Archive for the ‘Dog Sports’ Category

Do you know what happens to books that I wish I’d written?  I cut off their spines and punch holes in them.

That’s right…it makes ring-binding them possible.  And that has become my new shortcut to knowing which books I use as constant reference material or just find enjoyable to read.  Once ring bound, books can be kept open while studying them, or  left open flat for ease of reading.  I use them a lot, and I want their words easily accessible.

“Think Like Your Dog, and Enjoy The Rewards” by the Daughter/Father team of Dianna Young and her co-author Robert Mottram is truly one of those books.  And I know you’ll find it just as valuable.

Chapter 1 is entitled, “A Fundamental Truth.” and it’s a truth that way too many in the dog world would call a myth.  To quote:  “In every Dog/Handler Team, without exception, There is a Leader, and there is a follower.”  In the current atmosphere of “ignore bad behavior…” training methods, this is practically heresy, BUT SOMEBODY NEEDS TO SAY IT, TEACH IT, AND EXPLAIN IT.  “Think Like Your Dog” does just so simply, and with conviction.  The explanation of “Rank” and “Leadership” are among the best I’ve seen in writing, and are sure to raise eyebrows within those that need to read this book the most.  If you don’t believe that dogs crave a social hierarchy, then you’ll miss the very best parts out of “politically-correct” bigotry.  My advice is to read this book, and use your power of reason.  That is the true strength of this book.  It uses Reason too explain the truth, and that is all to uncommon.

Dianna and Robert  had a clear aim with their book.  They never mention or criticize other methods of training, or particular Trainers.  They don’t need too, as they are trying to assist dog owners, rather than professionals.  Although any professional has as much to gain from the book as any first-time pet owner.  The tone of the book is warm, inviting, and yet pointed.  The authors are obviously talented, capable trainers, but their strength comes from an ability to teach others with empathy, and foresight into how dogs react.  You never are made to feel that you are being spoken “down to” from a pedestal, and that to is rare.

Chapter 4 is a treatise on Canine Temperament.  Too many dogs are given the description of “unsound” by the failed methods of some, and many of those dogs are euthanized.  “Think Like A Dog” establishes ways to change behaviors that cause these tragedies, and throws the “neo-positive” failures a loop in their doctrine.  What Dianna and Robert write here will save lives of troubled dogs.  Or even better, it will start your family pet, or prospective working dog, onto the best practiced way to raise, train, and live with your dog.

A very balanced discussion of training methods is taken up in the book as well.  No sides are taken in the training method maelstrom, so no one need fear that they are reading in a hostile atmosphere.  In fact, the reader is invited to choose whatever works for them, after due consideration of the differing choices.  The foundational statement of the book is found throughout, often worded differently.  This quote from page 96 embodies that ideology.  “The idea is to structure a relationship of trust and mutual respect between handler and dog, teach the handler how to assume the leadership position in that relationship, and then demonstrate to the dog what the handler-Its Leader-desires from it.”   

Without further guilding this lily, I’ll invite you to add this book to your library.  Have it bound so that you can use it.  There’s a lot more here that will offer a new line of thinking on some old topics like equipment, Obedience, and performance.

One final suggestion:   Chapter 20 is entitled “Going Forward.”    Read it carefully and thoughtfully.  Read it again and highlight key phrases that touch you.  Keep it open there and refer to it often.  It is the catalyst that will make you Use the previous 19 chapters with purpose, intent, and joy for you and your dog…   http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_19/184-6455469-4164567?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=think+like+your+dog+and+enjoy+the+rewards&sprefix=Think+like+your+dog%2Cstripbooks%2C218

