dark in the back yard, nearing 10 o’clock, and all hell has broken loose. During the day, the house next to mine is
used as a preschool and filled with the sounds of children playing. At night, it is vacant, an empty highway to
the wetlands beyond the alley. Now, from
behind the board fence comes a horrible hissing growl that sounds like it
belongs to a 10-ft. Nile crocodile.
Tinker finds the knot hole in the fence and inhales the smell, then
erupts into a frenzy of her own.
Oh boy. In
the last part, I talked about the two flavors of Strategic Following: Following because someone has greater
expertise, and Following because someone has control of desired resources. And I sort of left us in a pickle: taking advantage of Juvenile Following can be
time sensitive and often requires a relationship; getting mileage out of the
first flavor of Strategic Following typically requires that the interests be
mutual or compatible and that we actually have some expertise to offer.
The second kind of Following, what I’m calling
Strategic Following, is in many ways the most complex and nuanced. I’m not blindly obeying Mum because it’s a habit
I formed when I was tiny or I’m utterly dependent on her for survival. I’m not being forced to follow by threats,
pain or fear. I’m Following because, in
some way or another, it serves my best interests.
Calling this “Strategic” Following is probably a
mistake on my part, implying that the animal is making calculated decisions and
In Part 2, I asserted that if we really want to
understand howLeadingworks, we
might do better to look at it from the extremely important but often
over-lookedotherside of the coin:Following. And it turns out thatFollowing—the nature of Following and why we follow—is pretty
If we judge by media attention paid—to celebrities,
movies stars, gold medal winners in you name it—clearly being the “Alpha” is
the best position, the Apex of power and appeal, and of course all dogs and us
would want to be Top Dogs.
In this part, I said I was going to explore the
other kind ofleading—the kind that
we really do want to use to reach success with our dogs—and… well, whoops, I
lied. That’ll be in Part 3.. or maybe
Part 4. Because before I go there,
there’s some of that murky bathwater that I’d like to clear up first. It saturates Pop Culture notions of dog
behavior and dog training to the point that it’s like trying to swim in soggy,
heavy clothes—it just drags us (and our dogs) down.
Here’s the sound bite version: Dogs descended from wolves.
Though I myself think that living in the Social
Media/Information Age has its benefits, there are also some downsides. For one thing, the danged buttons seem to be
getting smaller the older I get. For
another, some deeply philosophical and complex topics—y’know, stuff like
science, art, politics—are now discussed in snappy sound bites,
slogans and one-minute news segments. These
days, it seems that an idea that can be sold in a line of text on an itty-bitty
cell phone is going to get more “air time” than the truth, the facts or
reality—the bits that are a little too complicated for a quick read.
In this first part of this blog, I talked a little
aboutanimaltrainers vs. strictly
dog trainers. Now I’m going to turn to
the academics: the people with formal academic backgrounds in science—the
Ph.D.s, vet behaviorists and others officially and rigorously qualified to call
themselvesbehavioristsby virtue of
membership in a formal behavior society.
As with the animal trainers, I want to make clear—there are fools, braggarts
and nutters that manage to insert themselves into high places, advanced degrees
and all; anyone who has been to college has encountered at least one professor whose
only apparent virtue was tenure.
I’m joking, of course, but you might not know it if
you don’t know me. Those of you who do
know me know that I’m kind of a geek—I like science, I like research, I like to
study and I spend a fairly ridiculous amount of time on continuing education
and professional development. One of the
greatest resources we dog trainerly types have is a little company called Tawzer
Dog Videos. The fine folks at Tawzer
travel all over the country videotaping seminars on dog training and behavior.
As the Behavior Program Coordinator at the Siskiyou Humane Society, it's been my privilege over the years to meet many very fine young people, and be a mentor for some of them. I remember (would I could forget) myself as a teenager, a troubled bundle of awkwardness, lack of confidence, desire to fit in and passion to become my own person. I remember those few adults who took the time to give me something of themselves, who listened to me, who I felt "understood" me, and how valuable they were in my life.
Oh, it's so good to be back! As many of you know, last summer a detached retina put me on somewhat limited training duty. Four eye surgeries later, my vision is a working sensory array again, and I'm super excited to be getting ready for the new training season. I'm also stoked to be able to offer a brand-new course that I think everyone will enjoy and benefit from: You vs. the Volcano: Reaching Behavior Success with Your High Energy Dog(more on that in a moment.