A Dog’s Eye View: Adopted by Martians
July 18, 2013
• Association of Pet Dog Trainers: http://www.apdt.com
• Ian Dunbar, Ph.D.: http://www.dogstardaily.com as well as books and DVDs including “Before you Get Your Puppy” and “After You Get Your Puppy”
• Sophia Yin, The Art and Science of Animal Behavior: http://www.drsophiayin.com as well as books “Perfect Puppy in Seven Days” and “How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves”
• Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.: “The Other End of the Leash, Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs” and “The Puppy Primer” with Brenda Scidmore
Steamboat Springs — Have you ever considered what it might feel like to be taken to a place where no one speaks your language or understands your culture yet expects you to conduct yourself by an unspoken set of rules?
In the movie "Platoon," a new young soldier has been sent to join a group of men he does not know. In a letter to his grandmother, he writes, "Hell is the impossibility of reason. You don't know what to do. They don't tell you what to do. They just yell at you."
It struck me that this is the position in which we put dogs when we bring them into our homes without first learning about dog behavior, language and the principles of learning. Fortunately, there's help in the form of books, DVDs, classes and trainers, who like nothing more than to impart this knowledge to prospective dog owners.
In an ideal world, we all would prepare ourselves in advance of bringing a dog into our home. I compare this to a young couple expecting its first child. You might find the couple's bookshelves full of the most current information available on bringing up children because the pair is seeking the knowledge to get this young child off to a good start.
Usually, I get calls from pet owners when things start to go wrong or they realize that they just need some help. Any time is a good time to seek knowledge. Always strive to be proactive rather than reactive.
I attended a course last fall with psychology professor Dr. Susan Friedman about the effectiveness of humane teaching. I learned it is helpful to redesign the animal's environment so the right behavior is easier and more reinforcing.
Another way Friedman expressed this is "to empower pets to behave effectively by providing environments enriched with opportunities to think, to act, to solve problems and effect outcomes."
The stakes are somewhat different for the new soldier and the new dog. For the soldier, it's about life rather than death and an ultimate goal of freedom. For us and our dog, it's about education and learning together as well as not repeating past mistakes that could have deadly consequences.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 25 years of experience.