thinklikeyourdog

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Here we go again, another hot button issue on the periphery of our friend, the dog.  If it’s not training methods, then it’s breed standards, or standards of a particular breeder.  Those are the evergreens.  We might also include the differences between rescuers as opposed to buying from breeders.  Vaccinations against more holistic methods.  Raw feeders v Kibble feeders…The arguing goes on no matter the subject.  It is my belief that, as dog people we will soon be completely unable to stop outside factions from taking control of our interests, because we can’t agree on anything that really matters.  When I posted a challenge to my readers to find something that we ALL do agree on, I was disappointed in the answers.  Most were based on emotion.  And while I agree with the sentiment, “We all want what’s best for our dogs.”  it doesn’t really protect us from the onslaught of rules and legislation that some would impose on dog-owners everywhere.  So I’m going to wade into the latest attempt to prevent good people from practicing what they love most, and are most skilled at doing.  Much of the problem comes from those with “Certification”, “Title” or “Degree”, but little experience.  Education, but little instinct for the art.  Desire for control, but scant leadership ability.

  Should “Dog-Training” require higher education and Licensing from a Controlling Organization in order to protect consumers and ensure that Positive Methods of Training are observed?

This is the latest skirmish among those of us in the canine professions, and there is at least a small group that would love to make it a subject of Governmental legislation.   Not to put too fine a point on the subject, but most of the sturm und drang, encouraging more control and necessitating expensive licensing, is coming from those that follow the Purely Positive philosophies.  Many of them have an alphabet soup of degree’s that they love to place after their names wherever they can find space for them.  They complain against, and harbor real hatred for individuals such as Cesar Millan, who has no degree hanging from his wall.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not entirely in Millans camp either, but he may be the foremost authority on being demonized and hated by fellows in the industry.   Anyone that can rightfully say that they practice anything similar are also demonized by the “Other Side.”  And truly, Cesar Millan is only the tip of an iceberg that would have crushed the Titanic, as opposed to the minor, but effective damage that  hunk of frozen water caused.

The largest impetus behind this legislation of “Certification”, seems to be, ubiquitously, filthy lucre.  Money.  With a dash of  “do it MY way, or don’t do it at all.”  Check out the websites of the various “professional” organizations that claim to represent “Dog Trainers/Training” as an industry.  None of what they offer is inexpensive, although some of the programs may have benefits.  Pay the charge, and you may be allowed to train with one of several big names in the industry.  Pay more and you’ll be given credentials, some without ever having to meet the individual responsible for teaching you.  Assembly line “certification”.  But under the proposals of an elite cadre of individuals, those payers would still be able to hang out a shingle “legally.”  And make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly instructed, indoctrinated, and walking lock-step with the Purely Positive mind-set coven.  Their intent is too force everyone to lose the use of certain tools, techniques, and methods that stand out from Purely Positive.  Don’t believe this can happen?  Then why are German Trainers forced to hide and deny use of training collars or various types?

Keen observation of this situation fascinates me.  I get to see  dog-training from several divergent perspectives.  First, The Law Enforcement K9 trainers.  Second, The IPO/  schutzhund/PSA  perspective.  Third, The Service/Therapy dog perspective, and finally, The Pet Dog/Rescue/Boarding facility perspective.  They couldn’t be more different.

In the Schutzhund/IPO/Law enforcement world, Performance Is The Proof of a good, solid, trainer.  There’s no obsession over who holds what degree, what Trainer Organization pay homage (and cash) too.  What matters, is what the dog has learned under your guidance.  Word of mouth is the best advertising, and the weak and unskilled, or ego-driven can’t survive.  And they don’t.  Yes, there are plenty who claim great skill in training protection/sport/LE dogs, but they soon fall victim to their own failures.  Performance is the primary judge in this arena.

The Therapy/Service dog arena has hitherto been a world of people wanting sincerely to help.  Good people more concerned with capable, skilled, dogs than who trained the dog.  But I see disturbing trends in this system.   over certification, outside interests controlling what types of training are mandated, outside interests trying to change where Service dogs are welcome, businesses restricting access to PTSD/Emotional support dogs, and more.  Alongside those problems, there are people selling credentials to anybody that wants to walk an untrained dog anywhere they please, whenever they please.  The Service Dog problems are two-headed and complex.  I don’t know where the balance will come from, but there’s a real battle ahead.  This area needs discussion and balanced administration.  I hope that those involved have the wisdom to find ways to continuing to provide these valuable working dogs to people that desperately need them.

