Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When Pigs Fly! by Jane Killion

Ok, so you might be thinking that you have the most impossible to train dog, or you might just be at a loss as to how you should even start training.  Lets start at the beginning.  You have a dog right, or you are at least looking to get one and you are trying to be prepared.  Well I highly recommend you read through this book.  Most of the time while I was reading it I found myself thinking, "this is exactly what I would have written if I wrote a book on dog training!"  So it's no surprise that it gets 4 paws up!

I love the perspective and insight into the dog's mind that she gives.  Something that most people take for granted, is that your dog is always thinking, just not about the same things you are. Here is one example 
"You are the primate with the big brain and the opposable thumbs, you have a lot on your mind.  You have to get ready for work, you have to make your children's lunch, you have to mow your lawn, ......Darn! you forgot to buy milk again!  Your dog, on the other hand, has a much clearer agenda-his life is about equally divided into sleeping and getting you  to do what he wants.  You may not see this at first, but if you take a long view you will see that your dog probably has done a really great job of training you while you were thinking about other stuff.
Let's say you are moving about your house, busy doing things.  Suddenly, you become aware that your dog has your best underwear in his mouth and he is brandishing it with great relish.  You run after him, take the item away from  him and scold him.  Your dog is thinking something along the lines of. "score! Now I know how to get her attention!" Your dog has trained you to run after him and give him a fun game of chase.  Say instead that you are out for a walk and you ask your dog to sit. He ignores you.  You ask again, he ignores you again and looks away.  You say "Look-look-look-watch-watch-watch" and your dog maybe turns an ear in your direction.  Finally, you produce a cookie out of your pocket and put in front of his nose to lure him into a sit.  The bubble above your dog's head reads, "Success! I have trained her to produce cookies for the simplest of behaviors!" I never need to pay attention, because I know I don't have to do anything unless that reward is present."
 Now I don't want you thinking that you never need to use rewards for your dog by reading this excerpt, she is very big on using the clicker, which translates to your dog as "a treat is coming", however without the clicker this could very easily become what your dog is thinking.
Another of her great mottos is this:
  "When it comes to dogs, there are no "good" or "bad" behaviors. There are only "behaviors" and the dog is born thinking they are all equal." 
Later on she goes on to say:
"Finding time to train your dog.  You do have the time to train your dog.  Whether you realize it or not, you already are spending a lot of time training your dog.  Every minute you are with our dog you are training him.  Your everyday interactions with him are the most powerful training tools you have.  Your dog depends entirely on your for all of his needs.  If he wants to eat, you feed him.  If he wants to go outside, you open the door.  If he wants to come out of his create, you let him out.  If he wants his toy, you get it out and throw it for him.  Every time your dog wants something, that something can be a reinforcer for something that you want him to do.  ..... If you do things for your dog without asking him to do something for you, you have trained him to not work to get what he wants.  You have trained him that he is free to ignore you until you signal that you will be gratifying one of his desires.  If you ask him for a behavior in exchange for doing things for him, you have trained him to work for you to get what the wants.  You have trained him that he had better pay attention to you because you never know when a reinforcement opportunity might arise."
Now this book was written for those who have what she calls "Pigs can fly dogs" not so much the "biddable" dogs.  I can speak from plenty of experience that the Bull Terriers that she has on the cover and throughout the book are extremely stubborn and have quite the mind of their own.  Most of your Terrier breeds, Hound dogs, and Spitz breeds are going to be your typical hard to train dogs. However I have an Aussie (Australian Shepherd) right now, and although they are known as a very easy dog to train (which she really is, and makes me look really good most of the time) I found that this book was quite applicable to those dogs as well because she speaks the truth and is very easy to follow.
She gives clear easy to follow instructions and explains why she is doing things the way she does (which someone like me really digs!)  
Have you been hearing about this clicker training (if you have read any of my other posts you should have by now) and the term "jackpoting".  She walks you through how to do it all, so even if you don't have a typical "hard to train" dog, if you don't really feel confident in training your lab or other "biddable" breed of dog, this book will make you feel like you can teach your dog to fly!
(by the way it is available at the Orem Public Library)

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