Does your dog think? To some it may seem their dogs only think of how to get in trouble!
I keep jokingly saying of Magnus, “Why did I teach this dog to think?”
He is not afraid to try anything! He is on top of, under, over, inside, outside, around and all over everything. Apparently teaching him he doesn’t have to be afraid and is capable of anything really just taught him there is nothing off limits to him.
Kitchen table? “What Crazymomlady? I figured out how to get up here, why shouldn’t I do it?”
Bathtub? “Oh you don’t want me to get in the shower while you’re in there? Why not?”
Under the couch? “What do you mean I don’t fit under there anymore? I can just dig a hole in the floor and then I’ll fit!”
You get the idea. This boy has decided he has a brain and he knows how to use it. Well, at least he’s learning how to use it. I hope.
I may find it trying to keep up with this little guy, but most of the time I just love to watch him figure things out. I know he can learn what’s a good choice and what isn’t, we are just in the period of his life where he’s figuring it all out. We’re in the, “manage what I don’t want while he learns to choose what I do want” phase.
It’s actually my favorite thing about clicker training. Every time you mark a behavior you teach a dog what behavior is beneficial for him. You teach him to think, to be discerning and make a choice.
While this is one of my favorite things about positive reinforcement, I know it’s the least favorite thing of more traditional trainers. Today I was looking at a site for a dog training school and the criticism was made that clicker trainers leave the dog to figure things out for themselves, creating stress for the dog.
So thinking is a bad thing?
I don’t get it! This statement was made in the context of using a shock collar to “explain” to the dog that he had no choice.
Now I don’t want to get into a big debate about shock collars. I don’t choose to use that method on my dogs and wouldn’t suggest it for someone else, but while we’re on the subject of choice, I respect that is their choice.
But this statement really bothers me. I mean what’s wrong with thinking anymore?
For me teaching my dogs to make choices that makes them peaceful, productive members of a predominantly human community is inspiring. It’s exciting and joyful. It’s fun and thrilling.
For me to force my dog to make the choice I want, especially by methods that cause pain, is taking choice out of the matter completely. Obey me or be caused pain, is not a choice.
So I ask again, “What’s wrong with thinking?”
I’m afraid as a society we are becoming too non-thinking. We see examples of it everyday and I’ve probably been guilty of it myself, the attitude of “my way or the highway.” I might have what’s the best way for me, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way for my neighbor, my friends, the stranger reading this, or even for my dogs.
Maizey has been instrumental in teaching me this. My “way” of training was not good for her. I started out using methods I was familiar with at that time and looking back I used some methods I would not use again. She clearly let me know, “This doesn’t work for me. This is not the inforamtion I need to know how to chose what you want.” She let me know it, by never choosing the choice I was trying to explain to her. She showed me I had to look elsewhere, learn more, and most of all think more.
She keeps showing me an amazing ability to figure out how to choose what I feel is a better choice, she shows me a willingness to choose that when it’s in her ability to do so. She shows me she knows how to think, and it’s not stressful for her.
Today brought me a new 4legged lesson:
A thinking dog is a beautiful thing. When my pups use their brains to make choices that benefit our community, that too it’s a beautiful thing. When they make choices that aren’t beneficial I know I need to give them more information to be able to make a better choice.
Sue Ailsby says her training philosophy is, “A philosophy which asks that I do no harm. That I listen to the trainee and respect her opinions. I discovered that listening, respecting, and doing no harm is an AMAZING training philosophy, and an even better training method. When you listen to a dog, the dog listens back!”
I agree and subscribe to that philosophy whole heartedly. It’s my determination to listen to my dogs, give them the information they need to make beneficial choices, to “do no harm”, and always enjoy my thinking 4legged friends!