Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Day 13: Ready To Mix

Wouldn't it be great if dogs were like cookie recipes? Combine A, B & C and get D? We would all be the most amazing dog trainers on the face of the earth!

Sadly, it isn't :) Dogs are very complicated, thinking animals that, in order for humans to get the most out of a dog, their training has to be taken as an "artistic journey" rather than a concrete destination.

Before I started herding with my dogs, whenever my dog didn't give me a behavior I wanted, I would think, "He didn't do what I asked..."

Now...I ask "Why DID he do that?" aka the behavior the dog offered. So many times we get stuck in what a dog does or doesn't do, the outcome. When in reality we should be looking at what forces are combining that the dog makes an incorrect decision (incorrect to US, apparently very correct to the dog!).

I was thinking about this last night, I am on a little Internet group that talks all about running contacts. Running contacts are a very artistic type of dog trains up the same way. There are talks about what to do when the dogs does X, and what if they do Y?? That isn't a simple answer. It depends on the dog, the situation, the trainer, their timing, the reward HUGE list of things.

People are used to more concrete things to train, like 2 on 2 off, and weave poles...everyone knows the little tricks to training those things...but with running contacts, many of those things have to be thrown out the window. To ME, it's more in line with herding...smallest change, slightest try (thanks Ray Hunt)...little differences can make a good or bad thing in the end. But you still need to remain clear in your meanings to your dog.

On stock, your dog does something...look at your sheep, and if you can read sheep, you know why they are doing it. Yes I know reading sheep can be tough, but it is possible and it WILL show you why the dog did what they did.

Oh running's a but less obvious, but it is still looking back? Reward FORWARD...things like that. Dog not running fast enough on a full height DW? LOWER IT....You are constantly changing your approach in how to reward, what to reward, how much, etc etc.

Some say NO Manners Minder, some say NO TOYS in the beginning...etc etc. And I say, I have used all of the above when training running contacts...there is NO hard and fast rule...

I think that's why people have issues with them, there are no rules, more like guidelines...I love guidelines :) Many people are more rule oriented. They like recipes :) I like recipes while COOKING, but with dog training, I am SOOO a guidelines type of gal :)

My "guideline" approach can get me in trouble for sure isn't a strength or a weakness, it just is :)

How do YOU approach dog training? Are you more of a rules person, or a guidelines type?


Kristin said...

I love this post and am in complete agreement about the running contacts bit! I am very much a guidelines trainer and am also involved with herding training, so I completely agree with the comparison there as well.

K-Koira said...

This comparison works perfectly for raw feeding as well. Most people start out needing to follow a recipe, then slowly figure out they need to just watch their dog and figure out what needs changing.

Karissa said...

Mmmmm, cookies.....

Sorry, I never got past the first part of your post. ;o) j/k

Rules are for schmucks. In all seriousness, though, you need to do what works for your dog. Dogs are not robots, therefore one method will not work for every dog. Lord knows I've needed to rework my methods for all three of my dogs.

Anonymous said...

I love your analogy of herding training compared to running contacts. There are lots of people that never learn how to visualize what they want and then find a way to communicate to the dog that vision. They are too stuck on the bigger picture and have a difficult time breaking things down. The running contacts breaks the mold in "methodology" as it seems to be a matter of constant change. That is exactly what happens in training herding as it is sometimes difficult for newer trainers to see the issue that needs to be addressed (things are always changing in herding and it's not always easy to redo or reset things up perfectly immediately). I think I'm more of a recipe type person when it comes to handling, but a guideline (or creative) person when it comes to training.

Kim said...

I'm with ya! Guidelines, and room for wiggle, all the way. Love the recipe analogy :) I'm working on a running contact with my new girl, and with all that I've read there was a lot of tweaking I did to make it work for her. You gotta be willing to *tweak* whatever to make it work for you and your dog. Rules are for pansies!