Carol Price – Collie Psychology: A Review

In part, uneducated, disproven, unkind, and in places downright nonsense.  Let me elaborate:

Collie Psychology

I was quite excited when I first learned about ‘Collie Psychology’.  I have one of Carol Price’s earlier books ‘Understanding the Border Collie’, and while it’s of an age that means it has a lot of old-school talk that we now know is no longer relevant, it still contains some good information for those who are able to see past the pseudo-science.

I was hoping that her new book would be bang-up-to-date, with lots of great information on progressive reinforcement training; perhaps some discussion on why outdated training methods and tools worked, but also the issues they cause; reasons why she has “moved with the times” in her training ethos and tools of choice; and suggestions for resources to help others who are interested in learning and expanding their knowledge, alongside lots of great collie information.

Sadly, I’ve only made it a quarter of the way through the book and I’m giving it up as a bad job.  While the section on finding a good breeder is a true gold-star piece of writing that should be held up for everyone with even a passing interest in dogs to absorb, the rest of the book is filled – mostly – with the same out-dated clap-trap.

She makes aggression in puppies sound like an everyday event (growling is during play, for instance, but actual aggression is not); there’s also a fair amount of anthropomorphic fluff about puppies and dogs “disrespecting” their humans, when an understanding of learning theory would show that is not at all the case.

The section on training has a diatribe on why, how, and when to use a “correction command”, when – again – a little bit of education would show the writer there’s no need for such hostility, especially towards a young puppy.  There’s very little discussion on setting the puppy (or dog) up in the home so that he or she is unable to make mistakes, but lots of talk about what to “correct”, and how.

When she gets to actually teaching the puppy/dog and adding cues (which she insists on calling “commands”, for some unknown reason) to behaviours, she suggests people use a gesture and word cue a the same time; this is known as “overshadowing”, and when behaviours are trained with overshadowed cues it means the dog either does not listen at all to the verbal cue, or takes much longer than necessary to learn it.  She also completely fails to mention using a marker during training, meaning that – once again – the training will not progress as quickly as it could.

Not once in this section does she suggest than an owner might want to find a reputable training class to take their puppy or dog to, although she has no issues with pointing out that owners, especially those who are novice either to the breed or to dogs in general, are bound to make mistakes(!) – something a competent training instructor would not only be working to eliminate in every dog/handler team, but they could also provide personal guidance on what to do (or not do!) to help both human and canine understand, and complete, the exercise.

However, the things that really finished this book off for me were the following: –
1) her suggestion on “sticking out your leg” (AKA tripping the dog up) when he or she pulls on the lead;
2) the misinformation she gives to readers on the topic of learned helplessness;
3) her assertion that playing tug with your dog causes aggression.

After reading these nuggets of “information” – one of which does not line up with my ethos on interacting with others (human or otherwise), another which is factually incorrect (though it makes for a good sob story); and the remaining one being a just downright silly – it has relegated this book to the bottom of my reading pile, behind such authors as Toni Shelbourne, Denise Fenzi & Deborah Jones, Pamela Dennison, and my personal favourites, Karen Pryor and Jean Donaldson – all people who are much more easily accessible with up-to-date research and information that appeals to dog owners of every kind, be they “just” pet owners, invested dog enthusiasts, or canine professionals.

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Disclaimer: I have not been asked, nor paid to write this review; the opinions contained herein are entirely my own, and are based upon both my experience and my education, both of which are ever-expanding.

Shouting Does Not Modify Behaviour

I can’t believe I’ve actually just typed that, but after last week I feel that it needs saying – and sharing!

I was on leave last week, and with the weather the way it was, any time I spent at home all the windows were wide open.  Early in the week, a neighbour was having some work done on their house; and during the first day I heard one of the workers shout at Starr.  She’d been barking at all the strange, new noises the workers were making, and while it was a little annoying, as far as she was concerned she had good reason to be anxious and try to make the scary stuff go away and/or alert me.

That’s why, when I first heard her being shouted at to “shut up”, I responded in kind and shouted back “don’t shout at my dog”.  Aside from the fact that it’s not the job of a complete stranger to attempt to change my dog’s behaviour, it certainly is not up to anyone else but me how their behaviour will be modified; not to mention that with that one action the worker showed how little he knows about dogs and behaviour modification (yes – I know – pot/kettle!)

