Daily Archives: June 19, 2011

Getting obsessed with puppy training

I have been reading all manner of puppy training books. Sue Ailsby’s Levels (how to order the book). Susan Garrett’s various books and DVDs (most of them listed on my Books page). Ian Dunbar. Jean Donaldson. Intriguingly, neither Garrett nor Ailsby start with house training. I think the assumption is that, if you’re trying to train seriously, you understand house training. In fact, house training is not something I’m worried about, so apparently they’re right.

Anyway, I love Ailsby’s step-by-step approach to training. She is an excellent bricklayer. She lays down brick after brick after brick, created an approach that is strong and complete. She starts with what she calls “zen”–which is all about helping the dog learn to control herself (himself). Susan Garrett has her own step-by-step approach, a much higher energy approach that calls for playing all kinds of games with the dogs, many of which involve sprinting away from the dog so she will chase you. She starts with “itsyerchoice” (grammar and spelling hers, not mine)–which is all about helping the dog learn to control herself. Sharon Nelson starts with hand feeding and a ten-step program of hand-feeding that is all about helping the dog learn to control herself.

Hmmm. Three great trainers. They start with hand feeding. So do Donaldson and Dunbar (once you get past the two or three chapters on house training). (I wonder if Milan uses hand feeding. Oh well, not going to find out.)

So looking at all these methods of hand feeding as a way to start: what do they have in common? It’s all about teaching the dog to control herself in the presence of food, in the presence of people, teaching the dog to make good choices (“bite me, and the food goes away”; “jump on me, and the food goes away”; “sit nicely… and the food gets placed in front of you!) and keep on working with you (“hmm, what else makes food arrive?”).