Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When Pigs Fly

Despite the fact Gatsby is a miniature schnauzer and they are supposed to be "highly trainable" and "not as terrier as terriers," he cannot read and does not know these things. So, I struggle. I try a thing that works with normal dogs, like border collies. Gatsby does not do whatever the border collie did, and I throw up my hands and go play Mafia Wars on Facebook.

Pigs Fly is for dogs that didn't read the directions.

I know "what" I'm supposed to do. I know "why" it's supposed to work. I do not know "how" to make it work for my dog.

Hands down the biggest struggle I have with Gatsby is keeping his attention. How is a human supposed to stack up against all the STUFF in the world? About a quarter of the book is dedicated to answering that question.

The first fifteen pages are a pep talk. Your dog isn't one of those biddable breeds, just sitting around waiting for input. No! Your's is a problem solver! He has an agenda! This is Good!

The first couple of "real" chapters are an introduction to clicker training. Nothing I haven't read before, but interesting in that it's a little more in depth and science-y than most intro to clicking pieces. It also includes an excellent section on shaping.

The second quarter of the book is the most valuable part, I think. "Teaching Attention as a Behavior" and "Using Your Dog's Natural Behaviors to Train Him" are particularly useful. It's the "How." How to get your dog's attention outside, then let him go sniff as a reward. How to apply the Premack Principle. How to make your dog watching you self-rewarding. And it does this with bull terriers, a decidedly un-Border Collie breed. And acronyms. It really dovetails nicely with Control Unleashed because both are ultimately about changing your dog's emotional reaction to things.

The last half of the book is on teaching basic behaviors and solving problematic ones. I haven't read that far yet. From my skimming of it, it doesn't seem to offer as much new information as the rest of the book.

I would recommend this book to any one having trouble motivating their dog. If your dog loves working for you because you are you, it might be worth checking out of the library for some of the exercises, but a lot of the problem solving isn't going to apply because you don't have the problems that are being solved.

Later this week (probably Friday when I have to work allllllll daaaaaay): Three-Fold Winter Break Training Plan, or, In the name of all that is sacred why the @#$% do I live in Wisconsin

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