Finally, the Pet Dog industry.

You’d find more rules/laws in Port Royal, Jamaica circa 1655.  Anybody can hang out a sign and print business cards and call themselves a “Dog Trainer”.  But don’t get me wrong, I support that right.  Success or failure should come from the hand of the consumer.  If a dog trainer doesn’t produce successfully trained dogs/owners, the market and word of mouth will eliminate them.  Trainers of ALL methods.  Trainers with an alphabet soup of degrees after their names, and trainers with nothing more than skill and experience to bolster them.  This then is where the ugliness rears it’s head.

A small but loud group of individuals, coupled with others that smell money in the water, see a fur-covered gold-mine in them thar’ hills.  These people want very specific laws and standards to be mandated upon everybody, with subsequent denial of licences or certification as support.  Most of those in this group are from the Purely Positive training cabal.  Only their way is the right and proper way.  Most of them seem to care more about controlling how others train than actually training themselves.  If they had to prove that their methods are totally successful, by producing results of lasting effectiveness, then the open market would soon eliminate them.

The blogs, FB pages, and books that are published by this crowd seeth with contempt toward anyone that dares question “Science”, and the modus operandi of the Purely Positive Crowd.  Anyone without the “required” titles given by the “professional” dog trainers associations is considered unfit for the public to seek help from.  This attitude has become so vitriolic that certain trainers are even adopting an outward appearance of supporting the militant minority of PP.

Does anyone prove their skill, talent, or instincts with a display of which seminars they’ve attended or which Dog Training Organization they mollify with lucre, or how many acronyms follow their name on a business card?  Like the politics of our time, it seems the Least qualified keep getting elected because they have the media on their side, or the money to overwhelm any opposition.  And the least qualified become the voice of Canine Behavior because our society is impressed with academic achievement and the fallacy that education is the end-all-be- all of our profession.  It’s time for proof.  Go out and Prove you are a skilled dog trainer.  Train people, train dogs, and do so in a way that stands the test of time and professionalism.  Work in such a way that doesn’t rely on bashing other trainers and their methods or philosophy of dog behavior.  If you feel the need to challenge someones opinion or methods or lack of qualifications to train dogs, let YOUR ABILITIES prove it, not your word processor, or even worse, words spoken loudly from the relative anonymity of the internet.  That being said, be happy to know that there ARE schools for dog trainers that are quite good, and worth their cost.  But only because they teach you to decide what works best for you, not a militant curriculum of their own.

My personal solution to these arguments is to do what I do regardless of anyone else’s “opinion” of what I “should” be doing.  My success will speak to my clients, not my influences.  We need more legislation like we need new holes drilled in our skulls.

