Monday, December 27, 2010

Kiko continues to do good with heeling and sitting! Except for when she totally forgets that she's heeling and gets caught on an about turn, but it's infrequent, I am especially pleased with her sitting every time we stop before I can place her. I suppose that's to be expected when she's been placed upwards of a hundred times, but gosh I am still amazed every time at how effectively they learn it. Though she is a creature of comfort and those sits aren't quite as relaxed or long on the wet pavement as they are indoors, but who can blame her?

Chewy and I did out of sight sit stays and down stays for the first time today: pretty funny how after only a few moments he thinks: well, she's not here, I'm gonna go hang out on the couch. My house has a good set up for spying on him from around the corner through the reflection on the windows, he held his second stay both times after realizing that just because he can't see me doesn't mean he isn't obligated to hold his stay. He did a lot better on his straight sit in front on his recall, in the past being in the house he has felt more relaxed and has gone around in a finish or gone to sit next to one leg etc. Also recalling off the couch: good dog!

I had Chewy on a stay and I told him "Chewy, free!" and he cocked his head to one side (I'd never given him a free from a sit stay before) and I said it again and he cocked his head to the other side. My heart melted at his work ethic/commitment to the stay, Catfish took every time I said "Okay!" to mean that I was talking to HIM and came bounding over, which is why I changed the command to free, as I have a tendency to say "Okay" in the same tone of voice to people as I do to dogs.

Recently reading about some really awful instances of abuse of prong collars, I forget that most people calling themselves dog trainers don't understand how dogs learn and use prong collars instead of training the dog. It makes me so upset to think about the poor dogs not understanding what they did wrong, and the humans not understanding why the dog doesn't understand what's right and what's wrong. Education! If the trainers and owners knew that the dog wouldn't understand and that it wouldn't solve the problem, I doubt they'd use it. But instead both dog and human are left confused and frustrated at their inability to communicate, often to the severe detriment of the dog. I am reminded of Alex the African Grey, who learned an incredible amount of skills because humans had a greater understanding of how animals learn, and changed their teaching style. It was not that African Greys got smarter; it was that we began to communicate with them more effectively. It's our responsibility to care for our pets, which includes keeping them safe, which means basic manners and obedience for our dogs. They rely on us to teach them what our society expects from them. Kiko has no idea that it's wrong to kill cats. Even with the lunge work we've done, all she knows right now is that when she hard stares at a cat, I turn and walk away, so she's got to pay attention to what I'm doing and not the cat. Eventually I'll teach her that the hard stare is not acceptable. But she has no idea until I tell her in a way that she can understand.

This is what happens when you're sleep deprived, you start waxing poetic over dog training, wishing you were Vicki Hearne.

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