Monday, October 17, 2005

Chapter Two: The Culture Clash

Chapter Two: Hard Wiring discusses just what the chapter title indicates - the behaviors dogs come with. The focus is on educating humans about the predisposition of the predatory nature of all dogs. Specifically, Donaldson points to two behaviors -- dogs are highly social beings who establish strong bonds with others (dogs and humans alike) and -- dogs are predatory beings whose mission is to search, chase, grab & hold, dissect, and chew. With these two dispositions I can concur. All three of my dogs are highly social with either humans or other dogs -- each one has its own limitations of socialability. And having watched my three terrorize a few stuffed animals in their time, I can say that the predatory gene is alive and well.

Donaldson goes to great lengths to explain and describe retrieving behavior -- what it is; its historical relevance for dogs, how to train for proper retrieving, and how to rehabilitate a hesitant retriever. While all three of my dogs play the retrieve game, Neo is the one who loves the game best. Through this chapter I have learned how to make his presentation better and tips on encouraging both girls to enjoy the game more.

What I found most interesting in the chapter was the section on pack theory. Donaldson clearly dismisses this as a theory of the past that should be long forgotten. She asserts that when a dog misbehaves, fails to execute a command, or plays too roughly with other dogs/humans, that these are issues of under training, not issues of dominance, stubbornness, boredom, or laziness. She discusses the criteria for judging whether a dog has 'learned' a behavior - truly learned it through repetition and true testing (in and out of distracting environments). I must admit that I have fallen for the stubbornness trap -- thinking that my three just don't want to obey my commands. But when revisiting the issue I believe that I have not fully trained them - I have not focused on ensuring they understand the command fully, that they have sufficient motivation/reward for obeying, and that the command is "proofed" in any and all circumstances.This is an area that I will be focusing on for the next few months!!

Chapter Two also discusses ear pinching as a method of training. Donaldson feels that it is a cruel and ineffectual method often implored by uneducated trainers. It seems like abuse to me!! Enough said on that!!Among the other topics, Donaldson talks at length about the Tug of War game. She describes the benefits, the controversy over its use, and the proper way to train a dog to play the game. As this is one of Neo and Pru's favorite games, I found the game rules and procedures section particularly helpful. I was not aware that dogs have such precision over the use of their mouths - now that I do, I'll be expecting more from all three!!

Other topics covered concern chewing, organized dog sports, separation anxiety, and alone training. Each of these topics is lightly covered as the book has full chapters dedicated to each issue.So, for now I plan to focus on training - full training that can be 'proofed.' More to come - I'm already on Chapter Three and very much enjoying it!!