Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stubborn? Difficult? Stupid?

We have a crate in our living room for the puppy du jour. It's a plastic Furrarri with a front door that opens from both the right and left side.

I recently changed the direction of this crate, it is now facing into the room rather than the back door where it has been situated since we've had Lexus. Soon after this change I asked Lex to go to her kennel. She ran full speed to where she knew the crate door to be... and stopped in confusion. It didn't take her long to figure out, but it really highlights how dogs don't generalize well and need to be trained in different places for optimum performance. The less experienced they are the more time they need to adjust to new situations.

A few days later I made the simple change of opening her door from the right rather than the left, again she was thrown off. She looked directly into the open crate then went around the door as usual and shoved her nose through the crack between the plastic and wire. She came back around but tried the other approach once more before finally entering her crate. I stood back (silently laughing) and let her figure it out on her own. Once in her crate she got her food.

Lexus is not a stupid dog. She was not being difficult. She wanted her supper but the setup was different. I bet the next time I make a change to the direction/placement of her crate she'll figure it out with little to no hesitation, I'll test that tomorrow. This was nothing but a learning opportunity for her.

Lexus trying to play tough... or maybe just making a funny face :)

In Schutzhund people often train on their club field with their club decoy. This is great for teaching but there will come a time when you will want to take your training on the road. Don't expect your dog to run the blinds, bite a strange helper and do the perfect sendout on a strange field if they have never done it anywhere but at home. That is unfair and unreasonable. It will be damaging to your relationship and their performance if you start to correct them in a situation like this. Be careful and really observe your dog when you think they may be "stubborn" or "difficult". Often it's nothing more than incomplete training.

Take a step back and start with an exercise they'll be successful at. Gradually increase the difficulty to the level they are working at at home. The more places you can train your dog, the more situations you throw them into (where they will be successful), the stronger performance dogs they will be.


Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

Very insightful post - makes perfect sense, but I bet a lot of trainers don't think about that.

LOVE the picture!! What a face :D

Kane said...

Strange. Most men are the same way. ;)