‘Shout!!!’ by Maciek Łempicki

The next day, when a similar thing occurred, I was otherwise occupied attempting to make pizza dough (and failing horribly!), once I’d washed my hands and had moved on to other – less involved – tasks, I kept an ear out for the man coming to get tools out of his van.  That was the problem today – he was to-ing and fro-ing between his van and his work, and every time he slid open the door to his van, that set Starr on edge and she would bark until he went away again.

This time, I did better – for Starr, for the workers, and for myself.  The next time I heard someone at the van, I went and spoke to him.  It turned out that I’d missed a second worker arriving, and it was actually him I spoke to – but I asked him to pass the message on, that shouting at my dog was doing her no favours; she was barking because the strange noises outside made her nervous, and the best way for them to help me help her was to ignore her and not respond in kind to her frantic shouting.

This did the trick, and while they unsettled Starr as they continued to work, they didn’t shout at her any more.

Result!

However, I can’t help but find it sad that in general people think shouting will stop or change a behaviour.

Here’s the deal: it won’t, at least not permanently.  If you’re lucky, you might come across as so terribly, horribly, scary that whoever you’re shouting at doesn’t want to be anywhere near you, and will just do nothing whenever you’re around.  More likely, however is that (to stick with the example), the dog will think you’re joining in – either on their side, or against them.  Whatever the reason the dog is barking is now secondary to the support or opposition the dog is barking along to.

As a stranger, it’s never your job to modify a dogs behaviour – unless you’re being paid as a professional to do so, in which case you wouldn’t be a stranger.  As an owner, it’s generally up to you to find out why your dog is barking, and mitigate that in an appropriate way, unless you’ve employed a professional to help you.

In our house, we use classical conditioning: scary noise outside = yummy treat.  We also have cues: a cue to bark, and one to stop.  These have worked wonderfully for Inka, and while he still barks at some things, he’s generally pretty cool with external noises, or being quiet when he’s asked to be.  Starr, on the other hand, isn’t doing so well with these, but that’s part of the story of why I’m considering behavioural drugs for her, which is an entirely different post!

How do you deal with excessive barking in your house?

 

Where We’re Going Wrong…

So, I’ve had some time to think this weekend, and I think I know where we’re going wrong when talking about dog packs and/or dominance:

Theory:

a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein’s theory of relativity. Synonyms: principle, law, doctrine.
Hypothesis:

A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.
So you see – when talking about the now dis-proven dominance/pack dog training ideas, we shouldn’t be calling them theories, because they’re not; they’re hypotheses.
Learning theory, on the other hand, is a theory.

 

Be Your Dog’s Advocate This Summer

It’s officially summer time.  That wonderful time of year when we in the UK hope we will have long, warm, sunny days.

We daydream of walks at local beaches and lakes, or on hills and fells; we think of all the things we could do at the weekend: go to a local beauty spot, visit a nearby picturesque tourist town, take a day trip to an ancient wonder, sit in the beer garden of a local pub.

Many of us – when weather allows – will follow through with these plans; those of us with family dogs may also take them along for the trip when we’re going somewhere that welcomes them, sometimes a dog may be taken for a trip even when he’s going to be sitting in the car as the destination doesn’t allow pets.

But, wait – have you considered whether your dog would want to go?

When we have summer days out, we make a distinction: we either take Inka & Starr and go somewhere they’ll be happy going to (a quiet beach, a lake with a little used area, or similar); or we leave them at home and go somewhere they they are less likely to enjoy.

Sure, I’d love to be able to take them both to Keswick, or to local agricultural shows or fun days where I could enter them in the requisite dog show, and plenty of other places too; but knowing my dogs, I know that – at least for now – they wouldn’t enjoy that kind of atmosphere.  People everywhere, lots of noises, children who are neither trained nor leashed, and dogs who are leashed but often untrained are just some of the things we’d face.

Days out are supposed to be fun, and I know they wouldn’t enjoy that, just as I wouldn’t enjoy fending them off.

Yes, I could use it as a teaching opportunity for people who insist on doing “The Wrong Thing(s)” with other people’s dogs but why subject us all to that stress?  When I’m out with my dogs, I want to devote my time to them – not to ensuring the guy who “all dogs love” doesn’t put his clammy paws all over my obviously anxious dog(s); and I want us to have fun.  Running around a field is fun, running a gauntlet of people who are mostly clueless about dogs is not.

I love my dogs, and I show them that by sometimes leaving them home, even if I’d much rather take them with me and let them in on the fun. After all, who has fun when they’re worried, stressed, or anxious?

