sobota, 2 maja 2020

Caught between the extremes

In those uncertain times, one thing is still certain: whatever you're doing, someone knows you're doing it wrong and will comment on it in non-specific way on their social media, which is like the famous soapbox in Hyde Park nowadays.

We have those training fads as well. Like all those years ago we discovered clicker training in Poland and everybody was shaping and just being positive and clicker training zyliards of tricks and people were sharing new batch of tricks each month with their puppies and everybody went oooh, aaaah and there was this sort of competition who would teach the most tricks and the most creative ones. Then suddenly we discovered calming signals and that whole methodology and everybody was spying on "oh, but he licked his lips, he's clearly not comfortable in this situation" and taking part in communication classes and what not. Now it's fitness training and conditioning and half of the world is obsessed with dogs maintaining proper stance on two objects and there is this whole progression from stable objects to unstable ones etc. Me, I actually love all of it and learnt from each - I have this kind of mind that likes synthesis, so picks up bits and pieces and somehow joins them together (which is also what I'm doing here, it's not a detailed historical survey of training methods, just several examples that caught my attention at some point or other). On the other hand, my mind hates extremes and likes to look for the "middle ground" or "golden mean". 

What is kinda new is people actually bragging what their dogs cannot do yet ;). "My dog is fifteen months old and can only do a straight tunnel". "My dog is one year old and he cannot do ANYTHING, I just let him be a puppy". This is usually in response to someone posting a video of young dogs doing relatively advanced things... or sometimes not really, sometimes it's young dogs doing anything. Well, I find this peculiar.

It's a bit like saying "I want my children to have childhood, I don't teach them anything". Well, I don't think we should enroll babies in all possible classes, so they could play the piano, sew, cook and talk in three five different languages by the age of four, but if you're saying that, probably you're lying through your teeth, as most likely you taught them to use the toilet, dress themselves, say "thank you" and "please", eat soup with a spoon, look both ways before crossing the street and so on (or at least I really really hope so). Same goes for dogs, if you're against training on agility equipment before certain age, fine, but I certainly hope you're teaching your dog to come when called, play with you in different locations, walk on leash nicely, ignore distractions, maintain sit-stays, having their nails cut and so on and so on so why don't you brag about that? What I mean here is that I find it much more constructive to list what you can do with a puppy (and there is lots) rather than pointing fingers at someone doing it differently. I really like the idea of "follow my puppy's progress" kind of courses, where famous trainers show what they are doing and how and why, thus giving good example and ideas. 

Also, in the end, even if there is right and wrong way of doing things (which is generally a very complex subject), what someone else is doing is their responsibility and their decision. People are entitled to make mistakes and they can even, wait for it, make mistakes and NOT learn from them (that's idiotic, but it's their problem). And you might feel it's super unfair, but sometimes people make mistakes and get away with it ;). 

I always give example that Brava could weave as one year old - it's true. She was also running sequences at that time. When questioned about it, I also said that she was super easy to train and she learnt much faster than I expected (huh, I might be the first one to come up with "I just have a genius dog" explanation, do I get the credit for that?). That was also true, I didn't even have everyday access to equipment at that time (it was 40-60 minutes drive away and I had a toddler to take care of, so two or three times a week I actually got up at 5:40, left home at 6 am, got to the training place at 7 am, trained four dogs, including warm-up / cool-off and left at 8:15 at the latest to get back home by 9, when my husband had to leave for his work... so much for drilling and overtraining... and yes, I admire my own dedication from that period).

I didn't start teaching weaves that early with any of my "later" dogs - not because it hurt Brava - it didn't, she is still in great shape and was actively and successfully competing until almost 11 years old and now enjoys healthy and active retirement, but because since then, I've found things that I'd rather do at that time, and weaves are pretty easy to train anyway ;). There are also things that, unlike one year old Brava weaving, really make my skin crawl when I look at my old videos (like for goodness sake, I was running agility ON SNOW!) and that I wouldn't do today, because I know better. But I'm glad I was allowed to make my own mistakes. And I'm glad it was not discussed on FB at that time ;). 

What I'm saying is that: 
- you should do things your way, the one you feel comfortable with,
- you shouldn't do things you don't feel comfortable with (it's that simple: if you're against training equipment before one year old / before growth plates close / before you teach particular flatwork skill / etc., just don't do it),
- you should have some argumentation behind it (like why you're doing things in specific time, in specific order and in specific way), especially if you want people to follow your way,
- and that's it. What other people are doing with their own dogs (or children) is really their business, as long as it doesn't endanger you or your loved ones (hence my hope everybody teaches recall...).