Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Doggerel x 10

Good Citizens in the MakingThis quick, informative interview that our trainer, Rikke Brogaard, did with Animal Fair was great inspiration for today's 10 Things.

1. The article reminded me of Rikke's most important lesson, "I think many people think that positive means permissive but it doesn’t. It also doesn’t have to mean treats, treats, treats, all the time." A lot of people think you're bribing your dog or will only get the behavior when treats are available. I liken this attitude to the way that, for years, I would only sing songs in the key they'd been written in. Finally Jay Bradley told me, "They were only written in that key because it was good for the person who first sang it. Now take it down a step."

2. She mentions that playing with your dog is important. I am reminded of neighbors who went to a  man's house to see about adopting his dog. The dog was penned in the kitchen and the couple high stepped over the baby gate, got on the kitchen floor, and started cuddling and playing with the dog. The man's mouth hung open before he said, "You can do that?" They took the dog home immediately.

3. For my dog, and for many others, work can be play. He has much more fun trying to do a job, whether that be herding tennis players or trying to understand which trick I want him to do, than he does just walking around the park. He will, in fact, look for jobs to do, which is why we have a lot of training to do with respect to the tennis courts we pass every day.

4. Rikke is in a great position to talk about how interacting with dogs can parallel interacting with children since she's a certified dog trainer and mother to an 11-year-old. This makes it awesome for me when she explains using positive reinforcement techniques she learned with dogs on her kid. Nobody can look down their nose at her and say, "You don't have kids, you don't understand." (Also because sister is tall.)

Untitled 5. Speaking of Rikke's daughter, she is quoted as saying that for their next dog she wants a, "“small dog that does something." I have already sent an email offering to lend Eddie out until the feeling passes. I suppose the other thing I could do is ask to borrow the young lady as she's probably a much better match for the chupacabra than I am.

6. Rikke describes teaching a dog a long "behavior chain," which is essentially getting a dog to do a number of steps of choreography in a row. I really want to be able to do this with Eddie. He's already great at it when it's spontaneous. I need to become a better trainer.

7. Speaking of being a better trainer, one of my bits of homework from our recent class is to distinguish sit and down so that Eddie will perform each specifically upon request. While I was new at training I let his intelligence steamroll me and he learned that when asked for sit or down he could give either and get reinforced for it. Re-teaching that distinction is a fucking bitch, man.

8. Our class on Sunday was the first one in our quest to pass the Canine Good Citizenship test. I'm now confident that we're on the right track. I didn't want the evaluator to expect a dog who is perfect every moment of every day but I also didn't want someone who was just teaching to the test. If we pass this test it's going to be because my dog and I are comfortable in all the situations required not because we've taught him to tolerate things he hates for a short period of time or because we've learned to present the test challenges in a way he can work around.

9. I honestly think that, barring a couple of question marks, all the dogs in our class can pass this test. Maybe not all on the same day but we have the ability as long as we apply the necessary diligence and fortitude.

10. It's gonna take a whole bushel of diligence and fortitude for me and my dog to pass this test.

Hand me the Scooter Snacks, I've got work to do!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, and I think all our dogs will be happier here on this crazy human planet when they get these skills to the next level of mastery. And here's a hint for #7 - we did this (and many versions of this) with Emmett. Using a different cue can be a fast jumpstart for getting you and the dog past the confusion. (For example, I taught a late-great dog of our mutual acquaintance to "down" using "belly flop"... and he did!)