This post was originally intended as a Facebook exclusive for the Omorrow Pack, the group that has formed around our mutual breeder, Omorrow German Shepherds owned and operated by Rhonda Sellers. But then the length went beyond that, and the subject took on a wider appeal, at least it did for me…
A few of us are blessed enough to be “Canine Professionals”, working with our dogs on a 24/7/365 basis. Recently, I was asked an innocently intended question by a fellow Pack member regarding training methods. I use the description “innocent”, because this person is trying to find the best way to train her dog, and correct some small behavior issues. I salute everybody that makes this effort… We discussed the question at length, and it revealed something interesting. The question involved the use of Treadmills in helping our dogs. My friends assumption was that I was opposed to the use of treadmills, because I prefer to get outside with my dog.
” Let’s back up the dog-sled here”, I explained. “I am a Handler by choice, and a “Trainer” by necessity. I am a Pack Leader by philosophy.” That was my statement. I realized then that it needed an explanation.
That’s when the “Pack Leader Algorithm” came to me. If you’re not “Geek Centric” as I am often accused of being by my wife, or you swore off mathematics when you earned your diploma, let me start at the beginning:
A set of instructions used to solve a problem or obtain a desired result. For example, the “shampoo algorithm” explains how to wash one’s hair: wet hair, lather, rinse, repeat.
“Very Good”. I said to my friend. “Now follow me thru this…We have several different types of canine people in the Omorrow Pack. Pet owners, that want their dogs to be happy pack members, Handlers that work with dogs in different ways. Trainers, that use a variety of very successful methods to train dogs in obedience, etc., and Behaviorists. Behaviorists work with humans AND canines to solve problem behavior, create calm submissive attitudes in both, and above all, they teach us to be good PACK LEADERS. My Algorithm states that, in order to be a responsible dog owner, Trainer, Handler, or Behaviorist, you must first be a Good Pack Leader. No matter what other methods you employ to accomplish those things. Learn Pack Leader behavior, accomplish Handler duties, Dog-Trainer success, or a successful Behavioral practice. Therefore, the method anybody uses to accomplish those things, is not my focus, so long as you stay away from some of the old methods that promote some techniques that are quite brutal to the dog. Pain DOES NOT earn respect or position as Pack Leader.”
I knew that this very conscientious friend was trying to get my opinion on a particular individual that has made a great splash on the Omorrow Pack, and rightfully so. He’s very gifted at what he does…
“Okay, I’ll give you what you want…because you’re trying to make a decision that is important to me, as I know it will be to Danny of the B.A.D. Academy. You want to train your dog! Yaaay for you both!!!! I know that both of us want you AND your dog to be as happy as possible. It also appears that you feel that we might not be in agreement, so let me shine some light for you. Danny and I work from the same Pack Leader algorithm. You MUST be the Pack Leader. After that has been mastered, we use that formula in a very different way. Myself, I train dogs to track, detect, apprehend, and protect. I teach others to observe their dog in these activities, and help them as much as possible to be successful in those activities. Being a Pack Leader makes it possible for me to be a Trainer in other disciplines, or even to become a Behaviorist. But that’s not my focus. Thats one direction that the algorithm can take you in. On the other hand, Danny takes that algorithm and uses it to solve problems and train people to be Pack leaders. We’re Dog-Brothers with different Mothers…(My Mother had a gene that gave me hair) So not only do I support Danny’s method with the treadmill, I highly recommend it. I don’t use it, because I have the facility of training in the field, and 24/7 time with my dogs. The same algorithm works with those who practice Clicker Training, Marker training, and other methods. Pack Leader first, followed by whatever your next priority happens to be. I recommend that you get Danny’s help with your Pack Leader status, and after you master that, decide what you want to do. But understand, MY algorithm is very specific to what I do as a Handler of scenting canines, and protective work. What Danny does as a Behaviorist is very different. As a for instance, Danny teaches a technique (my description, as awkward as it sounds) which is “Low Level Play”. It is a line in the sand, beyond which a dogs rowdiness is controlled. It works wonders as you can see from his Video’s. (Great job Tank!!) Danny is always in Pack Leader Mode. On my training field, I develop and enhance Play Drive, Prey Drive, and Defense drive. It’s necessary for our work. A bit of Rowdiness is necessary, as is purposeful disobedience to me when the dog realizes something I don’t know. These techniques require me to be Pack Leader at all times regardless, but in a different way. When we are at home, or in a public place doing demo’s, my ability to be Pack Leader is absolutely vital to the safety of others. Uncontrolled, and leaderless, our canines are potential weapons. With a calm, assertive, Pack Leader, Hansie licks faces, lays his head on the laps of the wheel-chair bound, and exhibits the ferociousness of a baby bunny rabbit. Uncontrolled and Leaderless, the normal German Shepherd will destroy your sofa, spread your garbage thru the house, and bark incessantly at every human it encounters. It can also be a horrible weapon when not under control …So it really reduces down to the same Algorithm, Learn how to be the Pack Leader for whatever canine discipline you are interested in pursuing.”
The old adage “Find three dog trainers, and they’ll collectively decide that at least one of them is wrong” has no place in my training program. We can, and should, learn from each other at every opportunity.
That was pretty much where we left off my lecture. I know my friend is going to learn the lesson, and use it. Spending excessive time comparing techniques is really not necessary. Find a PACK LEADER, Learn to BE a Pack Leader, and watch the magic happen.