Starr enticing Inka to play at home, in her own special way…

 

Why is Recall So Important Anyway?

I know I’ve posted about recall before, but I love it! Whether I’m training, practising, or using that one special word; recalls are fantastic and they’re also one of my ‘markers’ as to whether I’m comfortable allowing an individual dog off lead in any given situation.

Even with my first dog, I knew that teaching a reliable recall was a very important thing, but it was only when I happened across Susan Garrett’s take on recall – as a way to evaluate your relationship with your dog – that it fell into place in my mind.

* If I’m going to allow my dog to have some off lead freedom, I must trust him 100% to come back to me when I ask
* That means that he must want to come back to me, even if I’m asking him to move away from something “really interesting” such as a rotting sheep carcass (yak!), or kids playing football
* If I want a reliable recall, then I need to define both ‘reliable’, and ‘recall’.
* I also must set specific criteria, and stick to them – what will my cue be, how many times will I say it, will I use a visual signal as well, what specific behaviour(s) will it elicit, and so on

So, first things first – define what I’m training, and set criteria:
Reliable: dependable, consistent, unfailing, steadfast, certain.
Recall: often used in terms of memory – remind, recollect, evoke; also used when quality control issues affect one or more of a company’s products – e.g. “there was a recall on yoghurts”. In dog training, recall is the set of behaviours the dog performs when you call him or her to you. Exactly how fast, how close, and so on are part of your criteria.

My criteria
My dog’s recall behaviour will involve:
* Responding as soon as I say his cue, on the first time I say it (that quick response may one day save his life)
* Turning and moving away from whatever he is engaged or interested in
* Locating me, usually visually – though if he’s out of sight I will encourage him without using his recall cue again (and then work on him keeping better track of me, and me of him)
* Running back to me as fast as he is able
* Returning right to me, and staying close to me – no staying out of grabbing distance, or coming back and immediately going somewhere else

What I would add to that list now: –
* Now that I use a release cue, I would also add that he stay with me while I leash him up and we walk on, or until he is verbally released.
* I would also list the dog’s distractions and reinforcers, and rate them so that when the time comes I can pair a distraction with a reinforcer of equal or higher value. This list would need updated as we worked our recall, so it will need to be kept safe!

“Wait a minute!” You say, “I have a husky – who should never be off lead anyway – and we generally walk in the city, where it’s not safe or legal for any dog to be off lead, I don’t need to teach her recall, do I?”

Well – no, and yes.  If you’re 100% certain that her lead, flat collar, and/or static harness will never, ever break; and you can be completely certain that you will never, ever, ever let go of the lead, no matter what’s going on around you, then maybe I can let you off.  For the rest of us that are fallible: even if you don’t intend to ever have your dog off lead, it’s a good idea to train a recall anyway, that way if something ever does go wrong, you have at least a chance of having your dog come back to you rather than disappearing over the horizon.

So now that we know our criteria (to come straight back to me the first time I call, and stick around), how do I go about training?  Technically, I guess recall could be shaped, but that would likely be a slow process!  Since recall is so important, I think it’s much better to train it.

Obviously since I signed up to Recallers, the way I teach recall is changing; but since I paid good money to be a ‘Recaller’, and I respect Susan and her propriety information I won’t/can’t share it with you in that way (though I’m sure there’ll be lots of videos of various bits and pieces in the future).

However, I can share this video of Starr and I again.  This is one way I teach recall – I have my dog “chase” a thrown piece of kibble, I mark when she turns around, and when she returns to me she gets three or four tasty treats.

As with all good training, we start off somewhere not distracting (in this case, we started indoors), and slowly work up to very distracting environments, using a lead or long line as appropriate (in our enclosed garden, she’s fine off lead).  I help her to make the right choices – by marking the turn; and I make the right choices achievable – I don’t take her to the beach on a sunny Sunday afternoon, take off her lead and expect her to stick around, much less come when I call her, without plenty of practice of what I do want first.

After all, practice makes perfect and if she practices ignoring me, or having me chase her for twenty minutes before I can get her back on the lead (after calling her repeatedly) then that will become her “recall” behaviour – and that is not what I want!

What about you – is recall important for your dog(s)? Do you have a special way of teaching it?

Are You Bribing Your Dog?

There seems to be a fallacy in the world of dog training, and indeed even outside of the world of dog training, and dogs in general.

I’ve had knowing looks on the street, overheard strangers commenting at the beach or lake, had comments directed towards me in person and online, even my mother has (once again!) chided me for my seemingly “poor choices”.

