It’s a beautiful, cold clear day in Mt. Shasta, and I’ve been
thinking. (I do that sometimes.) Here’s my thought for the day:
When it comes to struggles, whether in dog training
or “real life,” there’s a difference between sayingIt can’t be donevs.I can’t
do itvs.I don’t know HOW.
There are things that truly can’t be done: I can’t teach Tinker to fly like a bird (she
doesn’t have wings) and I can’t fly like a bird myself without the aid of
Imagine this—my favorite
analogy: we decide we’re going to take
up ballet dancing and we go to the studio for our first lesson. When we walk in the door, how long does it
take us to figure out Who’s the Boss?
For most of us, it’ll take about 30 seconds to recognize that Madam Tutu
is the dance instructor, and since she’s highly acclaimed and looks fabulous in
her leotard, we’ll be brimming with Respect for her. Hooray, it took us 30-60 seconds to arrive at
Leadership and Respect.
In the first part of this blog, we
ended with wondering where oh where do pet owners come up with a notion of
“respect,” a word they normally don’t use when discussing dog behavior
concerns. And in my experience, the
choice of words isn’t theirs at all.
Almost always, it turns out that they
were just talking to an old school dog trainer they met. Or neighbor who is a dog “expert.” Or they read a book or saw something on
TV. It comes from somewhere other than
their own direct experience with their dog, and now they’re worried about
there really isn’t any nice way to say it.
The chances are extremely good that—oh, no, it’s true! Your dog has no respect for you at all. If it’s any consolation, I’m fairly persuaded
my dog Tinker hasn’t got a shred of respect for me--zero, zip, none. My cats almost certainly don’t, at least not
in any way that I can tell. I can’t be
entirely positive, of course, but I’d lay good money on it. Depending, of course, on what we mean byrespect.
I Google the word, this is the sort of definition that pops up (heavily edited
you are walking down the street, minding your own business and enjoying a
leisurely stroll in peace and quiet.
Around the corner comes a parent walking their small (or not so small)
child by the hand. Suddenly, the child
breaks free and comes rushing at you, waving a knife and yelling, “&^%#*
you, go away! %$#@&! Get away, you %$#&*@!” The parent shrugs, smiling as he or she says,
“Oh, don’t worry, he doesn’t mean it. He
just does that at first, he’ll calm down.
the first part of this blog topic, I talked about how stress can impact both
our performance and that of our dogs—with an underlying point in mind. And that point was: expecting better performances from our dogs
thanwecould achieve with comparable
training under similar circumstances is expecting way too much.
are outstanding at beingdogs,
certainly: Tinker is aces at chewing bones, chasing raccoons and sniffing
poo. If the performances we wanted from
our dogs were entirely up their natural alleys, we’d all have obedience
admit it: I am a Behavior Geek. My idea
of a wildly exciting night is curling up with my cats, my dog, a glass of warm
milk and a DVD of the latest dog training seminar from some brilliant expert in
the field. These wonderful seminars and
amazing experts keep me fresh, learning, in touch with all the cutting edge
stuff. They also make me think. About dogs, dog training and us. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about
handy (and rather old)New World
Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition
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