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About Withzia

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  1. This is the story I think of when the issue of the pickiness of rescues came up. A good friend of mine attempted to adopt a dog from a malamute breed rescue. I think the world of this woman--she's a wonderful parent and she's very responsible. She got her first malamute when my then 11-year-old stepdaughter was spending a week with her (so you know I really trust her). And then after we scolded her about buying a puppy, and after she built a fence around her backyard, she applied to adopt a second malamute from rescue. She was turned down. She was very frustrated about it, and she had most of the same complaints you see here. But as that first malamute puppy grew she had one huge problem after another. She worked hard to make it work--but the fact is that she was just not equipped to deal with that breed of dog. In the end she did an incredibly conscientious job of rehoming the dog on her own (I assume she was just too embarrassed to contact the breed rescue) and found a very good home for it. So the moral of this story is that someone might be a very good person and indeed an excellent dog owner for other dogs (my friend now has two very happy labs), but still not the right fit for a particular breed or a particular dog.
  2. I've read this thread, cringing as I realized that I had doubtlessly referred to "herding lessons" when speaking to our instructor, and wondering what she thought of me for that. Then I looked back in my old emails, and realized that her usual subject heading when announcing her lesson times is "Herding." She hosts a USBCHA-sanctioned trial each year. Is it possible this is a regional thing? Edited to add: By a regional thing, I mean I wonder if the allergy to the term is a regional thing. I don't see a huge presence of the AKC border collie types in Utah and adjacent states, so I wonder if the stockwork people around here just see us amateurs' tendency to use the term "herding" as harmless rather a sign of evil AKC brainwashing.
  3. I just wanted to say that being owner-centered may not be true of all BCs. My two (1 and a half years, and 2 and a half years) adore everyone they meet. If allowed ("Don't worry--I love dogs! Let them do whatever they want!"), they will sit (a tall sit, not a lie down) as close to the person as they can, staring worshippingly into the person's face. If anything, I wish they would be a little more discriminating. Several of our friends are convinced they personally have a really special relationship with our dogs--I'd hate to see their disillusionment if they ever saw how our dogs do exactly the same thing to the guy who comes over for the first time to do the furnace estimate. And our first border collie was not really different in this regard, even though she was a very shy dog. Once she overcame her shyness with anyone she worshipped them.
  4. That's actually how I got a rock-solid recall on my first border collie! I found myself teaching stays and recalls at more or less the same stage on off-leash walks. Without really intending it, I somehow got her doing solid stays before she had good recall. I kept extending the stays so that I'd get out of sight--and then when I called her she'd come like a rocket. She extended this pretty quickly to recalls in other contexts, but that might just have been her. This was the dog that would hold a stay forever. I found this out after I stopped to get some photos on a hike with a few friends and their dogs. We walked on and after quite a while we heard a distant whine of distress. I ran back and realized I'd left Zia in a stay. Bad dog owner. Best dog ever.
  5. I don't believe I ever suggested not training the recall, and I myself certainly do. But in both the current threads on recalls the safety issue came up as a major motivation for training the recall, and I'm suggesting that your dog is a lot safer if it has both the recall and a distance down in its repertoire.. I think that if you have a dog running into danger--perhaps pursuing a ball rolling into the street--you're going to be better off calling for the "easier" down and then--after its momentum and focus are broken--recalling your dog. I'm trying to think through this, and I think there's another reason why I put such an emphasis on the distance down. Once your dog gets the "concept," it's a lot easier to drill the down over and over again in a variety of contexts whenever it occurs to you. You call for the down, the dog does it, you release them (sometimes waiting a few beats or longer, often not at all). Easy as pie, and the dog goes on with what it's doing, as do you. Each recall on the other hand takes a few times longer than a down (if there's any distance involved) and results in lots of lost tennis balls. (I find I tend to practice recalls on hikes, and distance downs in most other activities, including fetch.) So if I'm honest about it, I may stress the down because it's so easy to drill. Still, a potentially life-saving technique that's easy and convenient to drill might have an advantage.
  6. This could go in either of the current "recall" threads, but I'll put it here since there are a lot of things going on in the other one: If the motivation for working hard on teaching the recall is the dog's safety, isn't a distance down perhaps a little more reliable? Somewhere or other I read or heard that when training my first border collie, and since it made sense to me, I've always put lots of effort into the distance down. The idea is that if the dog is pursuing something it's a lot more likely to do an instant down where it can keep its eye on the object disappearing in the distance than it is to turn around and head back to you. Plus there's always the possibility that the dog might already be heading back to you, say with a frisbee in its mouth, when something potentially dangerous is coming in between (like a couple of downhill skiers) and you'd like to stop your dog in its tracks. I primarily train the distance down with a Chuck-It, working gradually up to the point where my dogs will instantly flatten themselves to the ground and watch another dog grab the bouncing tennis ball. I try to remember to throw in "downs" in other contexts all the time. The release from the down seems to be sufficient reward.
  7. Maralynn, thanks so much for this informative reply. I've been really curious about this, given my SAR experience and the fact that I've got one pup in very beginner herding lessons right now. I do have a hunch that there is something qualitatively different about the kinds of work that require the dog to take initiative and use their own judgment and other activities. Plenty of dogs, including my current border collies, can be content without the "thinking" work, but I felt as if it was really important for my search dog, Zia, to have an activity where she was in charge like that. She was both an extremely responsive and a shy dog, and the search work seemed to fill a psychological need for her--a part of her life where she was taking in information and making judgment calls that didn't depend solely on what humans wanted of her at that particular moment. Maybe I was reading too much into it, but she seemed healthier and happier when she was searching regularly.