If you train your dog with treats, you’re bribing her.

Bribing – Craige Moore

There I said it.

Anyone who’s anyone knows that all dogs love and respect all humans, and will do as we say because it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they make us happy by doing as they’re told; so it follows that anyone who’s anyone also knows that dogs don’t need treats, or any form of reward, for working for humans. And if you choose to use treats, you’re bribing your dog to do whatever it is you want him to do, because he wont do it out of “love and respect”, or for the joy it brings him in knowing you’re happy with him, he’ll only do it for the food in your hand.

Clearly, all the people making such comments are amazing, wonderful even. They may have spent their whole life working, but they have never once taken a penny – or anything else – in recompense; or if they have they’ve given it all away again.

They have no need of reward or recognition from their employer (or customers, if they’re self-employed), they do the work because they like the fuzzy warm feeling it gives them to help others, and that’s all the payment they need.

Oh, wait…

That’s not true.

While some people can, and do, volunteer their time; the majority of people in gainful employment need to take home a pay cheque every month (heck, even people who are not in gainful employment still have to find a way to get the money they need!).

I don’t know about you, but if my employer decided to stop paying for my time I’d certainly be looking for another job – let’s face it, for humans, money is a very powerful secondary reinforcer.

Money gives us roofs over our heads, various methods of travel, the ability to buy food, books, clothes, music, tickets to the cinema, theatre, or concerts, and even the ability to have and appropriately care for our animals.

Animals see no value in money (aside from the ones who may see value in eating it). They tend not to have pockets to keep it in, or places to keep a lot of it safe, and they don’t have bills to pay, so money as a form of payment is as meaningless to them as hotdog slices as a form of payment is to you and I.

But just because they don’t see value in money doesn’t mean they don’t see value in being “paid”.

Especially when training new behaviours, your dog (or human, horse, goat, lamb, cow, chicken…or any animal) needs paid. They need to feel value in their work (learning), and this value comes from rewards – not only food and toys, but also other things they enjoy doing – digging, barking, running around, sniffing…whatever floats their boat.

These rewards do a number of things: * firstly they help the animal to learn that the rewarded behaviour is worth repeating;
* it adds “money to the bank” for the behaviour, meaning that at some future time when you need to ask for the behaviour and only have dry, biscuit treats (or, worse, nothing at all) your dog is more likely to do as you ask, and not mind too much that you didn’t have some liver or a favourite tug toy handy (however, after this type of situation it would be worth “refreshing” the behaviour in your dog’s mind – and increasing your “bank balance” – by training the behaviour with one or more of your dog’s desired rewards, especially if you made a large withdrawal – such as recalling your dog away from unexpected livestock or wild animals;
* additionally, training using the rewards your dog wants (rather than the ones you think he should want) also has the added bonus of teaching your dog that you’re worth listening to;
* and it’s great for building a strong relationship with your dog.

Looking at that list, I wonder why we aren’t all training with rewards. For me, it all comes back to working: I want my dog to want to be with me, and to not only want to interact with me; but to enjoy interacting with me – whether we’re playing tug, or whether I’m training a drop on recall.

It pains me to see a dog who wants to be nowhere near his human, after all, dogs are social creatures and should have the strongest bond with their ‘family’; but to think that some people actively dislike despise “treat training”, well…I don’t want to think about what they do to their dog in the name of training

Sheep

‘Name That Sheep’ – Alan Cleaver

Well, this has certainly been an interesting week!  I found out through a friend that a local rescue organisation had hired an electric shock collar trainer for a dog that was chasing sheep.  I posted on my Facebook page that: “Currently I’m feeling shocked and saddened that a local rescue organisation has hired an electric shock collar trainer to “cure” a dog of his sheep chasing.

I feel very sad for the dog, but also lucky that I will never have to resort to such dangerous and barbaric practises – in fact I currently have just the same problem with Starr, she would love to chase sheep if given the opportunity, so she’s not getting it!  Or at least not until I can take her up to my friend’s farm and start teaching her to play with sheep appropriately.”

‘Loweswater Sheep’ – mPascalj

And I mean every word of it. Starr has about 10% of the recall she needs to be off-lead, and about 1% of the recall I’d like her to have before I “let her loose”; and I’d never ever let her off lead anywhere near sheep that she was not working.  Why would I?  If a farmer thinks that a dog is worrying his sheep, he can shoot it dead on the spot, and to many farmers a dog being off lead near his sheep is more than plenty reason to shoot it…

This then brought to mind that a little while ago I was chided in the comments section of another blog.  The post was about dog training and the apparent lies therein.  The reproach came as I’d said I never had and never will use anything except a flat collar & static (i.e. fixed) harness on any of my dogs, and I have no need of telling them “no” (as in “don’t do that”).

