Monday, April 30, 2012
First, there is "behavior training." This is the kind of training in which a dog is taught to be a "good citizen." Typically this includes housetraining, good behavior around other people and dogs, reasonable leash manners and other small things that make a dog a much more pleasant companion. A well behaved dog attracts no special notice from the public (aside from amazing some with their good manners). This also includes rehabilitating a dog who has forgotten what being a dog is all about, who can't negotiate the human world without stress reactions and aggression or is so afraid of this alien place they hide.
"Activity or sport training" refers to training for specific activities -- this includes hunting, herding, Search and Rescue, lure coursing -- any of a myriad number of activities designed to showcase the abilities of the dog and his handler, particularly in activities a the dog has been bred to do. These days, such activity also includes "sports" such as frisbee, flyball, agility and so on. Sports type of training is basically obedience training on steroids as the dog is still being asked to do un-dog like things.
The basis for each type of training is who is learning who's language. With behavior training, it's mostly the human learning dog, and with obedience training it's mostly the dog learning human words and what to do when he hears them. At either end of the scale, the human has the biggest job. All the dog has to do is listen and do what the human asks for. It's the human's job to figure out how to communicate her wishes to the dog.
Training can't be effectively executed by half measures, otherwise you'll get an almost trained dog. For those of you who say, "That's OK, I don't need a perfect dog,' I respond that training isn't about perfection; it is about building a willingness in your dog to follow your instructions. If you ask your dog to sit but he doesn't, and you just stand there asking him to sit over and over again, he'll be learning from you that when you say "sit", you don't really mean it. This is why many dogs act perfectly well with their professional trainers and are less behaviorally consistent at home. The trainer is persistently following through with their commands while the owner is letting things slide at home.
Training isn't magic and there are no gimmicks, no matter what some books and websites may claim. You can't wave a magic wand and put no effort into following through with your dog's learning process and expect to have a well behaved dog. Dogs are influenced by their owner's lifestyle, their environment and what is commonly called self-education, which means they attain knowledge and use it always to their advantage - not always to your liking. It is of no relevance whether it was you who educated your dog or someone else before you.
In my experience, dog ownership is a little like a job: you need certain qualities in order to be good at it. The ideal characteristics include balance, composure, patience, persistence, ambition and initiative. You also need to be precise and consistent; have common sense and be logical; be organised; and have the ability and the desire to be in control. Finally, you need enough time to work with your dog, and you need to be affectionate and loving.
Patience is a gift. This is what gives you inner calm and composure. In training, the patient person is one who doesn't rush ahead, but takes the time to repeat, or even reconsider, his techniques, reverse or change procedure, intensify or revise a routine. A patient person may take a long time to achieve the desired outcome, but he always seems to get there in the end and be more knowledgeable because of his experience along the way.
A patient and composed person will be willing to look harder for the right approach to use with dogs whose temperaments lie at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Opposing your dog's behavior, battling him every step of the way, won't bring you any closer to victory. A patient person will learn how many repetitions his dog needs in order to learn something new and how intense the stimulation required. He will not set his dog up to fail but will encourage him and work with him to solve a task. A good dog owner plays for the same team as his dog. You're the captain, and he is your willing team mate.
Dogs have an extraordinary ability to adapt to the lifestyles and circumstances they are put in. All dogs think whatever they do is ok. If they didn't, they wouldn't act the way they do because it would get them nothing. A dog's behavior must satisfy a need, no dog will do anything that isn't to their advantage. Dogs do not distinguish right from wrong - they only learn what behaviors will get them what they desire. In order to learn how to live in our world without stress and strife, you - as a primate - must learn to think like a canine. Like children, dogs don't come with a set of instructions.
In my experience, no matter how severe a dog's behavioral problems are, 90% of the time, the problems are man-made. We are the ones who are guilty because we - and those who may have lived with our dog before us - are instrumental in forming his inner world and how he relates to our world. Consciously or not, we are constantly teaching our dogs - and our children - what to do and what not to do.
Not much different then humans really. If something words, we stick with it. If it doesn't work, we abandon it. If it is rewarding, feels good, makes us feel useful or loved or whatever reward we need for our own ego, we use it. But there are always the rules of society that govern most of what we do when we are interacting with each other. In the same way, our rules govern how are dogs should interact in our world.
In most cases, dog's become "depressed" because people misunderstand them and try to assign human emotion, human reasoning and human responses to the dog. Certainly, dogs need love and attention to thrive, but some think that feeding them is enough. Dogs love structure and rules and knowing where they belong in their social group. Without that structure, most dogs will seek to figure things out on their own and when not the way the human would respond, is "punished".
When dogs are puppies, they learn about their world. The majority of a dogs fears begin with a bad experience as a pup. Even simple things like a fear of taking a bath most likely started as a puppy. Dogs need socialization and training when they are young. This is very important to raising a well balanced dog.
The first thing you need to do is to figure out exactly what it is that scares your dog. Is he afraid of taking a bath, or something that occurs during the bath? To figure this out you need to break down the elements of bath time. Take him outside and play with him with some water. Is he afraid of the water? If not move on to something else. Try putting him in the bath tub. Is he afraid of the tub?
Continue to break down the routine of bath time until you figure out what he is afraid of. Then you can isolate the problem and correct it. To do so, you want to reverse his fear into a positive experience. For instance, if he's afraid of the tub, then introduce him to it in a new way. Try sticking him in the tub with no water on and then play with him. Use his favorite toys and treats to show him that the tub is not such a bad place after all. Make sure he is comfortable with this and then add the water. Continue to play with him and give him treats for not freaking out once the water is turned on. It may help to have a partner with you to keep him occupied when you turn on the water.
The idea is to make him feel as comfortable as possible while in the tub. Make it a fun activity for him. Stay positive and don't get frustrated or mad at him, this will only make things worse for you. Make sure you go and get him for bath time until it is postive for him, you wouldn't want to call him to something he sees as negative, or he'll be afraid to come to you. This method can be applied to just about any fear, and if you have any trouble contact a local trainer to help or leave me a comment and I will try to help.
Here is the method in steps:
Observe: Observe you dog and figure out exactly what scares her.
Isolate: Isolate the fear.
Reverse: Reverse the fear into a positive experience.
Routine: Make a routine and practice it religiously.
Complete: Complete the behavior without the fear. Make certain to keep the dog comfortable.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
That is learned helplessness. These teens have been catered to all their lives and couldn't wipe their own behinds without help. This mentality is becoming rampant in our schoo...l system where there are so many "aids" to learning, so many ways to "help" a poor struggling student, that they never do learn how to learn - they don't have to.
You can do the same to a dog, you can train a dog to be totally helpless at doing anything for itself in the context of training and then once you are not training - the dog is out of control doing what it wants and relieving the pressure, stress and boredom of an hour of pointlessly following directions.
You can create a sort of learned helplessness using shock, pain, corrections, etc since you are suppressing responses with this form of training. But what the dog really is learning is not to reach, not to try, not to do anything that isn't asked for and to make sure that you really are being asked for something. It's an extreme form of learned helplessness. A dog is never allowed it's own choices, never allowed to learn, never allowed to create, never allowed to offer itself to the equation.
I see learned helplessness all the time with Out Of Control class. The first thing I usually do in this class is assess the training the dog has had. I ask the human to have the dog sit, down and stay and then assess how much help the human has to give the dog in order to get compliance. Most times it's a lot - the human pushes the bum, lifts up the leash real high, says "sit" in a commanding tone while leaning over the dog - usually with a finger pointing at the dog's bum. The dog has never really learned to sit, she waits for the human to put her in the position. Learned helplessness.