Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What is honesty? Defining an honest dog.

In my post last week "Defining Biddability" I promised a future post defining honesty in relation to performance dogs. These concepts are not limited to agility dogs - biddability, honesty and drive are universal: obedience, field, tracking, herding, ratting (you know - in the holes with the terriers) and on the couch watching football.

Let's go back to The Free Dictionary for a definition:
hon·es·ty (n-st)
n. pl. hon·es·ties
1. The quality or condition of being honest; integrity.
2. Truthfulness; sincerity: in all honesty.

And now the thesaurus entry:
Noun1.honesty - the quality of being honest
righteousness - adhering to moral principles
scrupulousness - conformity to high standards of ethics or excellence
integrity - moral soundness; "he expects to find in us the common honesty and integrity of men of business"; "they admired his scrupulous professional integrity"
incorruptionincorruptness - characterized by integrity or probity
incorruptibility - the incapability of being corrupted
candidnesscandourforthrightnessfranknessdirectnesscandor - the quality of being honest and straightforward in attitude and speech
good faithstraightness - having honest intentions; "he acted in good faith"; "doubt was expressed as to the good faith of the immigrants"
truthfulness - the quality of being truthful

Teller likes liver.....
How do we use "honesty" in relation to our dogs? I believe that the key here is the second line - truthfulness and sincerity. Acting in good faith. An honest dog comes out and gives you the same effort every time you work him - whatever he finds motivating he is consistent and dependable. These dogs are also truthful in their performances - holes in training or bad handling (both of which I am occasionally guilty of) are exposed when our dogs do exactly what we tell them to do - even when it's not what we want.

How about that tunnel/dogwalk discrimination? Our verbal cue was "tunnel" but every non-verbal cue was SCREAMING dogwalk. The honest dog will take the dogwalk.

Keeping them honest. A few weeks ago I overheard a conversation. Handler A was contemplating entering a match that allowed handlers to bring toys into the ring (but no food). Handler A's dog didn't like toys so the handler was planning to bring an empty bait-bag into the ring as a "toy", so her dog would think that she had food. Handler B said "Don't lie to your dog". What a brilliant observation. Genius.  Simple - but truthful. If we get into the pattern of tricking or deceiving our dogs, what is their incentive to be truthful with us?

A perpetually honest dog has an honest handler - his handler takes responsibility for their handling mistakes too. I set up a super-tough handling sequence in class the other day that pushed handlers beyond their normal comfort zones - the point was to work handling not so much the dogs - When the dogs did what their handlers told them to do (but not what they may have wanted them to do) they got paid - when the handler got their lines and the correct obstacle the team partied...

I am incredibly lucky to have under my roof one of the most honest dogs that has ever walked the face of the earth. Consistent, dependable and truthful - every moment of the day. But...I've been honest with him his entire life (oh, the things we do differently with our second performance dog!) - I've never made a promise: food, play, attention, toy, etc that I haven't delivered. I don't lure as a training method and I don't bribe to change performance...


Anonymous said...

Very nice post!

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it