Monday, June 4, 2012
Philosophy of Behavior Training - Activity
Unfortunately, most times the activity of the "emotional" side of the brain inhibits the activity of the "thinking" side of the brain. Dogs who are experiencing an intense emotional reaction such as fear are incapable of acting rationally or learning new skills. Think about the last time you were terrified or enraged about something - Were you able to think clearly? Would you have been able to memorise some new information? Probably not!
Dogs, like humans possess unique personality traits, tolerance for stress and vary in their ability to adapt to new situations and circumstances. As trainers, we have the ability to teach our dogs skills so they can feel safe and comfortable when unpredictable situations pop up and we can intervene on their behalf. We aren't changing their personality or temperament, but we are working on changing their responses by teaching them skills. No one will ever convince me that it is fun to go to a big party with unfamiliar people, but I have practiced enough to get through the event. We can actually teach our dogs that get aroused by things in motion that the sight of the kid on a bike means it is time to turn away and look at me.
Some researchers compare dogs’ intelligence to that of a 2-year-old child. I have heard the same thing about the larger parrots (Amazons and African Greys in particular) but I don’t think that makes sense. People who use guide dogs put their lives and safety into the dog’s paws. How many of you would trust a 2-year-old, even a very bright one, to decide when it is safe for you to cross the street? How many 2-year-olds can understand sheep herding or search-and-rescue?
I think intelligence is figuring out how not merely to survive but to thrive in one’s environment. For a human 2-year-old, that is a human environment. For a dog, that is also a human environment — so not only must the dog learn dog stuff, the dog also has to learn to understand and make himself understood by members of another species. Much more difficult.
In "Activity" we start observing our dogs. We look to see what might make them a little too aroused to learn. What worries or suppresses them? Some dogs love handling, and some get over stimulated. Some dogs tolerate people standing right over them, and some need more space. What things truly motivate your pup? What about toys? Access to other dogs and people? Have you noticed any sensitivities? Noise, space, touch are just a few. When we are training, we try to engage the drives and minimize the sensitivities. That again, will help keep the dogs attentive and calm. So really, there is that zone that the dog will find is most comfortable and able to work best. We can relate to that.