Demons

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As anyone who reads the blog knows I use fairly standard methods when I work with dogs. Classical and operant conditioning for learning (however you define learning), habituation (exposure till the dog gets used to object or situation), desensitisation (gradual, controlled exposure to the trigger-when the fear is learnt), counter-conditioning Β  (replacing the undesirable behaviour or emotional state with the desirable one). Nothing spectacular. Hard to make a successful TV show about it. Most of the time, not much happens.

But it works-and as far as I know, this is the only effective way. It takes time and involvement. I need to try and know the dogs. I need to respect them, watch and listen to what they want to communicate. I need to adapt. I need to admit I can be wrong.

We have already dealt with all Lily’s demons. And there were many ( grass, trees, wind, stairs, rubbish bins, pavements, roads, cars, people, animals, light and darkness, sounds and silence-the list was endless). But she’s brave, curious and learns quickly. The fact she had never been exposed to the world simply meant that she was more like a puppy. Scared perhaps, but not traumatised.

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Lily the warrior princess

Me and Brian are still learning each other. But you can easily tell he is mine. Every dog reflects the owner – mostly without the owner realising it. My dogs will never be ‘obedient’ in most people’s eyes. All of them are playful and trusting, independent and confident. All of my dogs have a strong bond with me, but can think and make their own decisions. All of my dogs are allowed to be dogs, even if it annoys or surprises some people. Some bark (not excessively), some dig (not obsessively), they have crushes on other dogs and they have enemies. They are allowed to have a favourite game, favourite walks, favourite spots in the house, favourite food (even if it means I cook smelly kidneys).

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I often avoid the word ‘training’ as most people associate it with me being the boss and the dogs doing as they are told. I’m not a dictator, they are not my slaves. It’s not a game with winners and losers. It’s life. Family. Us.

And we all have our demons.

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21 thoughts on “Demons

    1. The front door is a melting pot of scents. And things disappear behind it.
      It was Brian’s demon, too-even now he sniffs at it suspiciously at times, but the demon is gone πŸ™‚

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  1. So very true! Even though dogs aren’t human and don’t have our intellect (although sometimes I wonder), they still deserve respect. After 2 years in my current house, Spiffy Whiskers, my 6 y/o terrier suddenly began digging out under the fence. It baffled me. What had changed? It took some time but I learned it was a two-fold demon: 1. construction workers in the house using a compressor which scared her and 2. I wasn’t giving her the attention she needed because my younger pup would always come between any other dog I was loving to hog the affection. When I gave Spiffy the full attention she needed (back & belly scratches and snuggles on the bed) and ignored my pup, she was okay. (The younger pup gets more than her fair share of attention, believe me.)

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    1. It seems you are a good dog-parent πŸ™‚ So many people don’t bother to check why their dogs behave in a certain way. All the best to you and the dogs πŸ™‚ x

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    1. There are more people who understand dogs are not just animated machines-and I hope there will be even more πŸ™‚ I’m quite opinionated in general, so it doesn’t bother me if people have different points of views that they want to discuss or impose on me (which can be rather hard). Only people who matter matter (hope it makes sense) πŸ™‚

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  2. The results of your methods show in your dogs – Lily is adorable! That little face! And it always amuses me to see how Brain has grown πŸ™‚ how old is he now? I agree, though, it’s teaching, rather than training, as we all have to get along xx

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    1. We all have our beliefs- I believe nobody’s born ‘bad’ (well, psychopaths might be) – we just interact with the environment and are shaped by it. Not everyone will turn into a monster because of some cliche ‘childhood trauma’-but some of us will. And I’ve decided that instead of judging it’s better to try and understand. It’s my belief about dogs and people. I had times in my life when I felt angry-and I can get very angry-and if it wasn’t for someone else’s patience and love I would just be a bitter, friendless criminal…or something πŸ˜‰
      Brian is 14 months-still quite silly at times, but not a puppy anymore 😦

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      1. Yeah..the age old Nature vs.Nurture argument…I hate the question “If you had the chance to murder Hitler when he was a baby, would you?” I know that’s rather an extreme example…but it’s always better to try and understand. Kinder too πŸ™‚ xx

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      2. Well, for me it’s nature shaped by nurture (or an interaction of genes with the environment) πŸ™‚
        Hitler is one of many extreme mass murderers-he’s just more known by others. I strongly believe killing is wrong (surprise, surprise) so killing Hitler as a baby would make me worse than him (doing something despite knowing it’s wrong is worse than doing something other people consider wrong but you believe is justified). However, I think I’m ‘naturally’ rather aggressive – I’m also hyperactive, which might be connected. I like boxing and cage fighting. I’m not squeamish and I have learnt to butcher a chicken (and some other animals). My genes might have designed me to be a hunter, yet I’m a vegan πŸ™‚

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      3. Interesting and fascinating answer…Dad being a vet, I learned how to despatch and prepare most game animals although I’d rather not. I hate killing creatures – Alex is a vegetarian and I am seriously considering it myself. Plus the fact the meat industry now is not the most..um..sanitary of things. Have you tried the vegan Quorn fishless fingers?
        I don’t think I’m hyperactive (as I type lying on bed eating Easter egg ) nor am I particularly aggressive. Although I did make Alex’s HIstory teacher cry once…!

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      4. Well, now I expect a post about Some Ancient Stone and History Teachers πŸ˜‰
        (I’m afraid I’m still too ignorant about stones to insert a proper name). I think I made many of my teachers cry (in despair) – not because I neglected my academic work, but because I was a little-miss-know-it-all. Makes me cringe now πŸ˜‰
        I move even when I’m asleep…though it got better as I got older (it can be irritating and drugs make me drowsy, so I don’t use them if I can avoid it).
        I haven’t tried Quorn fishless fingers-I like cooking so I rarely use any meat substitutes-will have a go, though.
        I try really hard not to be an irritating vegan, preaching and looking down on meat-eaters (and I avoid the company of such vegans). And I don’t make much fuss when we go out and there are only vegetarian options available, not vegan. My diet doesn’t define me -even if it does indicate I follow my ‘do not kill’ principle.
        So… you might soon be tobbacco free AND vegetarian. ‘A new, improved Samanta Murdoch’ πŸ™‚
        (the last sentence is a paraphrase of a line from my favourite film ‘Carlito’s Way’) πŸ™‚

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      5. I’ve never seen that ..will add it to the list πŸ™‚
        I don’t often eat red meat but when I do I try to eat it with gratitude and conscience..LOL…also I will duly compose a post about teachers for you πŸ™‚

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