Hey Central Ohio Nosework fans!!! It’s FINALLY HERE!!!! See the registration below for the Introductory 2 hour workshop to Nosework at the ARF facility!!! This will demonstrate the upcoming 6 week class beginning February/March 2014!! The workshop is open to all, but the actual class will be limited to only 10 (ten) Handler/Dog teams, so if you are interested BE AT THE WORKSHOP!!!!
Part of this workshop will be for the purpose of forming a Nosework Club here in central Ohio for Fun, Training, and Competition!
Introduction to Nose Work Workshop Saturday, February 8, 2014 Presented by Robert Vaughan Administrator, K-9 Detection Sports Association         Workshop Fee:  $10.00 Would you like to find out more about the dog sport of Nose Work – an uninterrupted performance in scent-detection by a dog and a handler? … Agility and Rally for Fun is pleased to welcome Robert Vaughan to the ARF Dog Training Center on Saturday, February 8, 2014 to present an Introduction to Nose Work workshop from 3:00PM-5:00PM.  ARF is located at 1000 Morrison Road, Suite I, Gahanna, OH  43230.  Robert has been involved in scent work for nearly 7 years and in competitive Nose Work for another 5 years.  The exciting dog-sport of Nose Work is coming to ARF and Central Ohio.  You and your dog can take part in this game, which is both mental and physical, no matter age or mobility limitations.  Professional K9 handler Robert Vaughan will help you gain the foundation of Nose Work, and show you a new way to build the relationship between you and your dog.  All Breeds are welcome and capable.
To register for the workshop please complete the following and mail to:  Susie Thomas, Agility and Rally for Fun, 8609 North Spring Court NW, Pickerington, OH  43147.  Please include a check made payable to ARF for $10.00. Name:______________________________________________________________________________ Street:______________________________________________________________________________ City, State, Zip:_______________________________________________________________________ E-mail :______________________________________________________________________________ In consideration of my participation in this workshop sponsored by Agility and Rally for Fun, I agree to indemnify and hold harmless Agility and Rally for Fun LLC, the owner of the training center at 1000 Morrison Road, and all other persons connected or associated with this workshop from any claim or loss or injury to myself, my dog or my possessions which may be alleged to have been caused directly or indirectly by any of the above mentioned while on this property. I personally assume all responsibility and liability for any claims regarding theft, accident, injury, and death or otherwise alleged to be caused by negligence of the above mentioned. SIGNATURE:____________________________________________  DATE SUBMITTED:_______________________

I have been a fairly tenacious advocate of training early, training often, and training with intent.  My dogs began training the day they came home at about 8 weeks of age.  We began with the basics, Sit, Go Potty, No Bites…you get the drift.  Shortly thereafter, I began Scent work training.  Within 6 months, we also mastered most of the CGC tests, even though the test couldn’t be taken at that age.  Everywhere we went was a test of behavior, obedience, or socialization.  Many of the books that I read strongly encouraged that “Time for training must start early, you have very little time, hurry, hurry, hurry!!!”   One of the most desperate sounding was Ian Dunbar, who seems to believe that dogs stop learning at 9 months old.  Fortunately I have learned that the mind-set and methods of Dunbar and his followers is  incomplete, and based on questionable conclusions.  Dogs can learn everyday of their life, and they do.  There’s a better way, and “Science” backs this conclusion.

I wish now that I had focused more time and attention on interactive “Play” between us during the first year.   I was fortunate in this:  My style of training was (and is) more centered on “fun” than most others.  I love watching the dogs just being dogs, chasing toys, chasing each other, playing tug-of-war with various items, digging for hidden rewards, and wrestling with me on the ground.  There is one central reason that PLAY is so important to the development of your puppy.  This ingredient will affect your relationship as a team for the life of your dog.  What is this ingredient?

           You Must Be The Most Interesting Thing In Your Dogs Life.  

Are you naturally drawn to an employer that piles work on you every minute of everyday?  Your dog, especially puppies up to about a year old, are hard-wired to Play.  It’s a combination of Exercise (or Stress Relief, a topic upcoming here) Discipline (Time to “release”  the toy) and Affection(rolling around on the floor letting the dog search you for a toy, or playing Tug are Rewards!!)  Your dog will celebrate every time you walk into the room because YOU=Playtime!!!!   This developing focus on you will create a dog/human team that are completely in tune with each other.  There will never be a problem with a distracted dog, because YOU, (Not food treats, and certainly not Clicking) will be the center of his world.

I’ve written about what follows in “German Shepherd Adventures” a couple of years ago, and it raised eyebrows in some.  That’s okay by me, because I’ve seen the results of my practice.  I’ll repeat what I wrote then for the benefit of those who may have missed it. The most important game you can develop properly with your dog is a good old-fashioned game of “Tugging”.  I know, I know…Many of you are of the belief that this creates an aggressive dog, .  You believe that you are developing a dog that is capable of dangerous reactions. You may believe you are creating a “reactionary” dog… You are, in fact, doing just the opposite.  Notice this quote from  Jean Donaldson, a positive training maven, writes that tug games “are not about dominance and they do not increase aggression. These are myths.”  (Quote from this source-(http://www.leecharleskelley.com/top10myths/dontplaytugofwar.html

You are in fact, creating an “Outlet” for your dogs “prey” instinct, while using the natural, inborn inclinations of your dogs “Hunting” instincts to relieve , (Here it comes…) stress. To quote Kevin Behan in “Natural Dog Training”, –Many parents may be nervous about this whole notion of prey instinct. We are not creating the prey instinct: it is already there. We are channeling it into an appropriate activity. This way it is not as likely to go where it does not belong, such as after a child’s hand. Otherwise, you are leaving it up to the dog to decide what he wants to do with his prey instinct.

