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Dog Training: Leading, Not Pushing, The Dog's Mind
( Originally Published 1943 )
The master must study and observe his dog and take advantage of the dog's likes and inclinations and turn them toward the doing of the tricks. Each dog presents his own different case and the master must adapt the instruction to the dog's way and peculiarities. The dog that follows upright on hind legs for a morsel, is an apt pupil for teaching the acts of standing up and waltz walking.
One must acquaint himself early with the idiosyncrasies, peculiarities, and tendencies of his own dog; then he must humor the dog in these matters. A whim of the dog must be indulged in if it is one which may lead on to a desirable end such as the performance of a trick.
Not all dogs have the mental qualities to make them well trained dogs. They differ in their abilities as do humans. But likely eighty percent of all dogs can be trained successfully. The dull dog can be detected in the same way as the dull child.
The dog that shows much life and barks readily is the most apt pupil. The quiet sulking dog usually is the one that learns slowly and is inclined to rebel. It is more difficult to draw something out of his kind voluntarily. The vivacious dog lends himself more readily to suggestion; he is more aggressive and positive. The dog that lifts its ears or rolls its eyes rather than turns its entire head or body, when something incites its attention, usually proves the more apt pupil.
To introduce a dog to a new situation, ,when he proves reluctant and should not, do not be insistent upon his performance. Too much entreaty arouses suspicion. Pay little attention and he will accept the situation of his own accord in short time, out of curiosity. Even an accusing stare at a puppy may confuse him so that if he is retrieving, he will drop the object.
The first time one of my dogs heard the radio, he leaped up and ran hastily out of the room. The next time he heard it, a man's voice was speaking and the dog rushed into the room intent upon barking at the intruder. He quickly observed that "the scare box" was producing the sound and he ran away again.
I called him: he stood still. I squatted to my knees and called him: this method seldom fails: and he came. I patted him but in an instant he ran away.
I called him the second time but he would not come: I could not permit him to disobey even once my command to come. Therefore. I stood up and walked away, then he came to me.
However, he still ran from the "scare box", which spoke without a human to be seen. Than I sat by the radio reading a book, paying not the least attention to him. I observed him from time to time out of the comer of my eye.
He realized his unreasonable fear, yet he would not permit. himself to apologize openly. He whined, walked around in circles, sat down with outstretched front legs as tho to play with me, but 1 gave no attention.
Gradually he approached near; at last he poked me with his nose and tried to get my sympathy and forgiveness, but I would not heed him. Finally he went to the box, smelled at it, leaped away, came back, smelled again. and then he had conquered. He wagged his tail, yawned, nudged me with his nose, wanted to play, but he really wanted to say that he knew all the time it was a radio and that he had been just pretending.
I patted him on the head, he lay by my side, and soon was asleep. Always thereafter. the radio gave him no concern, even bored him at times. for which attitude I had no criticism.
To train the dog is not to place something new into his mind but to draw out of his mind all the possibilities within it. Consequently to draw out is done best thru voluntary response rather than compulsion under fear of punishment.
The failure to lead rather than push the dog's mind is evident at times in dogs which have gone thru formal courses of training. There has been a hurry to push them to the completion of the courses in obedience, com panionship, field work and so forth. At times the owner receives back a timid nervous dog. Any trainer who is persistent can make a dog perform the acts commanded but the dog goes thru the acts like an automaton. When your dog comes back from the professional trainer, be sure to get a list of commands used by the trainer so that the transition from trainer to yourself will not be broken in the dog's mind.
Inquire also of the method of giving commands by voice, whistle, motion or the like. Inquire what equipment was used. Continue the same methods and same equipment to get the best results out of your investment in having your dog trained.
The teaching of tricks can be done without cruelty. It is true that many dogs find enjoyment in performing tricks which require more or less difficult unnatural action. But the normal activities of a dog such as retrieving, jumping, barking on command, are taught on the pedagogical method of encouraging the dog to do intensely and specifically something which he does ordinarily by nature. The dog barks a natural act; to have him "speak" upon command is only an adaption of the natural act.
The dog suggests to the observing trainer most of the acts which should be taught to him. Natural acting talents of the dog are to be observed and developed. The least suggestion of some natural trait of the dog is instantly seized upon by the wide-awake trainer and "drawn out" of the dog until it is performed upon command as modified and developed by the trainer. One dog may have a tendency to rub his nose with his paw. This trait can be developed until on the command "tickle your nose," the dog will rub his muzzle with his paw.
Training the dog is education rather than teaching. It is "pulling out of" (as the Latin derivation states) rather than "putting into."
It is surprising how rapidly a dog can be taught to do a certain thing if he shows the least natural inclination to per arm the act. We taught one of our dogs, a bit sluggish by nature, to detect and identify the sound of a certain automobile born. Each evening the sounding of the horn announced to us indoors that we were to come out and go for a ride.
At first. when the dog heard the loud sounding, we spoke somewhat excitedlyWhat's that? Automobilel" In a short time the dog heard the horn before we did and showed the greatest eagerness to be up and going.
We owned a dog that had never had opportunity to be a vermin killer. He had gotten on to the age of seven years at the time we decided that we needed a ratter and would be compelled to get another dog.
However, we gave him a tryout in a rat-infested cellar. At first he showed little interest. On the second day, when he caught sight of a rat going into its hole, he became more interested. Within a few days we hardly could keep him out of the cellar and now he is an At ratter. The instinct to locate and hunt hidden game had always been within him but had never been developed or brot forth.
The dog's mind must be led; this cannot be done if the dog does not respect the teacher. To cuddle a dog, to "baby" it, to permit it to have its own way is to lose command over the dog so that the dog does not respond and does not permit his mind to be influenced and led by the master.
The trainer must be fearless, must pretend indifference and must make himself a kind and understanding despot over his dog. A weakening on his part results in disobedience.
There is a kindness in the teaching of dogs which is wrongly termed kindness-it is weakness of mind on the part of the teacher, which the dog takes advantage of quickly. There can be no respect on the part of the dog when he has his own way and is coddled excessively. Our belief is that "baby talk" disgusts the dog.
Training the dog is a far wider field than teaching tricks to the dog. Tricks form an interesting but a minor part in the developing of the dog's mind. The usefulness of the dog is increased by general training rather than by teaching of tricks. It is well to have every dog perform some tricks which are interesting and novel but the training of the dog and the developing of his mind must not be limited to tricks.
Our basic principle of dog pedagogy that the dog's mind is to be coaxed out rather than pushed out, to be led out rather than forced out is evident in the improvement some dogs make in their responses and in their training when placed under different environment. A dog considered dumb and inapt at home, if it is placed in another home where there are sympathetic companions and trainers, may respond readily and become an alert, intelligent, well trained dog.