Canine Nation on Pet Life Radio (PetLifeRadio.com)
Summary: Canine Nation - A Positively Scientific Look At Dogs and Dog Behavior Canine Nation is about discovery. It’s about getting to what is TRUE about dogs and discarding the myth and lore of living and working with dogs. It’s about challenging what we think we know and asking the dogs to tell us what’s real. It’s about giving science, scientific method, and collected data more credibility than hearsay, anecdotes, and the assertions of self-proclaimed dog 'experts.' Canine Nation started as a way to explore the common issues and ideas about dogs and dog training through short, informative essays. The podcast presents these ideas from the personal experiences of dog owners and the creative solutions they have found in behavioral science and positive training methods. Canine Nation brings the worlds of science and dog ownership together to help promote understanding and satisfying relationships between dogs and their people. Join us for a different look at dogs and our lives with them as we explore the fact and fiction behind the behavior and workings of the canine mind.
We used to call it a 'command' when we wanted our dog to offer us a behavior. I find the parallel with issuing commands to computers very interesting. Do we have unreasonable expectations about our dogs and our training with them? Do we expect unquestioning obedience and compliance from our dogs just the same way we expect our computers and other appliances are supposed to just work? Dogs are not something we can program. They are beings that we need to TEACH!
Some of us are shapers, some of us are prompters, some of us even use lures. No matter how you train, it’s important to show your dog the ropes so they know what to expect when it comes to training time. If your dog needs help, be sure to provide it. If your dog needs time to explore and try things, be sure to let that happen. It’s not about how you train, but how well you do it with your dog!
Dogs can end up in shelters for lots of reasons, some bad, some awful, and some that couldn’t be avoided. Shelter workers have incredibly difficult jobs. They take in and care for these dogs, not knowing what is in their past or what their future may hold. And they care. That may be the hardest part of all. Caring for these dogs is no easy task but I am grateful that dog training professionals are starting to help out shelter workers with new tools and techniques. Anything we can do to make their jobs easier, I say. I’m so thankful they are out there.
Is my dog 'over threshold?' Is she 'under threshold?' Is that good? Is that bad? Do I even know what I’m looking for? Knowing how your dog is responding to their surroundings can play a key role in whether they are learning, whether they are enjoying themselves, or want to get the heck out of there! If we aren’t paying attention to our dog’s thresholds, are we asking them to put up with more than we should? I think that’s a question we should all be thinking about.
Training our dogs is like a game of charades. We’re just trying to get them to do the thing we’re trying to teach them. But who wins and who loses? Well, since we’re the ones running the game, I guess we get to decide. How often does your dog win? How often do they lose? Do they know the difference? You bet they do! Dogs who feel like 'winners' are more likely to want to work with you. No one likes losing, after all.
Sometimes all of the hashing and rehashing of this theory or approach or concept just starts to irritate me. What happened to working with the dogs to see if it works or not? We can speculate and pontificate all day long but if our dog’s behavior says it isn’t true, then that’s what it is. Shouldn’t we be sharing what we KNOW about our dogs rather than what we THINK we know?
Coming to a new understanding of dogs and dog training was a conversion of sorts for me. It has been an interesting journey. I went from skeptic to student to evangelist before finding a way to put it all in perspective. It can be too easy to try to right the big wrongs and fight the good fight; especially with all of the online forums out there. Now I focus on being a better trainer by finding what is right instead of what is wrong in the dog world.
People are people and dogs are dogs. Sometimes people can 'clever' themselves right past their dogs while training and then get frustrated when the dog doesn’t 'get it.' Maybe if we learn to keep it simple, we can learn to build amazing things with our dogs - like behaviors and relationships. We might even learn a thing or two about ourselves.
Wouldn’t you love a perfectly trained dog? I thought so too. Then I did a little reading about 'perfect' dogs. The ones who are instantly compliant and never do anything unexpected. My dogs aren’t machines provided for my amusement and required to immediately attend to my every command. My dogs are, well, imperfect dogs. Dogs who sometimes do the things dogs do even when I want them to do what I want. And that kind of intelligent imperfection seems to be perfect for me and my dogs.
Humans are reasoning creatures. We have a tremendous capacity to reason out how things work from the barest of facts. But when it comes to dogs, perhaps we need to take care in how we reason. Observation is often a useful companion for reason. Dogs are not what we think they are. They are what they are. And that is for us to discover and learn.
We’re back from our 2 week road trip with our dogs! It’s always fun but it takes a bit of extra planning to make sure the physical and mental needs of our dogs are met while we our on the road. Thinking ahead and bring the things you need is part of it, but taking time to involve our dogs in our daily activities makes it fun for them and more fun for us!
We enjoy traveling. Many times, we travel off to dog events like Dog Agility Trials. Leaving our dogs behind when we travel is just not an option for us. So even before we ever leave home, we are already teaching our dogs the skills they need to be happy and comfortable travelers. You might be surprised at just how much you can do to get your dog used to the various sights, sounds, surfaces, and situations that travel requires without ever leaving your home town!
I talk quite a bit about dogs and science in my articles. But other than reading about it in books, it can be difficult to find real research and science on canine cognition, biology, genetics, or behavior. I was fortunate to attend a conference recently with some of the leading scientists researching dogs. To say it was amazing would be a huge understatement. It’s incredible to see the things we are just now learning about dogs!
We have all kinds of signals for our dogs. Most common are 'that’s wrong' or 'that’s right.' But do we have other signals for our dogs? There are some we might not even realize we are giving them. They know when it’s time for a walk or when we are preparing dinner. Maybe they even know when we’re not paying attention to them. If we teach our dogs the signals we would like them to know, think of the possibilities!
Our dogs are going to make mistakes when we train. And we have a choice to make about how we respond to those errors. The fastest way to get the behavior we want might also discourage our dog from wanting to learn anything else with us. How we tell our dogs they didn’t get it right matters. With a little help from marine mammal trainers, there is an interesting way to get our dogs back on track without interrupting the flow of learning. The Least Reinforcing Stimulus or LRS can be just the thing to make the occasional error a non-event and keep your dog eager to learn what you are trying to teach!