Dr. Norman Skiba
Over the last 29 years I have run across thousands of scenarios where the main concern for people is a ‘trained’ pup/dog. I also receive numerous calls daily about behavior problems that people are having with their pups/dogs. Too many people think that ‘training’ will solve all of their problems or that ‘training’ is all that is required to alleviate unwanted behavior. However, what most of these people fail to understand, is that the ‘raising’ aspect of a pup or dog is an integral facet of the training process and the resultant behavior or lack thereof. You may even say that it contributes to both, the overall personality of the dog and the intelligence level of the dog.
How many times have you witnessed a ‘trained’ dog, whether it be an obedience, schutzhund, or law enforcement K-9 work wonderfully ‘during’ an exercise or ‘under’ a command; yet when the dog is released – wild like a wolf. Sure, they are related to the wolf, and yes they exhibit all of their (the wolf’s) traits; yet they are literally ‘out of control’ – ‘on the prowl’, and even aggressive, pushy/dominant, and at times even dangerous! Or to take this facet one step further, how many times have you seen a schutzhund dog, which should posess a well-balanced temperament, be led around or off the field on the lead with the owner/handler saying “don’t touch or pet him, he will bite”, or “he is dangerous, – he doesn’t like people!”? Is this control? Is this having manners? Is this personality? Is this temperament? And how stable is this dog?
I started writing this article pretty much on its own; yet in the process of thinking about this material, I started making connections to Armin Winkler’s recent article “Tell Me About Your Dog” (DSM May 2000), Bonnie Wittrock’s article about ‘having a dog that you can live with’ (“Choices in Breeding Drive or Livability? I Want Both!” DSM March 2000), and the recent Editor’s Commentary (in Dog Sports Magazine) of Cheryl Carlson about breeding the maniacal high drive dog and trying to sell them to so-called ‘normal’ everyday Joe-type citizens that want a ‘normal’ (calm?) dog as a home dog, friend, protector, and companion for everyone in the family/household. (It is important to note that one must acquire a dog which possesses the characteristics and temperament which is consistent with what one has in mind; not something other than that! This then leads to many problems.)
I realize that there are many ways, schools, and methodologies to raising pups, and if it works for you; then great! But not all people want the same thing out of a dog, not all dogs can work the same as other dogs, and not all dogs live in the same environment (i.e. home, kennel, backyard, etc.). Most importantly, NOT ALL OF THE PEOPLE OUT THERE WITH DOGS THAT WE MUST ENCOUNTER AS TRAINERS ARE PROFESSIONAL DOG PEOPLE!!! Many of these people could care less about a well-trained dog! It is this aspect that we must be aware of and learn to address in our role as trainers. Again! – Not all people are really into dogs or training! (Unlike the many readers of Dog Sports Magazine.)
Having raised and trained pups for many years, I have found that it is extremely crucial to start the training as soon as possible after the acquisition of the pup, and to spend at least 30-40 Quality hours a week with the pup – hanging out with it, working around the yard and letting it spend time with you, etc. The training at this age should be gentle and informal at the outset, then increasing to a more formal training regiment as needed. During this training, ‘manners’ are taught – to be gentle, chewing on the appropriate articles/toys, etc, the concept of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ is learned, the ‘come’ is taught, etc. During this Quality raising time, the same things can also be learned! Teaching ‘no’ when appropriate, ‘come’ when called, ‘attention’ to you, and a myriad of other things. Sounds the same? IT IS! It’s a constant. It is at this point when the training and the raising merge into one complete organic living modality. The bonding tightens, the interaction between the person and the puppy occurs, and the merging of the person with the pup morphs into a unit, a team. This is when the connection occurs between the two of you. From this point on, the real formal training can begin.
