Friday, August 7, 2009
Tricking Out the Dog
As some of you might have noticed I added "101 Dog Tricks" by Kyra Sundance to my currently reading list. I've been wanting to do more training and really have no inclination to enter a obedience trial. Now, don't get me wrong, I love to watch obedience trials, however, doing obedience in military precision is not my cup of tea (or bowl of dog biscuits?). Anyway, I do eventually plan on doing dog agility and have enjoyed that in the past, but any dog agility enthusiast knows that a well behaved dog is a good agility dog. So, what to do? Ah trick training! Of course there are other more beneficial ways to get a dog prepared for agility, but trick training encourages the relationship with your dog. It also teaches your dog to listen to your commands and watch you for proper signals. Things also useful in agility training.
One reason I picked this book is the way it trains. It uses positive reinforcement. Basically in dog training there seems to be 2 main schools of thought. One is positive reinforcement/ training and the other is dominance training. The two schools of thought are exactly friendly with each other and each believes that they have the absolute answer to all problems in dogdom. One very specific and valuable evaluation tactic I have used to look at each school of thought is not just how obedient the dog appears, but how interested and engaged the dog happens to be while performing for the trainer and how it is during "down time".
Let me more specifically explain what I mean. Recently at a public event a group that trains in a dominate fashion (including using shock collars as was advertised on this group's web site). Looking at their dogs I did not see bright happy interested dogs. Their eyes seemed dull and their body language did not look like they were having any fun at all. This was not during an exercise, but during "down time". I went up to them to ask about their tunnel (used in agility training) and to see what kind of philosophy they ascribed. They were themselves were very short with me as they surveyed my dog, who was brightly inquiring their setup (but not misbehaving), my treat bag, and my clicker (used in positive dog training). I was able to ascertain exactly which method they employ by how they acted to me as well as how their dogs dully acted toward them. It was confirmed once I went onto their web site. Now, perhaps you can ascertain exactly why I tend to gravitate toward positive reinforcement rather than dominance training. I do not wish to break a dog's spirit to gain "control" over my dog. I'd rather have a bond with my dog and enjoy him with all his spirit in tact.
Now, back to the book. I haven't decided exactly what I will train but it has reminded me of some basic things I need to work on a bit better. Within a day my dog has already held his stay better. Perhaps I'll work on fetch next. He's not the best at fetch. He just doesn't understand that bringing it back to chase it again is fun. He'd rather stand and squeak what ever I've thrown out to him. I may try to blog our progress in future posts. Wish us luck.