Friday, May 8, 2015

Calm In the Chaos

There are so many ways to help a dog live in a human world.  My journey has been focused on giving the dog a choice, creating a thinking dog who understands the rules of our world and can live within those rules and yet remain true to being a dog. Recently I put into an actual curriculum many of those exercises and games that help a dog in just this way.  The name of this class is Calm and Clarity in a Chaotic World – Handling Distractions.  Short name: Calm In Chaos.

Here is a comparison of a few of the ways that are in use that help dogs live in our world.  I’m not including flooding in this comparison.  I personally don’t think flooding is actually helping the dog handle the environment.  I think all that flooding does is teach a dog to slog their way through life despite fear, anxiety or the normal caution any creature should have in regards to unknown or dangerous situations.  I think flooding only creates learned helplessness.

Focus is static.  It puts the dog in a position and just asks the dog to hold that position.  That’s what I think it is to the dog.  The eye contact doesn’t mean that much to the dog in this instance.  I know eye contact becomes important to them in other circumstances (like waking me up in the morning), but for focus work, I think it’s just a stay in position like any other stay in position for the dog.  It’s also under the control of the human; the dog just does as asked.

Engagement and play as it is used in most cases is mindless movement. There is no purpose to the movement as you and the dog make the transition from training to trial and from ringside in inside the ring other than just the dog staying with the human and not really noticing the surroundings.  It’s a preplanned and trained series of movements.  No thinking involved for the dog.  With reactivity and with shy dogs, I do this all the time to get them from point A to point B without causing an emotional meltdown and eventually the dog learns that they don’t have to have that meltdown.  But it doesn’t actually handle the environment as triggers to emotional states.  Just keep the dog moving on a known path because they can’t multi task and this too is human control.

Gathering information is a third method of working with nervous dogs, reactive dogs, anxious and fearful dogs.  This gathering of information is called many things: LAT (look at that), DS (desensitization), and a few others.  What this method does is allows the dog to makes choices based on how much information it can gather before it gets overwhelmed and must withdraw.  With some methods of gathering information the human controls the reach and withdraw and in others, the dog is left to make those decisions. I actually like this way of handling triggers and emotional states in regards to circumstances and environments, but it takes many repetitions and in most cases, a lot of time; time which we don’t always have the luxury or energy to expend.

What Calm in Chaos (and nearly every other program I've created) does is teach the dog how to defuse triggers, how to gain information in new and novel situations; we teach the dog how to think for itself. Based on the dog’s potential and applied abilities, the dog chooses how to move through environments with the least amount of stress.  The human can help, but isn’t ultimately in control.  Both the human and the dog arrive at their destination calmly and in control of their emotional states and energy level and comfortable with the environment in a short space of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.