Monday, November 9, 2009

The Dog Trainer's Dogs.

I know lots of people who will stop me during a lesson and say, "I bet your dogs are soooo good . . ." I smile sheepishly. You know that all depends on your perception. Sure my dogs know all their commands and obey them pretty reliably no matter where we are, among other things . . . but every dog owner defines his own dog's problems.

For one dog owner a dog that jumps on furniture may be the worst dog ever and for another it may be how they watch TV on Sunday nights, together on the couch. A problem isn't a problem unless the owner sees it as such, with the exception of some things (such as dogs who bite and cause harm.)

I just graduated one of my classes on Saturday and took my Jack Russell to the class. When I let him out of his crate to show them what I wanted to use him for he began to use my side as a spring board. One person said, "Oh, your dog jumps?!?!" with awe just not able to fathom that a dog trainer has a jumping bean for a dog! I could hear someone else say, "Well he is a Jack Russell!", followed by a giggle. My answer--yeah he jumps when he's excited and frankly I just don't care. It's not a concern of mine. He doesn't jump obnoxiously on guests as they visit my home and I can stop him mid-jump to request he do another behavior if and when I want him to. So I just don't have it listed as an issue for me. He can retrieve a ball 500 yards away and come back when I call him. I can call him away from another dog and he'll come back immediately, and those things are what matter to me.

Each dog owner has to prioritize what they want their dog to do or not do. And often we have to think outside the box. I remember being at a dog trainer seminar that John Rogerson was speaking at. He's a British dog trainer that is just remarkable. I remember learning a lot of great things from that weekend-long seminar but one of the best things I learned was that you have to think outside the box. So many dog owners want to just get rid of a behavior and often it's much easier to teach another, more desirable behavior instead. It also helps you put a notch on your belt for one thing taught and one behavior gone.

The story John Rogerson told was that of a woman who had a Jack Russell (those terriers are just so spunky!) that would race insanely down the stairs each day when he heard the mailman drop mail through the slot on the door. He'd go to the mail, pick it up and rip it to shreds. Understandably she wanted this to stop. Now oddly enough a few years ago Cesar Millan had almost the exact same case. It was a Wesite and there were no stairs, that was the only difference. Now how each dog trainer approached the situation was completely different and I like John Rogerson's approach far better than Cesar's.

John Rogerson's Protocol: Teach the dog to go downstairs with you and sit and wait while you sift thru the mail. Each piece of junk mail you get, or any you would be tossing, give to the dog to rip up. End result: the dog learns to sit patiently until he gets his own mail to shred and is still happy as a pig in mud! The dog looked forward to this mail-reading-time with his owner each morning and so learned to be calm until it was "his turn". Five stars from me * * * * *

Cesar Millan's Protocol: Each time the dog goes for the mail jerk the leash and teach him no. Or was it give the two fingers in the side? I don't remember I just know it was just correcting the behavior and you had to stand there and do it over and over. End result: I'd love to know. I bet that woman still battles grabbing the mail before the dog gets it because the dog didn't get the bad behavior replaced with one that is more appropriate and/or one that is rewarding to the dog! One star from me *

So you may see my dog jump, you may see my dog on a couch, even on my bed . . . but the bottom line is that those aren't issues to me. There really are only certain situations where dogs shouldn't be allowed on furniture. It's false that it gives them more "dominance" or makes them think they are above you. Now if you have a dog that bares teeth when you try to move them off of a place (any place) then yes, you have to revoke furniture privileges but again, only certain situations call for this, and protocols are specific (if this applies to your dog seek a professional's help.)

All dogs can learn. All problems can be solved (99% of the time) it's just a matter of what you want to
do to fix it and if you'll do it. Patience & consistency = good dog training just like good diet & exercise = weight loss & healthy person. It's just a matter of us being able to do it . . . and it is even hard for me to do it!

With that note I want to leave you with this video of proof of what consistency, dedication and patience can do. In this video two of my students in our "Beyond Basics" group class did this as their "show-off moment" at graduation. They could do anything they want
ed to do to show off their dog. It was hilarious. You can't see them in the video but there were little signs they put in the ground and the first said "Start" and was green, the 2nd was yellow and in front of the hoops and it said, "Avoidance or Acceptance". I said, "So what's that about?" She says, "Well she'll either go thru or around it!" The 3rd said, "Tunnel ahead" and the last one said "Stop". It was entirely too cute! Keep in mind this is not what was taught in class (it was an intermediate obedience class) so they did this all on their own!

The class also had many other wonderful doggie tricks to show off--two dogs learned to "Leave it" for a treat that sat right on the top of their front paws (Dooley the Goldendoodle and Bruno the Great Dane puppy). Then Harry the Cavalier sat pretty and Neville the Golden Retriever gave a high five.

And then another couple of students did a little show for us too that I got on video. Rita and her Border Collie Bernice and Beth and her Weenie dog, Scrappers, both did this cute little number. Now you must know that Bernice did not like Scrappers so they were clever and had each sit in their "home base" while the other performed. I thought it was brilliant!

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