he is not with me. Behavior management in my presence is non problematic, but that’s not good enough. He has to internalize appropriate behavior.

What kind of a behavior plan would you develop for this dog?

Our Journey Towards Communication

Melissa said...

Interesting post today. This "shaping" has been on my mind lately. I am attending a 4 day camp at Say Yes dog training in Canada this summer. There is no "no" training. No lure training... Actually 2 days of the camp are called "Advances in Dog Training formerly known as Lurer's Anonymous". My new puppy is nearing 3 weeks old and my challenge is to train a puppy without luring. Shaping all the way. I do intend to "install" a stop what you are doing noise. (I love the one I learned from you) That will be the only "correction" this puppy will know if I succeed in my challenge. There will of course be redirection for behaviors I don't want repeated as well. Should be an interesting journey and I am very excited. I have had great success shaping behaviors with my older "kids", there is something amazing about a dog trying hard to figure something out. It's like a dog figuring out to steal food out of the garbage... seems the lesson lasts longer when they have to think.

I love the way you are going with that, Mel.
My experience says keep it simple works best. It’s all about the foundation. The first six months I had Shaker, he learned what good dog really means and fell in love with the sound of “Good Boy” being attached to his name. This dog has great self esteem.

He also learned the stop what you are doing sound. After working with the Puerto Rican street dogs, I wanted to raise a dog trained off lead; no little leash pops. I would take Shaker to the dog park and wait for him to become interested in the chipmunk holes, then I'd give him the stop what you are doing sound.

In the beginning I didn’t wait for him to stop; I told him how wonderful he was in tones no dog can resist. We celebrated every time he came to me instead of digging in that chipmunk hole. Before long he would put his nose to the hole and look at me waiting for his reinforcement.

He learned what I like because I tell him all the time. He does sit so I could introduce him to the public, especially children. You taught him down. I think I asked him to do that only once or twice.

Shaker has been on leash for loads of time out and about in the public. Rules on leash are: do not pull and no cutting in front of me. We use a six foot lead and a flexi; rules are the same.

Tell me what you learn at your seminar about being clear on your goals and breaking it down to doable portions; if anything. Can’t wait to hear about your adventure!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What Do You Mean No?

No. A simple two letter word carries so much energy. No, you didn’t get the promotion. No, I won’t go out with you. No, you can’t do that.

We are scared by the word from infancy. Doubtless we heard our first no shrieked by a panicked mom.

Energetically there is a thin space between fear and anger, both are dark energy. We protect our dogs from the real world school of hard knocks where the no they encounter is brutal.

No is a fact of life. Lately there has been much discussion about this highly charged word on one of my lists. It has been referred to as an information vacuum, as crushing a dog’s delicate self esteem or as being vague.

Perhaps we are letting our own emotional relationship to this word rule our thinking? The concept we need to teach our dogs is to stop what you are doing; right? It’s useful. It is absolutely necessary.

Once we have discharged the negative energy of the word, how do we teach a dog to stop doing whatever it is we don’t want?

So often I find it preferable to just redirect the dog’s attention. Is it a lesson the dog needs to learn or is it something we won’t be dealing with again; that’s a judgment call.

Redirecting your dog’s attention without making a big deal about what the dog is currently focused on is a handy skill.

Learning the concept of stop what you are doing is easier when we give feedback.

The first time Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes gave a clicker training workshop in the Chicago area, I learned so much about how feedback affects what we do. We broke into groups. One person from the group went out of the room while the group decided on a task to be completed upon our return. It was a game of hot and cold. If we guessed correctly, doing any part of the task we were to get a click from the group.

The most extraordinary thing happened, the more behaviors I threw out there, the more clicks I got symbolizing that I was doing the right thing, when the task was accomplished everybody clicked and cheered.

Positive motivation training with me as the test subject, I was so excited led to the completion of my task without a correction. I was giddy at how easily I achieved assigned task with only positive feedback. I couldn’t wait to try this on a dog.

The group was every bit as thrilled as to how quickly I did the right thing. Someone said what I did as in what the task was, which surprised the day light out of me. That was not what I thought I had done that pleased them or received the clicks.

No, wrong answer, stop what you are doing, not it; any of that feedback would have helping me zero in what they wanted