Okay, I’m springing something new on you.  The idea that your dog has stress, and is better off with an effective way to release it.  That’s going to be the subject of another post.  Energy and Stress, and your dogs “Natural” state of being a “Predator”, are going to be major subjects in the near future here.

As part of the Communicative Approach, Tugging games build a bond between Handler and Canine.  During these games, your dog’s focus is %115 on YOU!  Remember, a tug toy, rag, or sleeve is a lifeless object UNTIL you pick it up!  Then you become the life of the party!!!  The practice will soon eliminate distractions, and improve recalls, and obedience.  I have always played serious tugging games with my protection dog “Hans”.  Without really knowing “Why”, or “How”, I’ve raised an obedient, focused dog.  Looking back, I realize that we bonded over this type of play.

Now, for my heretofore failure, and its recent resolution:  Our young female GSD, “Holly”, now 18 months old, was slated specifically for Therapy work, and as an experimental “Cancer Detection Canine”, (A newly developing study.) from 8 weeks of age.  My wife would train her, and I’d promise to not teach the pup to tug, chase me, or anything else resembling “aggression”.  Holly did fine for about the first year, earning CGC status, passing TDI training, and doing well.  But she never quite earned our trust in “Off-Leash” activities, such as fetch.  She suffered a lack of “Focus” being easily distracted at times.  Outside, her “recall” was questionable, but inside was fine.  She seemed “bored” while working my wife opined…CarolAnn actually became very distressed over this lack of enthusiasm, and Holly’s lackadaisical response to obedience while unleashed.  She actually “borrowed” a friends Vizla, to make her Care Facility rounds for two weeks while we investigated this occurrence.  Well, of course, Holly became despondent and a little destructive at home.  Some how we were not fulfilling her needs, while we were protecting her status as a Therapy Dog.  All bad things.  Hans had never been thru anything like this in his training, and we were searching frantically for answers.  Thinking that “Physical Activity” was the missing ingredient, we enrolled CarolAnn and Holly in Agility training.  In good portion, it helped.  Holly does well, has no fear, and loves to burn off steam.  But her “focus” on her handler was still an issue.  It was during this period that picked up on “Natural Dog Training” by Kevin Behan, and the work of both Lee Charles Kelley and Neil Sattin (found here: http://www.naturaldogblog.com/

What I read and digested was very similar to the way I had raised and trained Hans.  Different terms were being used to describe what I was developing on my own somewhat lacking method, but the same spirit was there.  We decided that I would recreate with Holly, what I had done with Hans.  “Pushing”, a training technique that “Natural Dog Training” emphasizes is one such example.  I called it “Keep Away” with a high-value item.  (There’s a lot more to explain “Pushing”.  Check the link above, Please)

I also introduced Holly and CarolAnn to Tugging Games.  My wife at first resisted mightily, being wisely aware that Holly had grown some impressive dentition.  I began to play tug with Holly everyday for a week, which is more time than needed.  Within that time, her behavior turned 180 degrees about!!  Her recall reminded me of a Sparrow missile inbound…I pushed her training to things she had been taught NOT to do, such as giving Dad a Big stand up hug as she saw Hans do everyday with me.  Holly was shortly going after an Arm-sleeve with a gusto that belied her hitherto somewhat (Bored! Unfulfilled!) gentle nature.  But the fuzzy little phoenix was rising from her own frustrated ashes…Everything changed about her behavior.  I chalk it up to fulfilling her natural instincts.  Period.