  8. Trust me, no way was I asking that. I wouldn't think that either. In your post before this one you stated that you had a qualitatively better relationship--one you hadn't imagined--once you went into stockwork with a traditional stockwork training approach. My question--and I apologize for not being clear enough--was whether you attribute the difference to the activity (obedience versus stockwork) or the training method (treats as rewards versus the different techniques you use in training stockwork). Which, the different nature of the activity or the different training method, do you see as responsible for this qualitatively better partnership?
  9. They already did it--it's called a Corgi! I'm kind of with you on this. Maybe there are some significant ways in which this trend differs from the kind of cross-breeding that led to today's breeds, but in any case what's the harm in it? Sure, it would be better if the people buying "canine hybrids" instead adopted from rescue, but since these are probably people that would be buying AKC-style purebreds, how is it a bad thing if instead they buy potentially healthier mixes and the whole breed thing gets a bit more mixed up?
  10. Denise (and others who have had both kinds of experiences), do you think the difference between these two things is the training method (click/treat versus another method) or the activity? I'm asking both because I'm curious and because I think that's where this discussion has gotten a bit confused, with people talking past each other. And I'm also personally curious about whether anyone who's had experience in both stockwork and SAR sees a qualitative difference there. What is it that makes for a better, deeper, more meaningful partnership? Assuming it's the nature of the activity rather than the training method, is the crucial variable the instinctiveness of the behavior or the amount of initiative and judgment it demands of the dog?
  11. It seems as if in this discussion the term "mechanical" has ended up being applied to the behavior rather than to the training method, so I suggest taking a look at the implications of this. Mechanical behavior is--in this discussion--behavior that is not instinctive. More specifically here, it seems to be behavior for which training has to provide even the very motivation, correct? If so, I'd like to suggest that non-mechanical, or instinctive, behavior is not necessarily the hallmark of a thinking dog. When greyhounds chase the mechanical rabbit, that's surely instinctive behavior, isn't it? But is this an example of a "thinking dog"? Conversely, when after locating the subject, my search dog left him/her and went back to get me to bring me into the subject, was that a natural behavior? I'd call it mechanical, since that was something I had to work hard to explain to her was necessary. But she had to think and take initiative to do it--she had to go back and locate me, she had to pick a route that a clumsy human like me could follow (not necessarily the same one she had taken), and she had to look back at regular intervals to make sure I was within eyesight and could see which way she was going. So there's an example of a thinking dog doing a mechanical behavior. Looking at how illogical that sounds, I'd suggest just dropping the word "mechanical" and using instinctive/non-instinctive or natural/unnatural. Seems a lot clearer.
  12. I'm amazed at how individual words that Kristine is using are dissected in such a fashion. She was clearly responding to an earlier comment in this thread that behaviors trained with treats and clickers appear mechanical, as opposed to behaviors that have been instilled in different ways, such as how you work with your kids. The claim seemed to be that the demeanor of the dog in doing the behavior will be different if the behavior is trained with clicks and treats. Since the term "mechanical" sounds somewhat pejorative, I can see why she's working hard to try and explain why she doesn't believe her training methods result in a mechanical dog. And while yes there have been some posters in this thread explicitly using "mechanical" to refer to any behavior that is not natural (meaning instinctive), I have seen none of them using the term "mechanical" to describe when their own stockdog lies down or recalls on command, which this definition would logically imply. In fact I've seen "mechanical" opposed to a "thinking dog." If your dog has a reliable recall, your dog does some "mechanical" behaviors and has been trained in part "mechanically," right? Is there anyone here who doesn't have a dog that is trained at least in part "mechanically"?
  13. I don't get what any of the instances in the second quote and most of the instances in the first quote have to do with the "money for grades" thing. Surely trophies for everybody and "social promotion" and credit for just showing up are at the opposite end of the "use of rewards" spectrum from "money for grades." I didn't understand an earlier reference in this thread to "money for grades" as a manifestation of "political correctness," either. I would expect the politically correct (assuming you mean the good-hearted granola-crunching idealist types in Birkenstocks) to be the last people on earth to pay their kids money for good grades. Would it be out of place for me to warn against lumping together all the things you don't like into a single category, whether they fit together logically or not?
  14. Good Lord, I didn't say "Julie Poudrier says that only ..." and I didn't say that absolutely no one had brought up those other activities--you did in the context of handler and dog working together for a socially beneficial purpose. (You didn't bring up the initiative and judgment angle as far I can see.) I thought it might be interesting to throw this activity in the mix and think about it systematically.
  15. I've been finding this discussion interesting--particularly the question of whether stock work is somehow qualitatively different from other kinds of activities for dogs, and if so why. Let me suggest introducing one more type of dog activity into the mix--search and rescue. Let's look at how it measures, in terms of the types of variables discussed on this thread: * Extent of initiative and autonomous decision-making required of the dog: Very high. If you've ever seen a good SAR dog "working out a problem," you'll know this. I'd be glad to back up this point if you have any doubts. * Whether the rewards are extraneous or intrinsic: Mixed. My dog clearly loved searching itself more than anything on earth, and appeared to get a kick out finding people, but SAR dog-training does have the ritual of always providing the toy play-time when the dog leads the handler to the subject. * Whether or not clicker training is used: Not in my experience. * Whether or not it's what the dog was bred to do (a variable that usually appears in these discussions, whether or not it's appeared in this thread): Nope. * Whether or not the human's living depends upon the activity: Not in the volunteer work that predominates in SAR training in the US. Still, it can be life and death for other people. I'm not sure what this implies for the biggest points of contention in this thread, but I wanted to correct the implicit idea that stock work is the only work border collies can do that requires them to take initiative and use their own judgment. I know it's not what they were bred to do, but there's something beautiful about seeing any well-trained SAR dog work. The best SAR handlers know to defer to the dogs as much as possible within the limits of the instructions they received from Incident Command.
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