The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

6 Reasons Why You're Scared

Spottie's not scared in this picture, but he might look like this if he was

No...not you, as in the ubiquitous you. I mean you as in the dogs. I have no earthly idea why you're scared and would not have insight for you if I did. If you're scared, you're on your own from this blog.

My dogs react differently to different stimuli. Some are afraid of loud noises, some of human emotion. I've had dogs that were afraid of jumping into the truck, walking past 6lb lap-dog, Dexter, my horse, my friends, my sheep for heaven's sake. I've even had a dog that seemed afraid of almost everything.

And then there's those rare few that don't seem to be fazed by anything life throws at them. I like those dogs a lot, but they are few and far between in my experience, there has to be a bit o' luck involved in getting one, and you really have to know what you're doing, or get some good help, to leave it whole.

What about the 5 reasons dogs are scared? Guess what! They are all brought to you by humans.

1. Mechanical contrivances. Shock collars for instance will chill a dog's self-confidence faster than any other method I can think of. They're not fair. They do not give a dog even the slightest chance to right his wrong. Dog makes a mistake, dog becomes torn apart by fear. Give 'em a chance. Everyone learns at their own pace, and some take longer than others. More importantly, some are trained by humans who are better/smarter/more talented trainers than others. Never underestimate your own utter lack of talent on the training field.

2. Timing. Have you ever corrected a dog a scant second after he self-corrected thereby rendering your command and subsequent correction a lie? too. Make this mistake too often, however, and you'll have a dog that has no idea what you want, and is afraid to give it to you. Observe and give your dog, especially your young dog, a chance to be right. Observe closely and wait a sec'.

3. Too much too soon. Go ahead and move that nursery dog up! Hell, she knows how to shed, right? Send them too far too fast. Pit them against difficult sheep, get good and mad when they screw up, demand they drive before they're ready, and by all means, (this one's my personal favorite,) work 'em on cattle. "The dog must always win" is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite handlers, Mr. Tommy Wilson. Well, if you're working your dog over it's head, winning sometimes looks like savage gripping by a dog doing all it can with its' only natural ability, because you rushed past a chance to instill confident skill. Write this down: Not all dogs are cut out to be nursery dogs. Not all nursery dogs are cut out to run in open, and it's OK.

4. Too little too late. Have you ever run your vacuum repeatedly over something that it fails to get, then picked it up and checked it out before throwing it back down to run over with the vacuum some more? too. It's the vacuum's job, right? Many, many times I have watched handlers stand by and watch a dog struggle to accomplish a task while doing absolutely nothing to help. It's a Border Collie for heaven's sakes! It should KNOW HOW by golly. OK, but unless you've actually taught them, they've actually learned how and become adept at it, it's OK to move your feet, and go help. It's more than OK, it's necessary to keep them becoming forever unable out of fear. Not only did they "lose," in their attempt, but YOU got mad at them for trying!

5. Genetics. If there's something about a dog that you don't like, please, please don't breed it! Absolutely adoring your dog, warts and all, is wonderful, but not an acceptable reason for breeding it. A gorgeous outrun, coupled with courage, athleticism, good temperment, stamina, intelligence, clean flanks and willingness are GREAT reasons to breed a dog. You will not get all of these attributes in the offspring of 2 dogs that have a few of each.  Don't breed a dog that's scared to a dog that's not and expect the pups to all be braver than the cowardly parent.  Genetics does not allow for blending. You get 1 or the other.

6. Physical abuse. I have known of so-called trainers who believe you can get more from a dog that's scared than one whos' not. I disagree and if you ever take your dog to a trainer who hits it, chokes it, slams it on the ground, or talks about having done such things to any dog, stow your wallet, use your cell phone and run, don't walk away. Use your cell phone to call Animal Control who likely won't do anything for lack of evidence, but if they get enough complaints about an individual, maybe, just maybe... If I got hit, punched, kicked or thrown to the ground, I'd be scared too. And, while I might do out of fear exactly what you wanted, I would never trust you, so you would never, ever get my full measure.

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