Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dog Training, A Look Back continued

Water parks with trained dolphins and whales amazing us with flips and tricks became popular. By the late eighties a new model of training hit the dog world.

The ever brilliant Karen Pryor changed the face of dog training and psychology with her ground breaking book, Don’t Shoot The Dog.

In her early workshops, Karen would talk about pondering the problem of training a whale as she sat poolside. What to do; you can’t put a leash or choke chain on a killer whale, always got a big laugh from the audience. Karen showed her video of a goldfish she trained to swim through a hoop. It was jaw dropping. Was there nothing this woman could not train?

Seminars and workshops for dog trainers were at best sporadic; until veterinarian, Ian Dunbar put us on the fast track by organizing the APDT, Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Networking and sharing info became common place in an industry dominated by lone wolves.

Terry Ryan taught us how to make dog training fun with games.

Through organizations like the APDT the science of behavior and training became available to masses of trainers more quickly. A standardized test for certifying trainers began in 2001.

A plethora of scientific trainers can quote quadrants and name behavior maladies.

This century has delivered to our doors the very best dog trainers ever. I say that earnestly. These guys are spectacular in their knowledge.

With all the wonderful trainers and scientific approach to dog training, why do we have more problem dogs than ever? On PBS we see shows with dogs snapping and snarling, out of control.

There is more legislation against dogs because we’re having problems with them. I don’t think that’s the answer, but I want to acknowledge the problem. What do you think?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dog Training, A Look Back

Each generation stands on the shoulders of the last. I remember thinking about that statement with gratitude as a young woman. Then my thoughts were about quality of life issues for women.

Now, I reflect on changes in dog training over the decades. We’ve come from a harsher way of being in general to a respect that includes other beings.

After World War II men who handled war dogs came home and opened up dog training schools. Training of war dogs required the dog to be more “respectful” of the handler than afraid of bombs bursting. That, of course, is the mindset these guys brought home with them. Sadly, “If you want the dog to respect you, just roll up a newspaper” can still be heard.

By the fifties our dog training heroes became the fellows training dogs for the movies. Old Yeller, Big Red, The Shaggy Dog were movies that made us laugh and cry. “How did they do that?” was answered in books by Bill Koehler.

As families made their way to cities, so parents could find work, we lost our connection to nature. A dog in the backyard was the only animal most kids had to relate to any species other than our own.

Lassie, Rin-tin-tin and Bullet were regulars on tv. Dogs were thoroughly romanticized by Disney in Lady and the Tramp. The natural ability of our species to connect to others was being lost, while it was being idealized.

Jim Pearsall was the gentler trainer of the sixties and seventies. He wrote about technique from a perspective of a relationship with the dog. When it came to dog trainers, Koehler was king.

In the eighties along came a lady with a funny voice and a British accent. Barbara Woodhouse hit the talk show circuit with her, ”Walkies” and “What a good dog.” America fell in love with her and positive reinforcement.

Tell a dog it did right; what a concept. As people started telling the dog it was good, kids started complaining that they never heard praise from their parents. It was a revolution.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Social Animals?

Does it matter if a dog is socially dysfunctional with other dogs? Back in the day before we kept our dogs securely locked in their own yards, neighborhood dogs visited with each other. Dogs were proficient in their own language.

Fire hydrants were and still are places where dogs left scent marks to signal other dogs. Today when they meet on leash there is frequently frantic barking.

I am not suggesting we return to the days of free roaming neighborhood pets, but I’m trying to explore what we’ve lost; what the dogs have lost.

After watching the exquisite ways the Puerto Rican island dogs communicate with each other, I watched a couple of dogs introduced in one of our yards here at Carrvilla.

A sweet cocker spaniel and a lab beagle cross were put in a yard to socialize. It was considered a success because there was no barking or growling, no hackles were raised. Both are adult dogs. One is two years old and the other is four.

Both dogs focused on the human in the yard. Tails wagged; they were happy to be out with her. Because their behavior was appropriate by our human standards these dogs will be allowed to go out with an attendant to play in the field.

Two dogs without a clue of what to do with each other, they walked around the yard without interaction. Sooner or later they will figure it out; they may even like each other.

Beings who can’t relate to their own kind bother me. I won’t hire anyone who tells me, “I love dogs; it’s humans I can’t stand.” It seems to me that comfort with your own should be the framework from which you see the world.

Does this bother you or am I over thinking this?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tail Talk Discussion

Melissa said...

Tails and dogs are a never ending fascination for me. They can say so many different things. With my boy I can tell so much about what he is thinking by the position and then the movement that goes with it. His tail is most often held above body level. A high stiff tail if usually accompanied by stiff legs and a little bit of an attitude. A high tail wagging quick and short means, "Hey girlie, I like you..." His tail has a different position when interacting with me, it is relaxed lowered and seems to wiggle with his whole butt attached. He also does this lowered relaxed wiggle butt when he sees his "girls" after being gone.

My girls also have a lot to say with their tails. I live with 5 bitches and their tail carriage differs depending on who they are interacting with. My youngest rarely carries her tail at back level or higher at home. When we have company her age or younger she all of the sudden has this beautiful straight off the back tail (I would love to see this confident tail in the show ring with her...) When introduced to some younger puppies a few weeks ago I saw her tail higher than ever. My older girls also vary tail carriage depending on who they are interacting with, very interesting, it an change in a moment. It definitely seems to be a peace keeper. The strange this is, is the bitch in charge has a very low tail and rarely raises it very high. Is this confidence? I don't know. She never has the tail up look that Blonde does so well...

Melissa, thanks for the observations. Dogs talk with their whole bodies. Understanding tail talk is part of the communication picture.  
Stormy with the politically unchallenging tail is the leader of the gang here. Some dogs lead with brute force. The smarter dogs lead with finesse. I think these savvy pooches know how to keep their egos out of it.

Blondie is a lovable brute. She doesn’t think as much as she reacts to things. She holds the curl in her tail. How high she carries it tells how she is feeling. She has never had a physical challenge so she doesn’t need to be a shrewd girl.

Owl’s tail is the most variable. It’s low around the other two guys. If he forgets to lower the mast, the boys react to it. He promptly lowers it.

When Owl gets excited usually about hunting, he gets the high straight tail carriage. A strut always seems accompany the tail.

Owl has to be smart to not get his butt kicked. He sits back in the corner watching the other dogs. I suspect later he will be one of these smart dogs, who does not display his status, much like Stormy.

Bluto is a lovable dope. Stormy and Blondie can bully him. His life has been limited to his yard. Some males do that curved tail look. Does a dog lacking self confidence disguise himself ? Or do the curved male tails go with small testicles?

If tails are the indicator of status, how absolutely brilliant of the smaller leader to not advertise or to give the brute something to challenge!

Is this the level of evolution that gave birth to deceit or duplicity? Ha-ha, makes you wonder.

In groups of dogs the language of the tails is the peace keeper. Our pet puppies don’t have opportunity to learn this language. Can you imagine how devastating early isolation would be to our communication skills?

So keep swinging yer tail, Tricia