So go out and play with your dog.  Learn to play Tug safely, and properly.  Again I will provide some links below for this purpose.  The result will be Focus Focus and more Focus from your dog, and the end of many behavioral problems!!!!

http://www.naturaldogblog.com/blog/2007/07/how-to-play-tug-of-war-with-your-dog-and-have-the-happiest-dog-on-the-block/

My beautiful, Natural Trainee, Holly...

My beautiful, Natural Trainee, Holly…

© Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures {2010 to Current} Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert W. Vaughan and German Shepherd Adventures  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Once again I tread the minefield of turning our dogs into little human beings.  I promise you that I won’t, but there are good, demonstrable reasons to include “Love Your Dog”, into the process of the Communicative Approach.  Let me start with the axiom, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You.”

That’s right, the good, old-fashioned “Golden Rule”.  In case you are unaware, that was originally written in the Bible book of Matthew chapter 7 verse 12, about 2000 years ago.  It’s origin sometimes gets lost these days, but it’s good Life-Counsel no matter the source.  I just happen to believe it important to recall the words of Jesus Christ in this context.  No translation of the scripture says, “Do Unto Just Other Human Beings…”   Nope, they all say some derivative of “Others”, allowing for the conclusion that it applies to all living creatures.  Okay, Bible lesson finished…(That didn’t hurt a bit did it?)

All of the separate parts of the Communicative Approach, could technically fall under the umbrella of “Love Your Dog”, but there’s more detail to each and every one that I feel is important .  Therefore I’m using Love as a separate feature.  I know, as I develop this further that you’ll understand why.

First of all, what is your definition of “Love”?  Just think it over for a bit, as there are many ways to describe love.  For my purposes here, I will define Love as, “A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a friend…the benevolent affection of Man for his charges …A strong, warm, personal attachment.”    This is not romantic ,love, nor is it the love of Principal.  No, it just simply means that you are trying to treat your dog as you would like to be treated if you were a dog!

Okay, now imagine that YOU are your dog.  See the world thru his eyes, smell thru his nose, hear thru his ears…

From the day you brought your puppy or rescued dog home, he looked to you for nearly everything.  You were the source of food, water, play, care,  comfort, and (hopefully) leadership.  Loving your dog means giving these things freely and in proper amounts.  Making your dog know that you will always provide these things…Being prepared and willing to provide the best of these things that you can is part of loving your dog.  Does your dog spend most of his time locked in a crate, or small room alone, because you’re busy??  If your dog becomes sick, do you make sure that you consult a Veterinarian?  Do you carefully make decisions regarding vaccinations?  (This is a touchy subject, as some common vaccinations are actually dangerous and unnecessary)  This requires that you make informed decisions…Will you take the time???  Will your dog find itself tied outside to a post or tree in cold, heat, rain, or snow left to create a path where it paces alone wondering where his pack is???  Referencing the Golden Rule, would YOU enjoy that???  Your dog has a sophisticated and active mind.  Will you fulfill his mental needs with active play, exercise, and stimulation?  And 15 minutes a day is NOT enough.  Most behavioral problems have their source in boredom, inactivity, and lack of leadership.  Loving your dog means fulfilling these needs, and it takes TIME.  Maybe more time than you realize…Never let it be more time than you are willing to give, for your dogs sake.  This is a big reason why shelters and rescues are so busy and filled with dogs.  (Or should I say “Inmates”?)

Is your dog an “At Will” employee?  Meaning that you can “fire” him for whatever reason at whatever time?  Some dogs are gotten rid of when they become an “Inconvenience”.  Some of these are even “Euthanized” because they become more responsibility than the human wants.  Let me re-phrase that so you get the full impact.  SOME PEOPLE HAVE THEIR DOG PUT TO DEATH BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER WANT THE RESPONSIBILTY.  I grieve at the lack of “Love” that human beings are capable of demonstrating.

I believe you probably understand what loving a dog entails.  Time, effort, money, resources, more time, research, a bit more time…But the end results are MORE than worth the efforts!!!