I was told I had “so much to learn”, including “the four ways to deal with a behaviour” and “what to do with a confirmed sheep worrier”.  I did have to wonder where the common sense was – if one has a confirmed sheep worrier why would you take it anywhere near sheep?  That’s just asking for trouble, and certainly not something I would ever advise to any future potential client I may have, unless they were under the tutelage of the person who owned the sheep, and they were either a) teaching the dog to herd the sheep; or b) teaching the dog enough that he could leave the sheep entirely alone on one cue.  Note also that both of these would take more than one short lesson!

It was then that I was curtly told that I “know nothing”, and should “go out and learn” as well as “shut up” because my “lack of knowledge won’t impress anyone”.  Hmmm, yes – clearly I lack knowledge because I’m not going to take a dog who may worry livestock near the livestock, nor will I let said dog (or any dog, for that matter) off lead unless they’re working the livestock, and I certainly would never electrocute my dog for showing an interest in livestock!  Oh, how much I must have left to learn to get these sensible ideas out of my head!

‘Sheep’ mPascalj’

I then had someone else telling me that I “don’t live in the real world”, and “would rather keep a dog on lead than give any form of ‘no’ command”.  According to this second commenter, I’m not alone in living in cloud cuckoo land, as I’m an “example of many UK trainers”.  This coming from someone who allowed her dog to kill a sheep (meaning it was off lead and/or under no control around them), and then used an electric shock collar, rather than walk her dog somewhere beside sheep-covered moors.  Of course, she’s otherwise a totally positive trainer, and had “exhausted every other positive option”.

I’m sorry, but I really fail to see what is so bizarre about being responsible enough to keep your dog on lead around sheep that don’t belong to you and/that your dog isn’t actively working; not to mention keeping your dog who you know is, or is likely to be, overtly interested in sheep away from them.  It really isn’t that difficult – I did it for over twelve months while living up the road from a farm; not to mention having done it with my previous two dogs!

It’s common sense – if you don’t want to see your dog shot by a farmer, you need to make sure he or she can see you have control over your dog around livestock and that means using a lead – something that is visible and obvious; not just hoping that you have enough verbal control over your dog that you can call your dog away in the split second before the farmer reaches for their gun…

‘Sheep’ – mPascalj

 

Other People’s Dogs

Following on from my earlier post, I saw a question posted on Facebook, regarding canine/human interaction.

The question was: “A lady stopped me earlier when I was out with my dogs and started talking to me. Without asking, she leaned forward to stroke my dogs. One of them backed away, and the other barked at her. The woman told me that I “have problems” with my dogs.

I haven’t taught my dogs to not let people stroke them, they just don’t like it, although they’re happy to just stand/sit whilst I talk to people. Is this so wrong?!?”

I find this quite interesting as “is it wrong?” is a very subjective question.

Personally, I don’t think it’s wrong that any sentient being has preferences for how much personal space they want or need; however I do think it’s wrong there are some insistent people who see no problem in thinking (and acting on!) “all dogs must be stroked”, “all children must have their cheeks pinched”, “all women/men are free for the feeling”, and so on.

I believe it is up to those of us who disagree to say “please always ask first (and listen to the response you get!)”, “please don’t”, and “I’m reporting you to the police” (respectively). While many people don’t seem to listen to what you say when they want to pet your dog(s), some do – and it’s important that we tell the people who do listen, as that’s what helps to circulate the message, and the more people that know – and share this knowledge – the fewer people there will should be who impinge upon anyone’s personal space.

What about you – where do you stand on the “petting someone else’s dog” scale? Do you think more people should ask (and listen!), or are you more of an impulsive petter, and think there’s nothing wrong with it?

To Shape, or to Train?

I read a comment recently from a lady who “didn’t have time for positive reinforcement” because, she couldn’t “stand around in the park waiting for her dog to come back to her so she could reinforce his recall”.

I think this could be another (common) misconception about reward-based training.

Yes, shaping is a wonderful tool in the toolbox of a competent positive reinforcement trainer, but it’s not the only tool, and any trainer worth their salt will know when to shape a behaviour and when shaping is better left in favour of other tools.

