Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I see the light

Odin did a trick performance to the  Disney song "Friend like me" 

Passage from "Bones Would Rain from the Sky" by Suzanne Clothier
I need look no further than a dog's eyes to find the precise moment when my connection to that dog shifted away from clear and free agreement between us. Did my approach to the dog create resistance, fear,  distrust or pain, dimming the clear trusting light in his eyes? Then I had to find a better way. I began to evaluate all methods, philosophies, and techniques, against this simple standard: the light in a dog's eyes."

This book is highly acclaimed by one of my heroes, Jane Goodall.  I recommend it my whole heart. It will  open your eyes to how a dog thinks.

I am so happy to do my part in the world to help make that light shine and not tear it down.
Dogs can do amazing things that need to celebrated without force.
In this book, Suzanne describes a seminar where she took an action such as 'sit in a chair' and asks students to describe it to another student using a word that is a fruit. You cannot perform the action yourself, you are only allowed to use the word. No matter how enthusiastically you say that word it doesn't mean your partner is going to understand what you're talking about.
I believe this can really open your eyes to how your dog can perceive the first time you introduce a behavior. No matter how many times you say, "sit" it does not mean that that word has any meaning until you find a kind way to communicate. Classmates don't appreciate you screaming, "orange" as you grab their arm and set them in a chair in frustration.
My partner Paula and I, help our clients at Dog Blessed LLC train some dogs how to share their wonderful knowledge and gifts. We  have been helping to show them how to pick up items, and other useful behaviors to become service dogs.
We also have been teaching some dogs to track a young boy who is autistic and has been known to run away often.
I cannot tell you how much working with these dogs in a positive manner makes our hearts happy.
Paula shares the same ethics with dogs that I do. It makes us happy to see the bond grow as these clients work with their dogs and to see the joy in the dogs when they realize what is being asked. Dogs give us this gift and ask for nothing in return (well maybe a couple of treats).
Not all methods enhance relationships, many years ago I experienced a teacher use a shock collar over and over and over again, trying to get the dog to pick up an item. I left the class in tears.
Suzanne also uses a very appropriate analogy about you can get someone to to do what you want by waving cash in front of their face. You could also get them to do it by waving a gun in front of their face. The results would be the same, but personally I would choose the positive method. To see that light in a dog's eyes is what I strive for!
 My dog Odin and two of Paula's dogs recently received their Trick Dog Performance Titles. When we were doing videos together of our dog's accomplishments, we just had fun and if we made a mistake we just try it again and laugh about it. I can honestly say I had a great time. I believe our dogs did too. If you watch these videos you can see the joy in their eyes:
Pepper's trick performance was done  to song "Little Red Wagon"

When dogs 'WANT' to do what we're asking of them, it's because we are not forcing them. Every trick you see we shaped into something fun and we practiced with joy, not dread of the practice.
Every night before dinner Odin and I practice tricks, rally, dancing, finding an article of mine that I hide for him or whatever we're in the mood for. You should see him bounce like a puppy at 13 years of age when it's dinner fun time. I see his light!

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