Friday, March 15, 2013

Saturday Connections

This was the dog and handler I was assigned to
"coach" for Kay's lab on Connected Walking.
It was interesting to see how he had learned to
take the pressure off the leash to be allowed to
go forward, but the visual check-in was missing.
The owner clearly loved her dog and it was easy
for her to adapt to Kay's instructions.  I think they
will be very happy with the change.
After Emma's talk, I attended Jesus Rosales Ruiz's presentation on Cues in Context.  Jesus's talks always make my head hurt.  He makes me think too hard!  Partly because his notes/slides are like Algebra, using all the discriminative stimulus shorthand with Big s's and little D's and vice versa and then I have to try to follow the topic on top of all that!  None of this is to say that I don't love it and learn from it...I just whine because he makes my brain work so hard.  

His talk meshed nicely with two others- Ken Ramirez on What to do when Mistakes Happen and Emilie and Eva's on What Happens after the Reward.  So I'll try to explain my experiences with those later.  

For now- Kay Laurence and Connected Walking.  Kay is a huge advocate for dogs being dogs, in my opinion.  Mind you she trains dogs for everything from obedience to sheep dog trialling but she keeps respect for dogness at the forefront.  Her Connected Walking talk and lab highlighted this topic.  I came away thinking that she had just spent 3 hours or so teaching people how to walk their dogs!  People get so busy training, or exercising, or multi-tasking, or caught up in their daily lives, that they either never learn or forget how to go out and enjoy being with their dogs.  Some of us are lucky in being able to have our dogs off-leash much or all of the time and so our dogs have a little more opportunity to be dogs.  They can sniff around while we work in the garden, or roll in manure while we work in the barn, or chase birds while we walk, etc.  But for dogs who spend a lot of time on a leash out of necessity for safety, I see way too many being dragged along or doing the dragging themselves.  

Kay's method allowed for giving the dog time to be a dog.  If he or she stops to sniff at something, we should allow that.  She made the comparison to walking with a friend and stopping to wait when the friend looked in a store window.  Once again, if you have a dog, you should expect that it's going to want to sniff things.  That's what dogs do.  But she actually had a process for helping people to do that- specific points to respond to and instructions on waiting the dog out, waiting for him to look at you- connect with you- before proceeding.  And the dog can only connect with you if you are available to connect with.  

And so my mind goes to our horses.  What would the ideal walk for a horse include?  Grazing of course.  Permission to look at things which catch their attention.  The opportunity to move freely in their bodies.  And a similar emotional connection- checking in between horse and human so that each is ready to move off together.  

Kay had an interesting viewpoint on the equipment for dogs which is popular today- head collars and harnesses.  Purported to be kinder, they give a person more control over their dogs.  Less pulling is advertised as being less aversive which I agree with.  Kay's point was the physical stress this equipment can put on the dog's structure if used over a long period of time.  They start to move differently to accommodate the equipment.  Pressure is applied to muscles and nerves.  Sound like anything familiar in the horse world?  Wouldn't it be nice if we could be a warning signal to the canine world- don't go there!  Steer clear of the flash nosebands and martingales and poorly fitting saddles!  Let your dog be a dog and let your horse be a horse.   

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