I’m going to make the assumption that the commenter did actually realise they were referencing free-shaping, that is waiting for the subject to offer the desired behaviour – or a close approximation of it – before offering a reward. No luring or prompting involved, simply sit back and wait.

However, is this really the best way to teach your dog a reliable recall – take them to the park, take off their lead, and turn them loose? I think not!

When teaching a dog to recall on cue, there are a number of important points to remember: –
1) always keep your dog on a lead or long line.  This ensures the safety of your dog, as he can only move as far away as the lead or line allows.  A dog on a line can, if needs be, gently “reeled in”, and of course just because you have a 50ft line, it doesn’t mean you have to give your dog the full fifty feet, if twenty would be more appropriate, just carry the rest.  It should be noted that everything your dog can do off-lead can be done on a long line too, Inka stayed on a line until I was quite sure he’d come back when called, but we still played fetch and tug, and ran around.  It just required some hand/eye/foot coordination from me (which is easier said than done!)  Additionally, it should go without saying that a long line should never be attached to your dog’s collar (always use a harness), and that you have to hold the end that is not attached to your dog (it’s not a magic recall device!!)
2) If you take your dog somewhere she needs to be on the long line, don’t use her recall cue.  You may have a particularly friendly dog who enjoys trips to busy parks or fields, but if you’re keeping your dog safe by having her on the long line, it’s a pretty safe bet that if you call her, she’ll ignore your request and continue to interact with the environment.  That is, of course, unless you’ve worked up to the level of distraction that the park is currently providing and you’ve taken her there specifically to train recall, rather than to walk or play.
3) you need to actually train a recall.  Your dog needs to be taught how to recall, as well as on what signal, and in what situations to come back to you.  That means you need to have one specific cue for recall (a word, a whistle sound, a hand/body signal for deaf dogs, or a scent signal for blind dogs).  You need to teach your dog the value of this signal in a quiet environment and in a controlled fashion, and you need to gradually work from a quiet, controlled environment (such as your kitchen) up to a chaotic, uncontrolled environment (such as the park).
4) You need to be certain of what you want your dogs recall behaviour to be.  Do you want your dog to recall and sit in front?  Recall to heel?  Recall and present his neck/back so you can re-attach his lead?  Or recall and play “keep just out of catching distance”?  Decide, and then stick to it.  Once you’ve got one trained you can – of course – train another type of recall, but only train one type at a time to avoid confusion!

Below is a video of me teaching Starr the beginnings of off-leash recall in our enclosed back garden.  We’ve already done some recall in the house (in the kitchen, utility, front room, and upstairs), and we’ve done a little bit at the training centre too.

I should note that this is how I’ve been taught to teach recall, and so far it’s done me really well.  Anyone who knows me will be aware I’m hoping to sign up to Susan Garrett’s Recallers course when it opens (very soon!); not because I think there’s anything wrong with how I teach recall (or indeed have been taught to teach it), but because of the way Susan sees recall as a barometer of the relationship you and your dog have.

Even before I’d heard of Susan Garrett and Say Yes! I felt the same way about recall.  Your dog has to want to be with you before he or she will recall to you, and I think Susan’s way of teaching will help me learn to build a strong relationship with both of my dogs, who – because of their individual histories – sometimes need reminding that people (yes, even mom) are good.

A Good Dog…

“Good Dog” by HowtoLoveYourDog.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/loveyourdog/8263094220/

How many times have you been told “a tired dog is a good dog”?

I can see why people say this, after all a tired dog is going to lay around resting – or sleeping – most of the day. A tired dog is less likely to get into the trash can, dig the garden up, bark at the mail man, or bother someone for attention.

This all seems like a good dog, as far as many owners are concerned; but not I.

‘Pauli Knows Good Dogs Don’t Get A Lump of Coal’ by sundero
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sundero/5274726083/

Let’s be realistic: a tired dog is a tired dog, nothing more and nothing less.
On the other hand, it makes much more sense to me that a good dog is one who’s been trained to understand the cues that his family needs him to follow; she loves her family and enjoys spending time with them but doesn’t constantly pester for petting and attention; he gets to indulge in activities that he enjoys doing – whether that’s things like agility, or herding, or through performing “bad” behaviours in more “legal” ways (such as a sandpit in which safe toys are buried for Fido to dig up).

A well-trained, happy pet is a good dog, a tired dog is tired, not to mention more prone to being grumpy and snappy. Grumpy, snappy dogs are not good dogs!

What about you, what’s your definition of a good dog?