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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Who is training who?


There is a great chapter in Karen Pryors book Lads before the Wind where she talks about animals that have mastered the system of communication your using, and then turn in around on you and use it to communicate with YOU.

She then gives several examples, that, when you think about it, kinda makes the hair on your neck stand up. At least to me anyway. Its one thing for you, as a trainer to communicate clearly to your animal, its one thing for an animal, to communicate with you, using its normal behavior. Its totally another, and downright spooky when the animal uses YOUR method of communication, to communicate with you.


We were at the park the other day, Emma, myself and the spicy one. Both dogs are fantastic off leash, and have speedy recalls, even with the dog park in the background and rabbits everywhere.

Because of this trust, I do let the dogs get a decent distance away before I recall them. 120ish feet apparently. Interestingly enough, I had to google to figure out how wide a soccer field is...but little tan frankendogs know, without the computer.

Chili has a fasinating new behavior. He will run out, what I now know is 120ft more or less. He will stop. Turn to face me and sit.

Then he waits.

This behavior first appeared almost a year ago, but I shrugged it off. Now it is so frequent Iam 100% positive this is intentional.

Turns out, in training the recall, I would call the dogs back at varying distances. But I would ALWAYS recall them when they got so far away they were out of my comfort zone. I wasn't really noting distance, I was just going off gut feeling "eeeeh they are getting too far away, better call 'em back".


So now...Chili is INTENTIONALLY going to the edge of my comfort zone and turning around and WAITING for me to recall him. I can walk up to him, I can talk to him (usually I laugh at him or ask him wtf hes doing)...but if I don't give the recall cue, his butt is firmly glued to the grass.

So hes now training ME. Hes learned he can make me call him, which leads to treats. An unintentional behavior chain (unintentional, on my part, Iam sure VERY intentional on his)

He also has begun to bring me objects he can't seem to figure out or open. Or, since he was a puppy, bring me objects that shouldn't be on the floor. Look mom, I found a pen, look mom I found this piece of trash...etc...

He got a Kong stuck on his mouth once, he went to Kevin and asked him for help.

Smart little snot.


The other "whos training who" comes from mimicry. Som'thing dogs are not supposed to do well. Iam sure it falls into "social learning". Though I haven't read much on the subject.

I taught Kiwi to push closed doors open with her face. Critter already did this, but the other three would not even try. If the door was ajar, they would try, but only if it was open enough that they barely had to bump it to get through.

What I taught Kiwi was, I turn the knob but the door stays closed. Kinda like the door is off just enough it can't lock..but visually looks 100% shut.

She caught onto this quick, and I soon put "push" on cue.

Within three days. Emma, Chili and Tippy learned this behavior. Unless som'thing magical happened, they MUST have learned this through observation. Tippy was first, which did not shock me, as I watched her learn how to use a buster cube from observing Chili. No trial and error. Just literally watched him, and then did it. All this after that cube sat, full of food, unused for about a year.


The dogs can learn from each other...perhaps this is why each new rescue gets easier and easier to acclimate. Fascinating!!


Anyway, Iam curious as to what the future will bring. I also can't wait for the next "ah you little shit" moment where I realize Chili is training me.

1 comment:

  1. That is so interesting!! I notice Kitty and Breeze doing things like this too- Aero hasn't figured this out yet haha.
    Seriously though, very very cool. I want to read into observational learning in dogs a bit more as I've noticed maybe it isn't as lacking as I thought before.

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