Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Love Of A Dog

Recently, I got some Youtube comments from someone that said I do not love my dogs because I did not show them any affection in any of my Youtube videos. No need to look for the comments, I deleted them and blocked the viewer. Well, I can’t argue with crazy. True, I have not posted any videos of kissing, cuddling, or hugging, but you can hardly define my love for my greyhounds from 1 minute video clips.

So let us talk about affection and praise used as a reward. The expression about the dog wanting to please the master comes to mind.….. Can humans get anymore self-centered? You could liken that to me going to work 5 days a week to please my boss. While I love my job and think the world of my boss, my motivation for pleasing my boss is so he will pay me. I believe it is the same for most dogs. If I am happy with my greyhounds, good things happen for them.

My job as a trainer that uses positive reinforcement is to make what I want to also be pleasing for the dogs. It should be a win-win situation for all involved. Assuming that all dogs work for praise is somewhat insulting for man’s best friend. They are all so different. Some dogs work for food. Other dogs may work for special toys, tugging, or a game of fetch. Some dogs find the work itself to be rewarding (those crazy border collies). Others may work for affection. Most dogs probably work for a combination of the above depending upon the request being made and it is the trainer’s job to find the right mix of rewards.

Katie is a fine example of a dog that would be thoroughly insulted with affection as a reward. She and I are not affectionate by nature. Just ask my parents, I was not a cuddly baby. If my hubby, Stephen, tries to stop me in the middle of cleaning the house for a hug, I glaze over and continue to run the to-do list through my head..... sorry, Snookums. While Katie and I both love our massages and back scratches, the time just isn’t right when we are busy.

During Katie's early training, I noticed early on that she would step away when I would try to praise her. Her interest is solely in the food. Today at age 10, Katie is more accepting of praise, but that is probably an association with a possible food reward. Happy mom = praise = food.

Katie has become much sweeter and cuddlier over the years. I love taking a nap with her or just snuggling up to her and I think she loves it too now. She loves a good scrub with a grooming mitt. But its not what she wants when she finds the correct scent article.... The girl loves to eat!

The other day, Stephen and I were walking all 6 dogs and we passed a woman with an old man in a wheelchair/scooter. He was a World War 2 vet. He immediately called to our greyhounds and they surged in for greeting…… each one pushing the other out of the way for some of his attention. All except for Katie.

Sometimes people ask if Katie is shy, but in reality she just does not seek much human attention like the others do. My point is that it is ok for a dog to have that preference and it is ok to respect that.

Now Riley and Reagan are much more affectionate than Katie and I feel that it is appropriate to include praise as a reward (although they definitely need food also). However, I figure that most people watch my videos for the action and not for the baby talk and scritches....... so I'm probably not going to be posting any affectionate videos anytime soon.