I really am still here, though! We’ve just been busy at work.
Lizzie has been spending a lot of time locked up, and she’s BORED. So we’ve been doing some trick training. She’s learned ‘spin’ (and ‘rinse!’ which means to spin the other direction. :P), and we’re working on wave and roll over.
I posted over on Dogstar Academy about what I *don’t* like about clicker training, so I guess now it’s time to rave about what I *do* like. I like how it engages dogs, especially dogs who get bored with a lot of repetition. And I think it’s a really, really powerful tool for behavior modification, especially when it comes to conditioning. There’s some research (I don’t have a citation but I will try and figure out where I read this) that suggests that the click- as a short, sharp noise- is just the type that is easy to condition a critter- human or canine-‘s neurological response to, so that you can actually CREATE a positive feeling (increased neurotransmitter production) to that sound- an emotional response, not just a learned ‘food’s on the way’ reaction. (I would see if it worked in people, but alas, I am not food motivated, nor particularly toy driven, so I would be very hard to clicker train.)
I love how shaping games make my dogs think. Not all dogs like freeshaping- Mal doesn’t care for it. Kaylee hasn’t figured it out yet. But Wings ADORED it and Lizzie thinks it’s a pretty cool game, too- you can just about hear the little wheels turning in her head.
Lizzie is in season, as of yesterday. She’s 6 months and 4 weeks old. (Why is it the dogs you want to spay after their first season wait FOREVER to come in, and the ones you plan to keep intact seem to plan things so they can have the maximum number of seasons possible?) So no park, no class, and no walks on our main walking trail till the end of May. Oh well- we may be able to arrange a couple of playsessions with a friend and her (female) Eskie pup, and she can still play (some) with Indy, at least till she is further in (Indy sired a litter in 2004 and unlike Mal, KNOWS what that enticing smell is.) She was supposed to have a (leashed) playdate this afternoon with J’s eskie puppy and a corgi friend Biscuit (male, but only 3 months old)- but between the icky weather and her being in season, I’m not sure we’re going to manage it.
I was planning to take Mal to an obedience match today, but he hasn’t eaten well since Friday and is turning down cheese even here at home, which is his lowest-distraction environment (usually). So I’m going to wait and see- Novice isn’t till noon, and we can go and just do a PreNovice run (no heel free, SFE onleash.)
I’ve created a new blog, Dogstar Academy, for non-spitz and general dog content, so this will be the last update on Mal.
I have to apologize for neglecting this blog recently and for the lack of Lizzie-specific content. Truthfully, I’ve been pretty stressed out over this MSN thing (see previous entry) and my imminent move or lack thereof- I’m currently house-hunting and the most recent house fell through. With the US economy currently playing Limbo, there should, in theory, be lots of stuff on the market, but my perfect house hasn’t shown up yet, and I’m getting antsy about waiting too much longer. Still.. gotta keep writing! 😛
These aren’t necessarily training books- or not mostly training books- but are books that changed the way I think about dogs- and are books that make me appreciate my dogs and our relationships more.
- The Other End of the Leash – Patricia McConnell
Patricia McConnell’s books are all good, but this was the first one I read, and to be honest, I can’t remember anything specific enough about it right now to tell you what exactly I loved. (It’s blended together in my head with “For the Love Of Dogs” and a variety of other books.) My copy has been out on permanant loan to various friends and relatives for about 18 months, so please pardon me for not doing a more detailed review.
- Bones Would Rain From The Sky – Suzanne Clothier
Suzanne Clothier has said in an article that her #1 training tool- the one she could choose if she could have only one ‘thing’ to train her dogs with, is a good relationship with her dogs. This book talks almost not at all about training- but vrey much about how we relate to our dogs- and how they relate to us.
- Lads Before The Wind – Karen Pryor
This book isn’t about dogs at all- I think the only mention of dog training in it is that Karen Pryor had previously titled a Weim in obedience and that and her experience with horses was her only previous animal training experience. LBTW is about dolphins, and how Karen and the other employees of Sea Life Park in Hawaii developed a practical usage of operant conditioning from technical recommendations given by academics in the early 1970s that they used with dolphins and other park animals. I think this book is out of print- I borrowed it from a friend- but it’s worth a read if you can find it. The history is fascinating, largely because, from a perspective of 25 years on, we can see the foundations of a shift in thinking that really has revolutionized dog training.
- For The Love Of A Dog – Patricia McConnell
I put off reading this book for a long time – I wasn’t really interested in emotions in dogs, because behaviorism (as a training model) insists so completely that we must only look at the objective and never assign emotional motives to dogs. Yet every dog owner patently knows that their dog feels frustration, fear, and joy- it’s hard to ascribe the absolutely GLEEFUL zoomies that dogs get occasionally any other way, and hard, as somoene hwo loves my pets, to believe even for a second that apparent ’emotions’ are sheerly randomly firing neurons and cunningly crafted imitations of something that is defined so strongly as being specific to humans- or at best, primates. This book talks about that dichotomy, the science behind emotions, and the emotions our dogs evoke in us. In a lot of ways, it’s a very similar book to “Bones” from a slightly different perspective.
- Remembering To Breathe (and sequel “OTCH Dreams”) – Willard Bailey
As a novice in the dog world, I adored “Remembering to Breathe”. The ups and downs of Honeybear and Willard’s career in the world of competitive obedience is something that anyone who has ever participated in a team sport- with or without a canine partner- can appreciate. One review of this book that is quoted on the cover calls this “The love story between a man and his dog,” and it is- but even beyond that, this book is something special. “OTCH Dreams” is not quite as riveting (Kleenex alert for the first section, though, which is entitled “The Last Days of Honeybear”) but is still a great read. Competition obedience is, at it’s heart, about having an incredible bond with your dog as teammates- and I think this book really excels at explaining that aspect of the sport. These are the books I loan out to people who want to know what this competitive obedience stuff is all about.
Today was the Dallas City Council meeting where a group of local show dog folks went to speak out against this mandatory spay/neuter law and the very expensive breeder permitting ($500/intact dog per year, whether or not it’s bred, a statement by the animal services director that he won’t allow breeder permits to be given to people in residentially zoned areas since they are ‘a business’ and a wide variety of onerous and privacy-invading rules that have less to do with actual animal welfare and more to do with making life as inconvenient for breeders as possible). We had two speakers, a lady who breeds and shows (she never said what breed) and then a doctor who is active in performance sports. Both were articulate, well-informed, and did a good job of making their cases to the city council, one focusing mainly on how responsible breeders should be part of the solution, not part of the problem and that many of us are active in rescue but will stop under the new rules because of the proposed pet limit (a combination of 6 dogs/cats total, which isn’t terribly onerous, but isn’t great, either); the other focused on the negative aspects of the 4-month age for spay/neuter required in the law.
Is this law going to pass? I don’t know. Texas Kennel Club, our local all-breed club, has hired a lawyer and she is putting together some alternative proposals, but she didn’t attend today’s meeting and the proposas haven’t been released yet. Hopefully they’ll be effective ones. We have another meeting to attend on Monday with the city’s Quality of Life commission, and there’s an organizational meeting on Saturday at Top Dog.
I made spiffy buttons and stickers and took some to the meeting this morning- gave out most of my 48 stickers that I took. If you are interested, the designs can be seen at DogsVote, on Cafepress.