Thursday, July 16, 2009

What I DO Believe

The last few posts I feel like Negative Nelly. "I hate this," "This dude's a douche," etc. So what DOES themacinator believe about dog training? (And don't worry other readers... I know, back to my vast reading population!... I will get back to other topics soon. Got a good graff review coming up.)

Here is one trainer I really like: Suzanne Clothier of Flying Dog Press. Here's one of her awesome articles on collars/training tools: are they training tools or restraining devices? She asks trainers and dog owners to take themselves past the leash into "Relationship Based Training." I love this. I've read Excel-Erated Learning by Pamela Reid, and I get the learning theory concepts, but for the life of me, I can't explain them or remember the grid of learning theory. (Don't ask- read the book or ask a smarter dog trainer.) But I can remember that training and working with a dog is about relationship. I've popped a dog. My dog wears a prong collar sometimes now, and did for about 5 years. But when we're working together (or even existing), what I believe in is working together. You'll have to login to read her definition of RBT, but it's free, fast and worth it.

I also believe in setting your dog up for success. This means management and knowing your dog. Obviously the dog I know best is Mac so he's good for examples. Mac is an 8 y/o pit (mix?) with unknown heritage and about 7 years with me. I try to set Mac up for success at all times. Sure, I fail him sometimes, and we've failed- he's failed, but I blame myself. I know my dog (see part 2 of above statement), but generally, we do pretty well. Sometimes people call me paranoid, and it's true, my management borders on paranoia, but I want my dog to be a winner in the Game of Life. The cards are stacked against pit bulls, and Mac is not the most stellar pit bull- All Dawg's Chidrens Got Issues- so I want people to see Mac in the best light possible.

I'll start with the obvious. Mac does not go to dog parks. I don't think dogparks are great, and they're especially not great for dogs who don't love other dogs. Here's my favorite article ever about dog parks, by Trish King. My second management tool is the leash. I do use it as a restraining tool. I really think that dogs should be on leash when out of their (fenced) yard. Not everyone likes dogs. Not all dogs like dogs. It's a safety tool. Mac hates cats. If I let him walk next to me off leash, he probably wouldn't go very far. He's kind of like my shadow. But if he saw a cat, I'm just not cool enough. And if there was a naughty dog, sorry, Charlie. Another example of managing my dog and setting my dog up for success is a simple confinement technique: When I'm gone, Mac stays in my room. Yes, all day. Yes, I know, this is cruel and unusual punishment, bordering on torture. However, this keeps him from a variety of things. Obviously, Mac is a dog. He loves the trash. I can't keep him from eating out of the trash if I'm not there to monitor him. What a yummy and disgusting learned behavior he would develop if I let him roam the house while I was gone. Secondly, Mac doesn't bark. I love this about him. I have a noise sensitivity to barking dogs. Probably because I deal with them All Day Long at the shelter. When I get home, I love having a dog who doesn't bark at the door. When Mac is in my room, at the back of the house, he can't see people passing by. He can't even really hear them. He doesn't get a chance to learn barrier frustration and that barking "works" to make people go away. I set us both up for success. Mac takes very long naps. If I break my routine and come home early, sometimes he looks at me in disdain. I have disturbed his slumber.

I know my dog. I know he is a little more iffy at night/twilight. I avoid walking him then, though I do training walks then to boost his confidence, but only when I feel up to it. If I'm just going through the motions, it's not a good time. I know Mac doesn't do that great with small children (gasp! a responsible pit bull owner with a pit bull who doesn't love kids!). When I take him to the park, I make sure it's a Big People park. These are things that come with relationship: I pay attention to what Mac tells me, and I work with him. Then I set him up for success. I have expectations of him. When I ask him to do something I think he can handle, and he doesn't, I reevaluate what I'm asking (unless I'm really in a bad mood. themacinator is human). I love my dog. I am obsessed with my dog. Everyone knows that. But he's a dog, and I believe I have a fair approach with him. Maybe if I keep it up, he'll live forever. That's reasonable, right?

For your trouble, a recent picture of Mac, courtesy of Pfyeh.


oaklandasdays said...

This isn't baseball related (obviously), but we love this picture.