Thursday, January 23, 2014

Training....Training Anything...Crossover Trainers...The Positive and The Negative

FIRST of all, Hawks are my favorite animal. They are everything that I would like to be. Fierce. Wild. Free. Exquisite. Well-thought-out. Determined. Accurate.
I saw this video, and I truly did not think anything was out of the ordinary regarding training. Of course, I have never seen the "other" methods of training raptors, nor have I ever gone to a rodeo....BOTH factions would probably get me arrested....sigh.....
Learning the science of positive reinforcement, you don't run the risk of  possible detrimental side effects such as:

Escape avoidance behavior
Increased aggression
Generalized fear of the environment
Loss of trust

The animal trained in negative reinforcement will only work at the level necessary to avoid the negative stimulus.
The animal trained with positive reinforcement will look forward to the training sessions and will be more creative and attentive.

..Didja ever go to to Hot Springs when you were a kid and play the Tic Tac Toe games with the chickens in the arcade glass boxes? The chickens Always beat me at that game....durn chickens--I was Such a gambler even at age 8....But Fascinated at the animals' expertise....
 So, over 50 years ago, they were being trained by positive reinforcement...(ever tried to put a choke chain on a CHICKEN?!).

Remember how it was in school?  The teacher that made us  feel smart and safe and creative had us wanting to be there and learn?  ...Now remember all those teachers that scared us  and how we  only did enough to stay out of trouble and never ever offered any more.

Right...sigh...we "grow" thru adversity, but we Learn with the Positive. So, sometimes, "stress" is a Good Thang, stretching our "borders" and awareness---but it should always be done with love and patience and with lots of allotted timespace to learn.  There is Good in both the Positive and the Negative.....
I cite this example:  When our Kathryn was a little girl and wanted some ketchup to go with her fries at McDonalds....I told her to go to the counter and get it.  "Well....." she told me, "I'm...shy...

"Kathryn, I don't WANT any ketchup. I don't use it on MY fries. If you want some, you'll have to go get it." (meanest Mommy in the world....The WHOLE world)

So, she trucked her liddle blonde head up to the counter, blue eyes barely seeing over the top, and waited and Waited until someone saw her and asked what she wanted.
Came back to our table, with a glowing, triUMphant smile...."Mom! I got my own ketchup!"
"I knew you would," I told her matteroffactly and with great restraint....Our baby had grown a few inches before our very eyes.
She was stressed....unhappy, in fact...but NOT so much that she could not Recover and Learn....
Years later, when this child was in Nursing College....she would report in about various achievements she'd reached during the week, telling me, "Mom! I got my own ketchup!" It has become a catch phrase in our household.....
ANYway, all this is to say, I believe that ALL very good trainers are actually "cross-over" trainers....We have gone the route of choke chains and jerking and snapping, and have discovered that there is a kinder, more effective, more enjoyable Way.
If you ONLY use Positive methods ALL the time (with dogs, at least), then I don't believe that you are very real. Frustration HAS to be a factor some of the time---or you are Waaaaay too perfect to be my friend! :-)  And even my Very Sweetest, Kindest Collie needs a bit of "cometoJesus" every once in a while. But that does NOT mean that one needs to put a prong collar on a Collie or slap and scream and kick.Or teach retrieve with an ear pinch.

Over the years the training techniques have changed--certainly lots of new and wonderful tools have been added to the trainer's toolbox, but the fundamentals have not changed.  Good trainers in 1981  sent clear messages to dogs which included  lead pops--these were taught as fast. light literal pops--not punishing jerks and lots of verbal praise, though not too much food at that time.  The signature style of this kind of training was  a happy voice no matter what the hands were doing.  Timing was the most critical element in  trainer-dog communication.  The emergence of clicker training which I learned in 2011 was huge--it enables the trainer to communicate with a dog  efficiently and quickly. 
Most trainers who started when I did assimilated the new stuff as it came along and edited the tool box on the fly--most of us who grew up this way are eclectic, not based in a single method.  I edit my toolbox ALL the time! At this point, I have actually thrown out my clicker! Yep! I use the one "in my mouth." A wonderful tip from FS teacher Michele Pouliot. 
She ALSO suggests that we keep our treats out of sight, hidden in our pockets, even taking time to dig them out. Once you have clicked, and the dog understands that click means treat, you don't have to be quick! to get the treat to him.....Interesting concept. Makes for Wonderful attention.  "Clean training," she calls it. 

