Brockle is doing great on his off-leash recall, to a point. Periodically, he zeroes in on an object (usually another dog) and is off with the speed of light. Most of the time, this happens when our "mental leash" is stretched pretty far. He zooms up to the object, then comes flying back without touching anything or anyone, but he comes almost nose to nose.
What should I do?
So far, I call him once and then go get him. No scolding, just praise when he does come...
Here we go, I'm diving in.
I'm going to let you in on me and Brockle.
To start off, everything is going great. He's an amazing dog. His intelligence is flipping me out. You'll see what I mean in later posts as we wander through my dog training thoughts. He might be (please don't tell Dinah or Charlie) the most interesting and amazing dog I've ever had the privilege of sharing my life with.
I'm going to start with the trainer that raises more hackles than Mr.Parelli pins ears, Cesar Millan.
Why? Well, a couple of reasons. One, I figure we might as well get it over with, and two, because, like I said in a previous post, I get him.
I've been watching videos. Lots of them. Not just our friend Cesar, but all kinds. Positive reinforcement trainers, animal behaviorists, Schutzhund, Field and Herding Dog training. I am all over Treibball.
I've watched well known trainers and not-so-well known trainers. Some of them are good, some great, and some are an absolute joke.
When it comes to Mr. Millan, I not only understand his concepts (red alert here, please note, understand does not mean new guru), I think I have a handle on what he's trying for, and I admire it.
Who I See
His story is well-known. He grew up on a ranch in Mexico. He loved dogs, learned how to handle them from his father and grandfather and had a knack for working with them. Now, I don't think this knack was considered the best way for him to be spending his time. After all, he was called "el perrero," the dirty dog boy, by the other kids in his area. Cesar admits, the name fit. He was fairly grubby and even as a kid, was developing his famous pack walk with several dogs from the ranch.
Today, the attitude about dogs in Mexico is wide ranging and fairly ambivalent, I imagine it was much harsher when Cesar was dinking around with his dogs, figuring out how to make them happy, the best he knew how. For a good idea of how tough it can be to be a dog in Mexico, go here http://mymexicandogs.wordpress.com/. So Cesar was an odd, unconventional kid. He placed a high value on each dog he met.
He wanted to come to America to train dogs. He apprenticed and quit a trainer in Mexico whose harsh training methods upset him. He liked dogs and knew he could get better results with his kinder, gentler approach. Please read the previous sentence twice. He then learned to be groomer, and by the time he was twenty, he headed off to America, the land of Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, and people who loved their dogs.
His first job was as a groomer. He got the tough dogs, because he got them done and they became better behaved through his handling techniques. In order to promote himself, he walked dogs for free. When the owners saw how well behaved their dogs became, they asked him to train them. Then and only then, he started charging, and his career began to take shape.
So far, I see nothing but American ingenuity happening here, like it's supposed to. He came here, he didn't complain, or go on the dole, just worked his ass off in a field he believed in and became successful.
Enter Jada Pinkett and her Rottweilers and his career training dogs for the stars took off.
I can imagine Cesar felt like an American success story and then some. People felt he worked magic with their dogs. He got a TV show. He became rich. He had to feel like he was on the right course, because look what was happening!
Then the hatred started getting heaped on the way he trained dogs. He was called ignorant, uneducated, wrong and cruel. He didn't know what he was doing, couldn't read a dog, didn't understand them in any way and had the arrogance to call himself a Dog Whisperer, promoting dog psychology.
What an impudent snipe! How dare he train dogs differently than the latest, newest, most advanced dog trainers!
He must have been thinking, "What the hell just happened?"
Instead of jumping on a soap box and screaming back, he did, what I consider, a wonderful thing. He began to consult with different trainers about their methods. He wanted to know what he was doing wrong, see what was supposed to be so right and go from there.
When a hue and cry went up about his treatment of a wolf hybrid that attacked him during a walk, he worked with a wolf rescue to learn about the difference between wolves and dogs. Say what? Somebody who not only hears his critics, but then goes to learn where he went wrong! How awful, let's stone the bastard!
He even spent three days with one of his most quoted opponents, Ian Dunbar. He didn't stand back and criticize, instead, he said, "Show me." Then he wrote about it.
