Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Dogs and Training

You might not have heard of it, but recently Pudsey and I have been avidly watching 'The Underdog Show'. It's all about raising awareness for the plight of homeless dogs in the UK, and in brief, a group of celebs 'adopt' a dog that's never had a home or training before, and every week they have to impress judges and the home audience with how much they've learnt.
It's had us in stitches and laughing so much that little bits of wee have escaped.
We reckon the celebs have been chosen for their lack of doggy training experience and entertainment value as both certainly show.
The celebs are being 'trained' to train the dogs with the help of professional trainers, and said trainers are all of the 'Pavlovian Bribery Training' as Pudsey and I call it. Each time the celebs want their dog to do something, they bribe them with a bit of the dog's favourite treat, and once they've done the trick, the dogs get to eat it.
Watching this celeb getting knocked over by her very exuberant stray which was only interested in the food she has on her, caused for a pause in the watching to clean the sofa.
'Pavlovian Bribery Training' is a load of balls in our humble opinions. It might help in the first instance, but far better is to use firm, but not harsh words, plenty of body language, and cuddles when the doggy gets it right.
Puppies learn how to be dogs from their parents. In the wild, any good canine mum will try to ensure her pups don't get themselves into danger, learn how to fend for themselves by hunting and scavenging, and basically stay alive long enough to raise pups of their own. They do all this by example at first, and then a short sharp bark and bite if the pups do wrong, and cuddles and licks if they get it right. You will never see a bitch get out a bag of choc-drops to train her pups, so why is it necessary for humans to do so?
I've always had 'recycled' dogs and they've all, without exception, been well trained and polite, and not just to me but anybody else that has taken them for walks or looked after them.
Why? Because I trained them well, without the use of bribery.
I can train anybody else's dogs too if they'd like, but far easier is to train the humans as to how to do it themselves. All the time I see dogs running wild as their owners desperately chase after them trying to call them back. A few weeks ago I was on my way to the shops when I found a mum and two kids trying to get their escaped dog out of the way of the traffic. Said dog was having fun; he thought it was a game of tag, didn't want it to stop, and was oblivious to the danger being posed by the oncoming traffic.
I stepped in, and shouted "SIT!" in the tone of voice I used to use when breaking up fights in pubs.
Sure enough, the dog went straight down where he was, and the mum thanked me profusely as she finally got the lead on it. Why the f... she didn't do the same herself I have no idea.
Another time when I was out and about in woods with my Viking lot, we came across a family trying to get their doggy back. The dog was rather freaked by the large group of people wearing funny clothes and carrying strange sticks, and didn't know which way to run. The family started to worry the dog even more by chasing it from all directions and screaming it's name at full volume. Again I stepped in. This time I simply went down to the dog's level, smiled calmly and held my arms out to him, gently calling his name. Sure enough, the dog spotted a nice quiet oasis of calm in the maelstrom and came straight up to me, and I gave him a cuddle until the human with the lead came and got him back.
Again, why couldn't the owners have done the same?
We've just been watching another programme called Britain's Worst Pet, and despaired as a bulldog who didn't want to go walkies was humiliated by being called lazy, and was subjected to 'clicker and reward training' to try and help him. It was obvious to me and Pudsey that the poor thing a) had been freaked by something in the park, and b) just wanted to do his 'job' which was guarding the family home, but did the 'experts' spot this? Did they, bolox.
Five minutes of doggy chat with me and he'd have been fine, trust me.
Anyway, we're both waiting with baited breath for the next installment of 'The Underdog'. The main reason for which is to cheer on our favourites to win being Huey and Casper. Each week we're both won over by the cute antics, cheeky expression, and sheer disregard for the conventional training methods, and watch with delight as our hero runs around the course before grinning at the audience in a roguish fashion.
And Casper the dog is a darling too.

For further information on Dog and Human training, contact: Misty, Dog Whisperer, at the usual address.
And now if you'll excuse me, I have to try and call my extremely well trained and faithful furry friend back from next door's garden before she gets at their rubbish bags again.