Most tools are perfectly reasonable if applied correctly with the right owner-dog combo, but none work for all dogs all the time.   Ever raised a kid?!  Methods that worked for first daughter did Nothing to help out #2....When you think you have it all sewed up in a neat little package, the planet will send you something completetly different!  One thing that I think that God and the Universe do not like is complacency.....
While you can and have to train some animals as this hawk is trained as dolphins and killer whales are trained, dogs are more resilient and also more defiant sometimes than the hawk is.  I can Definitely say that James was more defiant than a dang hawk! :-)  Prosper, not so much...but in his own way, he does that "passive/assertive" thang... I don't know how many times in and out of class I have seen dogs thumb their noses at their owners and choose to ignore what the owner was doing or saying.  At this point I'm going to add some compulsion to the training--something like a come-for recall onlead where the dog gets a pull  if he fails to respond to the recall command.    OR, as Prosper loves to do.....PEE before he turns around to come to me....arrrrruuuuughhhhh!!!! Durn boydawgs.... I would also be using a negative verbal to mark a missed command....I say "Wrong" very sadly, and turn around. 

 I am a lot happier training with positive, understanding methods. With communicating with the dog instead of dictating. I love being a team and joining up with my dog.
What I have learned  is that one should not rush training....even if it means WE are getting older day by day! Eventually, the Bond between human and dog will begin to explode, and the dog will realize that Teamwork is the Most fun of all. Assuring the dog that YOU have his back, that YOU can be trusted to fulfill his every need, that YOU will take care of each situation. THIS is the most important element of any training. can take That into the ring with you.... Every. Single. Time!.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sixty Two years ago

And, now, it will tell you the story of The Day I Was Born........

Memphis Tennessee.  Early cold morning, snow falling.  My mother had had a couple of false alarms, and wasnt quite sure that this was, in fact, THE Time.  Besides, it was Early, and like most all the Jasper wimmen, Early Morning is an almost insurmountable challenge. 

My Daddy was not taking any chances this time ( after all, it was their third child), and insisted that they were, in fact, going to the neighborhood hospital. 

He scurried my mother out to the car, in the snow, only to find that the tire on his 1950 Chevy was flat.  

We are talking dark ages here, folks.  There was no InstaAir to plump up the tire.  Not even a Spare tire in the trunk.  His only option was to get out the hand pump and pump up the tire.  Manually.  Like a bicycle pump. 

So he did!  He knelt down and began to air up that flat.  In the cold morning snow.

My mother, waiting for her knight in shining armor to slay this dragon, did what any Southern born princess would do.  

She laughed.  She jumped up and down, her turgid belly rolling like Santy Claus, and clapped her hands and Laughed.  

And as the snow blew and the tire filled with air, my father doubled over in severe abdominal pain, exactly coinciding with his wife's labor pain. His appendix later ruptured and he nearly died, but not this day.  That is another story.

They arrived at the hospital in plenty of time. It was Morning, remember......I was not born until after 4 that afternoon. My father consumed an entire bottle of Paragoric (a camphorated tincture of opium, commonly used to treat belly aches, available overthecounter in those days), and staved off the appendix rupture for a few more months.  He also endured taunts from his friends about "sympathy labor." 

I was quite ugly when I was born.  Dark, ruddy skin and exploding straight Black hair.  My eight-year-old sister looked upon me in horror and asked my proud father, "you mean we waited all this time for....for....This?!"

Quickly her mothering instincts kicked in, and I became a Permanent Appendage upon her right hip.  I did not walk alone until I was nearly two.  Beloved and confirmed and doted upon by my older sister and brother, I grew up believing that Life was beautiful and everyone loved me. 

As the third and final child, my parents raised me with the idea that I would outgrow any unacceptable behaviors, and my siblings just thought I was plain fun.

It is a True Miracle that I am not more annoying than I am....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mornings At Seven

My old dog
Lies on the rug beside my bed
A SableandSnow tapestry

He is close to me as he can be nowdays.
His legs no longer allowing him access to my bed.

Softly, his legs run in silent rhythm in dream fields of cats and sheep.
He sleeps the sleep of old dogs
And dreams the dreams of young pups.

He carries the memories of me as a younger woman.
I remember the strong and fluid moves of a dog in his prime.
Together we grow older, and our slowing down is an opportunity to Reflect.

I stir under my bedcovers.
His royal head lifts to meet my eyes.
Then drops again between his paws
Neither of us are ready to emerge from the cocoon of sleep and rest.

My bare feet touch the floor beside him.
He rolls to his back, legs askew, whole face smiling.
"What are we gonna do today?" he asks with Joy and Delight at my attention.

I stand, creakily, reach for my robe.

And the slippers under his paws.

Yoga-stretch to stroke his redgold head.

He, too, struggles to arise, old hips uncooperative and unpredictable.

It is no longer a race for the door.  I win every time now.
I leave him behind  to convince his muscles to perform again for him another day.

And my heart remembers a flying Collie.