You will always find that “Love” is a part of every facet of communication.  It is simply putting yourself in your dogs paws and asking yourself, “If I was a dog, and my owner did that to me, how would I feel?”

Next, we’ll dig into “Live With Your Dog.”   Thanks for reading, and please feel free to FOLLOW German Shepherd Adventures by pushing the FOLLOW icon at the top of the page!!!!

 

I am an advocate of silence when I work with my dogs.  Body language, eye contact, and hand signals.  Dogs watch us closely for these things with a laser-like precision.  When we are not attentive to the signals we give, the dog becomes confused, and leadership from the human trainer  fails.  We must always be aware of what our faces, limbs, and body are communicating to our dog.  Learning and applying this knowledge  of the silent art is an ongoing process for me, and others who attempt it.  I may never become its master, but the dogs are helping me learn more each day about their silent language…

The dog, yours and mine, has mastered an understanding of human communication and language far faster than the reverse.  When we speak to our dogs using the spoken word, they grasp it quickly.  And it makes no difference what national language we use…I have heard English, German, Dutch, Russian, Italian, Gaelic, Hungarian, and Nonsense words used on the training field to direct dogs, all with equal success.

In the year 2012 A.D.,  “Language” has become a political battlefield.  As in “politically correct” or decidedly “politically incorrect.”  You can find examples of this without excess effort in most every human endeavor…And this brings me to the subject at hand.  I was recently informed by a professional dog trainer that the word “No” is unacceptable and possibly even cruel to use when training a dog…Hmmmmmmmm.

I was working with our 18-month old female German Shepherd, “Holly”, at the Agility training facility that we frequent.  The trainer was not our usual one, a gentleman  I consider a very talented trainer that understands how a dogs mind works.  No, this days observer was a young lady that is very much the Operant Conditioning style of training.  She is very well versed in this method, and has her share of admirers and success, as she deserves.  I’ll call her “Katie” because that’s the name her parents bestowed upon her…

We had Holly running a fairly straight-forward course with two separate 180 degree course reverses, one that requires entering a tunnel obstacle.  Holly sometimes prefers running around the tunnels, than entering them.  And that’s what she attempted this time.  As she dodged the entrance, I gave her a command she knows well, and responds to quickly as I have trained her.  I spoke it to her in a no-nonsense tone that she also knows well.   “NO!!!” 

She stopped in her tracks, reversed course and entered the tunnel, tail-wagging.  She exited the tunnel and shot out directly for the teeter-totter without mental pause.  Katie immediately blew her whistle in a long blast and stopped the run, (which thank goodness wasn’t a qualifying run anyway).  “Recall your dog…” she commanded me sternly.

She didn’t even wait for Holly to return to my heel before her tirade began.  “At this facility we do not allow negative words to be used with any dog at any time.  You are harming the dogs mental health and she will become frightened…You must never use the word “NO” again with her or any dog while training here…”  (It should be noted that this rule is not the rule of most of the trainers here.  This was a singular event, and an opinion of a single individual.  Sadly enough though, this mind-set is common thru the so-called “Positive training” community.  In large part, I find Agility Trainers to have moved beyond such training and embraced more “relationship-based” style training.)

Now, I understand the ban on cursing in this public place, and I support it.  But when did the word “NO” begin to be squeezed into that definition???

During Holly’s next attempt, she repeated the mistake.  This time, aware that I was being watched closely, I didn’t speak.  However, I did stop suddenly, square my body directly at Holly, and gave her the unmistakable body language equivalent of,    “No! Stop, put your furry butt thru that tunnel and do it right this time.”   Our pony-tailed trainer missed my silent communication completely.  Holly read me clearly and without hesitation.  It didn’t seem to hurt her at all, as she returned to my side, tail wagging.  Either way, I told her “NO” and she understood without mental or physical trauma to her psyche…

Now let me explain something.  We CAN move our dogs without speaking to them.  But here’s why I will always, always, always, teach a verbal “NO” command to any dog I train.  I will expect an immediate and unquestioned response every time.  This will taught to them without striking the dog, or otherwise instilling fear.  But they will  obey the command.

