Friday, February 06, 2009

Dog training - who do I believe?

You would have to be either a first time reader or very forgetful not to know that I have recently acquired a dog. I have learned a lot since becoming her owner. She has learned a lot since becoming my dog. Not all of what I have learned has been enjoyable. Not all of what she has learned has been my choice.

I would like to take her for obedience training, to make sure that she and I are learning the right things. The trouble is, the dog training people are telling me such conflicting stories, I don't know who to believe. One lot say that you have to teach your dog to see you as pack leader. The other lot say that your dog shouldn't see you as part of the pack at all, but as a human. One lot say that when you walk with your dog, you must hold its head up high so that it can't sniff everything. But dogs do sniff. Why is that a bad thing? That same lot says holding the dogs head up makes it feel proud, like in a dog show. But maybe dogs in shows are doing what people think makes them look good rather than what dogs think looks good. After all, dogs roll in the most unspeakable things and, having done so, seem rather pleased with themselves.

At the first obedience school we went to, a German Shepherd barked rather fiercely at my dog. One of the trainers grabbed him fore and aft, flung him onto his back and shouted profanities into his face. If she had done that to my dog, I'd have been likely to bite her myself! The second woman we spoke to said all this 'dominance' stuff is nonsense. She spoke calmly to my dog and rewarded her when she responded. I liked her.

Then we started watching Cesar Milan, the genius dog-whisperer chap. He seems to support everything the first lot said. And he certainly achieves an unprecedented level of obedience in the delinquent dogs he works with.

My dog is not delinquent. She is pretty obedient and seems happy. But that is likely to change as the various members of the family adopt the methodologies that make sense to them:

  • I like Happy Dogs' approach
  • My older son will do anything Cesar Milan advises - even if the behavioural problem being addressed is not applicable to our dog
  • My younger son thinks as long as she's happy, why bother with anyone's approach? But he's the first to complain when she gets a bit rough and uses her teeth on him in play
  • Because my husband's long working day means he doesn't spend that much time with her, she does not mind him at all. This annoys him and he communicates that to her. He needs the intervention of an expert to help him build a more mutually rewarding relationship with her.
Jessie, poor girl, needs a consistent message. So we need to pick one and stick with it.

But whose?

A long time ago, in my early days of blogging, I attracted some criticism by saying you need to pick your expert on a topic. It's in cases like this that I maintain that one message is needed.

1 comment:

Steve Newson said...

As you've only recently acquired the dog I think you've already got the answer you need for now... give the dog a consistent message and stick with it. You need to teach a small number of groundrules and stick with it. For example; either the beds are off limits or they are not. If they are then everyone has to enforce it. Mixed messages about the beds will drive everyone, including the dog, nuts. Same with a small number of commands... sit, down and come are probably the most important. Train these commands but when she ignores them you MUST make the dog obey; not with punishment but you must be firm. Always reward when the dog gets it right to start with. Cesar Milan is wonderful but remember he works with difficult animals. You haven't yet identified your dog as being in that category. I do, however, agree with his message that the humans have to get it right or the dog never will.