What happens in most cases, is that the pup is left to its’ own devices, – chewing, peeing, pooping, biting, barking, destroying the house, yard, and people around them. This happens 23-24 hours a day. So what does the pup learn to do? – You guessed it! People think that the poor pup is too young to start its training. Wrong! Again, the idea of one side or dimension of the total picture – training. The ‘raising’ is not even thought of or considered. What one then encounters is an older puppy that is wild as hell, that must be controlled and mellowed, doesn’t know anything, and has no focusing ability whatsoever! He/she is a real nightmare and a ‘problem’ dog. I have noticed that some dogs seem to take on a kind of ‘false dominance’ due to this wildness! These dogs are not generally dominant; but quickly learn to rule the human! A Problem! One must somehow detrain the dog from all of these behaviors before it can be trained, or use whatever it has (which is a mess) and work with these things or in spite of these things. A lot of important time, energy, and open-mindedness on the part of the pup is lost by waiting and not utilizing the pup’s young energy, drive, and enthusiasm from the start!
This brings us to another aspect of trying to understand and define these young pups (or older pups and even dogs). I find that many times when I try to talk about a dog or define certain behavioral or temperamental qualities or characteristics, that I use a combination of terms to describe the dog or even use terms that have a myriad of levels to them. It is here where Armin’s article on terms and definitions comes into play. Fact! – words have multiple meanings! Yet which meaning is correct? The context defines the use and the term(s). Experience lends the eloquence to the expression of these terms and the various specific meanings that we use in defining these behaviors and temperaments.
Does ‘high energy’ equal ‘high drive’? What about ‘hyper-active’ dogs? Are they still high drive? Is the dog so intense that he loses focusing ability, or does his intensity ‘focus’ his energy and drive? Does the dog then channel his energy and drive in a positive manner, or does he fall apart and lose it? Take one dog and get 10 ‘dog people/trainers’ together and see how the various people describe the same dog. In many cases, there will be a general consensus among those 10 individuals. But look beyond that consensus, and there will be various aspects that will be defined in a variety of ways depending on the individual – their likes, interests, experiences, opinions, and even biases. Again, it depends on what kind of dog you are looking for – family pet and protector, total no-nonsense protection dog (as Gypsy referred to in another recent DSM article), the sport dog, law enforcement K-9, SWAT K-9, or an all out attack dog used in securing military installations as Manfred Lerner talks about in an earlier issue of Dog Sports Magazine. We all want different things! And again, we must take the specific breed that we are working with into consideration regarding the breed standard (work-wise and character/temperament-wise). And within this specific breed, the individual pup/dog must also be understood both, in terms of temperament and work ethic. There are multiple dimensions that must be taken into consideration when raising, training, working, and evaluating an individual dog.
The raising and training of the dog should create a stable, well-balanced dog, which may then lead to the temperament of the dog. From the many things that I have read by top-notch trainers in addition to my many discussions with the same caliber of people, temperament is hereditary. I tend to agree. Yet, I firmly believe that that nurturing factor is an important facet in the overall development and resultant temperament of the dog. This also contributes to what I call the ‘personality’ of the dog. Some dogs seem to be cold and nothing there. Some dogs exude an animated quality and also a love (for lack of a better word) for their owner/handler; not just executing commands correctly! This ‘anime’ comes only through the patient raising, training, and ‘education’ of the pup/dog. At this point, we may then add the ‘intelligence’ factor to the overall dynamic or dimensionality of the dog. One possible example is the dog that knows what a ball or Kong is. Fine! So it chases it and gets it! Another dog ‘knows’ the words and items – have 10 items in a pile or strewn across the yard and ask/tell the dog to go get ‘the ball’, ‘the Kong’, ‘the tug’, ‘the sack’, the stick’, ‘sleeve’, etc. and the dog does it! He/she ‘knows’ the item! See the difference? Take this simple scenario and make it more ‘real’ as in the case of working K-9’s. How many times have they solved a problem on their own, or surprised the handler with his intelligence? This intelligence factor goes well beyond mere training and habit/pattern(s). It is the synergistic dynamic that occurs when all of these factors and many more are integrated within the individual dog. This integration factor is extremely crucial. That is ‘intelligence’!
Finally, we come to the ‘Total Dog’ – the dog that is superb in any environment, under any condition, consistent from one day to another, and intelligent!
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