A recent discussion on a trainers' list brought several comments regarding the "drive" in "working lines" leading to puppies and young dogs leaping, jumping, biting and gripping hard. It was particularly worrisome to several list members that some trainers and breeders considered this behavior "normal" and part and parcel of the set of behaviors that are seen in "working" lines. It seemed to me that there were some important points missed by both sides.
For quite a few years now, I’ve had a special friend that I only saw from time to time – Sara Kiss. Sara was a lovely little Chinook, and my friend Sue’s service dog. We usually met at the annual APDT conference. Sometimes, we saw each other in the hallways of the hotel or conference center.
"All dogs start out as perfectly normal puppies,ready and eager to learn, as malleable as clay."
~ Dr. Ian Dunbar
Sigh... this came across my desk today, as the tagline for the Dog Star Daily Woof from Dr. Dunbar and staff. As a breeder working on her 7th generation of German Shepherds, it made me roll my eyes, as it is a typical statement from non-breeders who seem to have a very skewed and unrealistic view about puppies and what they are or are not. But then I had a stronger reaction, as a trainer. The more I thought about it, the stronger my response.
I realize that in some groups, there is a current taboo on saying NO to a dog. This has led me to consider briefly the idea of naming a dog Noh after the Japanese theatre form. But recently I made a crack about the famed artist Christy Brown and his drinking escapades in a wheelbarrow (look it up! even I can't make this stuff up). Another trainer standing nearby looked absolutely shocked at my comment.
There are a few phrases that really push my buttons. When talking to trainers, the one that will always get a reaction from me is this explanation for why the trainer used a specific technique or piece of equipment: "I had to."