Sunday, July 24, 2011

Corrections

Things continue to go smoothly as Kipling is more and more integrated into the daily routine of the pack. He's consistently holding his business, asking to go out when he needs to - and when he's outside he's dependable enough to do what he needs to do before he flits off into puppy games (some of which are known only Kipling I'm afraid).
Pretty typical play session in this parts. 

Teller continues to enjoy playing with him - occasionally looking a little put-out when puppy antics become annoying. There do seem to be very few things that Teller will issue corrections for (to date a grand total of three). The first was Kipling jumping on Teller's head while Teller was rolling. Not cool dude. There was a very clear warning and then, when that warning was not heeded there was a very quick burst of motion and noise from Teller, a cowed Kipling (who was SHOCKED) and then the two immediately resumed play. That was about three weeks ago and still when Teller (or Murphy) rolls in the grass Kipling might put his head down to figure out what they're rolling in, he might join in the rolling - but he will not put feet on a rolling dog. Murphy's earlier correction to interrupting a grass roll was to kick Kipling squarely in the head - which was also pretty effective.

Kiping has gotten increasingly bold about putting his feet on the two boys. Teller's response has been the freeze and the eye which has been met with limited success.  Murphy goes into avoidance and generally goes where the puppy is not when Kipling is getting physical (sort of pawning him on Teller I guess). I've done some redirecting of the behavior - taking Kipling's collar and holding him for a few seconds before releasing him again (and repeat). This has been pretty successful, but Kipling is not getting the message that paws on other dogs is a universal offense.

Last week during a play session, Kipling bit Teller's ear - HARD. Enough so that Teller actually wimpered a little at the contact. Teller stopped play - gave Kipling the stare and resumed play. Not 10 seconds later, Kipling was at the same ear with those damn puppy teeth and Teller was not giving a second (truth be told probably a tenth) warning. A similar maneuver - lots of noise and open mouth contact to Kipling's shoulder. Effective correction once again - I've observed no further tug of wars with ears and teeth.

Today, Kipling combined paws on Teller's back with biting his tail - that was the straw for Teller. In one motion Teller spun and had Kipling on his back. Less than 5 seconds later it was done and the two were off running in the yard again. It was so quick and perfectly to the point. Message was received. To be determined if the message will have to be delivered again, or if like the pouncing mid-roll lesson the point has been received.

Also today, Kipling who was in a down-stay waiting to be released for his breakfast went to Teller's bowl instead of his own when released. In that instance, there was no correction from Teller. Kipling was retrieved by collar, led over to his original placement,  put back (a verbal "Kipling, down, wait") into a down stay briefly and was released and directed to his own bowl.

I trust Teller completely in his decisions to correct or not correct. Teller has been absolutely phenomenal with his patience, his puppy appropriate play and his social cues about what is and isn't acceptable in their interaction. I'm in awe of dogs' (all dogs) ability to wordlessly communicate with each other so succinctly - truly in awe. It still stops my breath for a moment as the instruction happens - but that's part of life as a puppy.


As effective dog-to-dog communication is (or can be) I continually cringe when I see trainers like Cesar Milan taking dog communication concepts and twisting them back into human interaction with canines. In dog language alpha rolls happen - and they're done. The motion, the meaning and the implementation is smooth. When a human handler alpha-rolls a dog it's generally nothing more than a really good opportunity to get bitten by the dog. Think about it. Cesar Milan - 200lb moderately tall man has to bend, grab scruff or collar, pickup, flip and pin a dog for his 'alpha roll'. It takes much less time to string a dog up by the neck and hang them - which is probably why that tends to be his defacto standard in training. Back to Ceasar's alpha roll example, in the dog to dog communication timeline the lesson would have been complete by the time the human has reacted to whatever he has decided to correct and has bent towards the dog. Humans are just not fast enough or clever enough!

So what are we to do? Here's the thing - my dogs are smart, but I'm smarter. I've got higher reasoning skills and thumbs - This gives me the power to use intellect over cruelty in my training methods. Also worth mentioning in my parlance 'correction' means 'to fix' - it does not mean a physical or abusive maneuver". I do use the word correction reasonably often in my language, make no mistake my usage is 'to fix'. If I issue a physical correction the extent of it is taking the collar and either waiting the dog out of whatever behavior they're into at the moment (mouthing/teeth on me is one that usually gets a collar restriction) or leading the dog away or to someplace else.

Applied consistently corrections (dog to dog AND human to dog) should be fair and the dog should ALWAYS understand WHY the correction was issued - meaning timing is really crucial. It does no good if Teller corrects Kipling for the mounting/biting behavior two minutes after the infraction occured. Some dogs do seem to do this and that's what I would classify as an unfair correction. My Kasei was that kind of dog - poorly socialized and of questionable temperament and breeding (despite having one of the most popular golden sires of the last 25 years), Kasei would often issue corrections and then several or many moments later would issue a follow-up correction for the earlier infraction. This left the corrected dog confused and wary. The mistake was made, amends were made and BAM! there's another correction.

Back to today - and one of the reasons I'm so thankful for my well socialized and sweet intact male, I have no doubt that Kipling understood that climbing on Teller's back was what caused today's correction. The correction was fair, quick and the play immediately resumed (appropriately) as if no infraction had occurred and all was forgiven (because it was). I have reasonable expectations that if Kipling decides to put his paws on Teller again he might very well take the non-verbal reminder that he ought not do that.


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