Charlie, my rat terrier, is putting modern day dog trainers to shame.
Shame on you! Thump. Bad trainer! Go lay down! Click, click. Good down! Have a cookie!
I am experimenting on poor Brockle. Not really. Oh, I'm experimenting all right, but simply in how to clean up our communication. When I see the light go on in his eyes, I know I've got it and I keep that method. If I find an even better one, I keep that on. So I don't really mean, "poor" Brockle, because, if anything, he is becoming multi-lingual.
A few days ago I was experimenting with playing tug-of-war. I already knew it was a dominance game dogs like to play with each other and their owners. I knew it simulated play over a carcass. I also understood the importance of making the dog begin and end the game on my say so.
I had outlawed the game in the house. Jim's balance is precarious and mine can be, depending on the day, so my house has become a quiet zone. No running, jumping, game playing and so forth. Quiet, gentle behavior only, with plenty of ear scratches and back rubs. The same rules apply to the dogs.
Back to tug-of-war...I had read that for everything we teach a dog they need to also learn a counter maneuver. So if I teach sit, I need to teach stand. If I teach "Quiet" I need to teach "Speak." It occurred to me, it would be wise for me to have a command for "Give," since Brockle has a high prey drive and a lightening fast reaction to protect his group. I don't quite have a handle on either of these reactions yet. I might, at some point, want to say "Give" so he'll drop the Chihuahua or mailman.
So I decided we would play tug-of-war in the backyard. I would initiate the game and make him release and quit at my request. Brockle thought this was a great idea. He had no intention of following through on my "We're done!" command though. He slitted his eyes, probably to keep the sun out of his very enlarged pupils, and dug in.
I was going to try something new, which according to my reading, was a much more effective way to train my dog. I held on to the toy, not giving an inch, but not pulling either, stood up straight and looked away.
After a few minutes, it worked.
I said, "Good dog!" and gave him a scratch.
We tried again. I said "Get it!" and the tugging commenced. I said "Give!" stood up, looked away and prepared to wait. Charlie came flying up, slammed all of his 20 muscley pounds into Brockle's shoulder, growled and snapped, and Brockle obediently gave up the toy.
Charlie looked at Brockle with a very clear, "Mind what she says, boy!" and stalked off.
We tried again. I said "Give!' to Brockle, Charlie came flying, hackles up. I said "Off!"to Charlie this time, he skulked away, Brockle argued for a few minutes and then gave up the toy.
This went on for a while, Brockle got to where he was relinquishing the toy within 30 seconds or so, so I released him from our session and started to head towards the house.
I turned at the door to watch Brockle play. He was flipping the tug-of-war toy in Charlie's face. Charlie ignored him for a bit, finally got a weary, aggrieved look in his eye, stood up and grabbed it.
This should be good. Brockle is roughly three times Charlie's size.
The second Charlie felt a tug, he looked Brockle in the eye, growled once, and Brockle IMMEDIATELY dropped the toy.
That's the response I want. Dang it.
Charlie did not say "Good boy!" either. He walked around with the toy, stiff legged and hackles up, for a few seconds then dropped the toy and lay down next to it, with a meaningful glare at Brockle. Brockle looked sad, bounced around and looked cute, then gave up and left.
So yes, I'll keep reading, but I'm going to start paying a lot more attention to Charlie.
Some of my observations so far:
Dogs will lay down dogs to make a point.
Horses do not lay down horses to make their point.
The same people who cry "Animal abuse!" when a trainer lays down a dog, are the first in line at a Ken McNabb clinic to teach their horses to lay down, "because it creates a calm, cooperative state."
My house has become very calm, very peaceful and very under control since Brockle came. I'm treating them as a group, or a pack, if you will, with me as their leader. Can't tell you if I'm calm, assertive or benevolent. They're learning the same rules Brockle is. They back off and sit when someone comes to the door.
They wait patiently for their meals.
Nobody bothers 9-pound Snocone while she very slowly works through her meals, even though she's the first to be given her food and the last to finish.
All dogs wait at the bottom of the stairs while people go up and at the top while people go down.
All dogs sit quietly to have their leashes put on.
No dog pulls on the leash.
All dogs sit quietly when I take off their leash and wait until I say, "Go play!" to leave.
We don't go for walks, playtime, or eat until all dogs are lying quietly and not staring at me.
I'm not adverse to using treats when what I'm teaching my dogs makes them unsure or nervous. It doesn't make me like treats, I feel like I'm using a crutch to cover up my poor dog handling skills. If I knew what I was doing, they wouldn't get upset. In the meantime, I'll use treats, but I won't be happy until I know why I'm worrying them and stop it.
Dogs feed their puppies. They play with them and tolerate quite a bit of nonsense. They cuddle them.
When the puppies grow up they quit sharing food. They play when it's appropriate, but become much less tolerant. They are still affectionate, but it's much more subtle. Status is made clear before affection happens.
I want my puppies to be puppies and my dogs to be dogs, so I'm going to think about this for a while.
I've got some fun concepts forming, and dog stories building, in the mean time, I'll get back to Tally.