In our search & rescue training, or trailing work, my dogs are often worked “off-leash”.  In these instances, the dog is never looking at me (as Handler) for behavior cues.  He is focused on the task at nose.  But he is using his secondary sense of hearing to keep track of his handler.  I’m watching his back, offering him cover so to speak.  Here, I use “NO” as an all-purpose command.  Whatever the dog is doing, STOP IT RIGHT NOW.  I may be protecting him.  I may be re-assigning his task.  I may be saying it’s okay to stop tracking, it’s break time.  If my dog jumped a deer out of the brush, my NO command will, (and Has) broken the pursuit off and redirected his brain.  Think of this:  Many dogs have the temerity to run from their owners after whatever grabs their  attention…Trainers see this every day.  Recalls are often the weakest link in a dogs training, and many dogs will head to the distant horizon trailed by a human shouting obscenities, or repeated cries of “Stop! Stop! in one language or another.”

That’s why I teach “No” as a general command to stop any activity.  It’s fast, unmistakable to a dogs knowledge, and instinctive to us. It will make a dog correct a small mistake on an agility course, prevent him from running into a busy street full of cars, or keep him from filching your pancakes carelessly left unattended.  The simple word, “No” is not harmful.  It is not a weapon.  It can be a life-saver.  What caring parent ever hesitated to say, or even scream “NO!!!”  at a human child that is headed for the street without caution?  Sadly, it seems that some parents today ARE refusing to say “No” to children so that they don’t “…stunt their self-esteem, or damage their development as free-thinkers…”    We’ve seen the results of this sort of parenting, and we may never come back from the brink of that disaster.

When a soldier in combat is commanded to “Halt” midstride by a less than cordial Platoon Sargent, do you think that he says, “That’s just mean of him.!” ?  I can say without fear of contradiction, No. You understand my point.

If you are of a mind to feel that “No” is a cruel command to teach a dog or a child, I urge you to expand beyond what political correctness or “behavioral science” might try to impress upon you as the “latest” model.  Such discipline is what “Leadership”,  in it’s best form is based upon.  Be Your Dog’s Leader…You owe it to him.

 

“German Shepherd Adventures” was first published on the ubiquitous Facebook.  As my posts became longer, and more photo-centric, I moved into the wonderful world of WordPress.  I love my online home here, and I am ever so thankful that this well-run, and easy to use site exists.  WordPress you are THE BEST!!!

Recently, as Facebook has become more of a mind to make as much cash as possible, or gather as much  information about its users as possible, they are making it more and more difficult to publicize and share my blog there.  At times, I have received messages from FB stating that I am writing SPAM, and will be prevented from posting for as much as 15 days at a time.  I do NOT sell anything on “German Shepherd Adventures”, I do not espouse political or religious views, but rather, I write a very positive blog that most dog lovers seem to enjoy.  Why “German Shepherd Adventures” has suddenly been branded  as SPAM by the FB people is beyond my understanding.  I can no longer depend on them as a conduit to spread information that helps people and their dogs.  It’s apparently okay to spread other “unsavory” sites featuring puking, drunkenness, violence, and foul language, but not stories and information about German Shepherds.  So be it.

That’s why I’d like to invite as many of you as would like to Subscribe to “German Shepherd Adventures” by hitting the “Follow” button at the top of the page.  If you don’t like my posts, you don’t have to do anything.  I suspect that perhaps someone on FB has labeled “GSA” as Spam enough times to make some computer somewhere take this action.  If you don’t want to read something you disagree with, I’ve never forced you to do so.  I’ve survived other attacks on FB over training methods, and perhaps one of those knuckle-draggers has something to do with this.  I don’t know…

So, please, if you enjoy my blog, come on over and subscribe.  I promise you it will be free, and I’ll continue to do my best to entertain, enthuse, inspire, and help you out with every post!   Thanks for your support!!   Robert Vaughan