Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Are You Still Hauling that Sled...

... Whilst Everyone Around You Is Using Wheels?

I come across statements like this so often, so I thought I would bring this up for discussion here.

"I've been training this way for 40 years and it works"

"I've trained all breeds this way and never had a problem"

If we don't take a look around us, with a truly open mind, there's a damn good chance that we are still hauling that heavy load on a sled through the dirt, whilst all around us, other people are zooming by on their wheels.

There is no doubt that using old school methods that involve punishment and are based in the flawed concept of 'pack theory' can give results, they can appear to work.

But at what cost, at what risk, and even if you have by some lucky chance, gotten by without having a dog ever redirect onto a handler when subjected to a harsh correction, or develop a fear of a rattle bottle... what if there IS a better way.

What if all this time you've been doing it the hard way, the miserable way, the way that is not actually fun for all concerned.

Because it CAN be fun, in fact, it should be fun - we have dogs for our amusement, whether you get your kicks from competitive dog sports or just from housing a hairy freeloader who eats you out of house and home, we have them for fun!

The fabulous comedian Tim Minchin said this:

Be Hard On Your Opinions
A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.
We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. "


He hits the nail on the head - if you, in your opinion, have been doing something for a long time, thinking a certain way for years - its important that you take those ideas, practices and beliefs and really examine them. Put yourself in someone elses shoes and look at those ideas from another angle.

Today I heard this:

" Never place yourself in littermate status, do not sleep with your pup..."

The persons point being that if you do this, your pup will treat you as an equal and therefore not respect you.

I can see how someone might think thats reasonable, but lets examine that further. To treat you as another puppy, a pup would have to be completely unable to tell one species from another.

And yet we know that dogs can tell the difference between a variety of species and not only that, they can learn to behave differently around them!

If this were not something dogs are capable of doing then how does this person explain the working lurcher who knows that the rat is prey, but the ferret is not, the rabbit is prey but the sheep is not....

Lets go one step further, what about the pup who has learned that the cat can be a cosy bed companion, but he cannot play with the cat as he would play with another dog. Or the Deerhound who plays with other dogs by leaping in the air and pouncing on them (and she can leap 6 foot!) but would not attempt to do this with a person (yes this is my dog, guess where she sleeps - yep, in my bed!)...

But what else is this person missing - by insisting you do not sleep with your dog (either in the bed or in the same room) she is insisting that you miss out on some of the very companionship you were looking for when you got a dog. For entirely fictional reasons...

She is also insisting that you subject your puppy to sleeping alone in another room before they are housetrained over night, and before they are confident in their new home - which sets this pup up for anxiety and distress from day one.

And all of this due to an opinion she has formed, without really examining it or thinking about it.

Further more, when you investigate this idea deeper, you find people who believe this are also believers of pack theory... and yet if you examine any social group of canines, where do the young sleep?
With the adults. In a big heap.

So the whole thing falls apart, because now we see that the pack theory doesn't actually make sense - if we were to do what packs of wolves do with their young, then we would all sleep in a pile somewhere, and we would let our puppies crawl over us at meal times, allowing them to snatch the choicest bits from our mouths - hell we would come home from a meal out and regurgitate that steak and chips for them...

Which demonstrates just how ridiculous this stuff really is!

I do understand that if something appears to work, and you have thought a certain way for a long time, it is hard to let go of certain beliefs and practices. That is the nature of humans really, and I am no different - there are things I have had to open up to, (clicker training was one a while back now, Ttouch is another!) and things I have had to let go of (boy how I struggled with the idea of teaching a recall ON lead!)..

So - next time you find yourself thinking 'but I've always done it this way' or 'but that works for me' - play devils advocate and see if you can find the holes in your opinion, see if you can find your blind spots and open up to learning something new.

It really won't hurt!

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