He was impressed. He was worried sick Ian wouldn't like his dog, Junior. He let him train him using his methods and was completely relieved when Junior gained Dunbar's approval. At the end of their time together he said, "We may not agree on technique, but we do agree we both want what's best for dogs and their owners."
Still not having any problem here.
What I See
I guess I've been lucky not to have the right education when it comes to dog training, it kept me open minded, much like the first time I saw John Lyons. When I first started watching Cesar's videos I turned off the sound. His machismo irritated me, and I wanted to watch what he was doing, not listen to him.
He works his leash much like I work my reins. Pressure and release. I immediately got it and started playing with it. The way I use my leash cleaned up quickly and became very effective. I don't know if I use it exactly like him, but I do know I didn't beat or strangle my dogs, I didn't have too.
I watched him wait until a wound up dog's excitement faded before he gave praise or continued to the next step. Completely got that one, slowed down my breathing, waited longer than I used to before continuing on, didn't raise my voice or become aggressive in my demeanor and became aware of when and what I was giving praise for.
I did however claim space over doors, food bowls, people and other dogs. I simply summoned up my trainer brain, entered the state of mind I have with horses, and went to work. And work it did, boys and girls. Without touching my dogs in any way, except in praise, I have them greeting people politely, not charging my door when someone knocks, have completely eliminated the small levels of food aggression I had move in with Brockle, and am getting them to focus on me (in the house) with a glance. Damn you Cesar! How dare you teach me to run a calm and people/dog friendly
I played with the pack walk, with four dogs, I've got one, so I decided to try it.
This is what I found.
If my dogs are behind me, we're travelling. They follow me, sometimes playing with each other, sometimes looking around, but I'm telling you, we're going places and they know it. When I let them go in front of me, they go straight into hunting mode. All of them begin casting the ground for scent, quartering the fields in front of me and looking for something to do.
I've been practicing walking them behind, walking them in front, going on the leash and off. The result is, my dogs are all (except Snocone, but she lives on a different planet) watching me to see what's next. It's cool. It's fun. I like it.
All of this has gone a long way towards bringing Brockle under control. He's a teenage boy and has junk from his past, but it's all made sense so far and he's busting his butt to be good.
What I Hear
Eventually, I turned my sound back on. I was curious and wanted to hear what Cesar had to say.
He firmly believes that finding balance with your dog will help you balance yourself in all other aspects of life.
This is exactly the same place I've reached with horses and horse training.
He doesn't talk to his dogs much. I'm not much of a talker either, so I was relieved to see this. If I need to talk I feel like I need to evaluate what I'm teaching. I do however, chat with my dogs, it is simple interaction though, and has nothing to do with training or behavior.
He quotes Gandhi. Not lightly, it's very clear to me he studies and believes. Cesar feels that Gandhi's tenets directly apply to what he's searching for within himself, his dogs and the people and dogs he works for. I believe in his search. His dog died, his wife left him and he tried to commit suicide. This is a man with huge insecurities and fears, who thinks he can find his way through his search for balance with the animals he has devoted his life to.
I get that too.
He's puffed up, arrogant and dominant by nature. It shows in his expectations of his crew, the people he works with and his dogs. Well, duh. C'mon, he's short, he's Latin, he comes from a ranching background, and he's nouveau riche. What else could he be?
The thing is, I'm not Cesar. I don't have his strut and I don't have any money. It doesn't mean I think Exercise, Discipline, Affection doesn't make sense.
When we meet a fat, whiny kid who does nothing but play video games, we're the first to shout, "Get that kid outside and give him some damn rules!" But if the same mantra is preached for our dogs it's cruel and archaic? Say what?
I am 100% behind his "animal, species, breed, name." It makes sooo much sense and helps me remember my dogs are not human.
Okay, I'm going to wrap this up. I have not adopted all of his techniques, because I don't feel the need for them. I have absorbed much of his philosophy. I can't discount his training because it's old-fashioned. As the years have gone by, I've found myself returning often to my old horse training methods, except now they're shaped by the new techniques I've learned over the years. You know why? Just because the technique is old, it doesn't mean it's wrong.
Is he right in everything he does? Not for me. But the guy makes me think, which is the number one way to keep me interested. I've watched his methods change, season by season. He doesn't apologise or explain, he just changes what he does as he learns something new that might work for him.
He uses treats, advocates patience and approves of anybody who works to benefit their dog. He's still finding the time to learn.
I just can't hate the guy.