Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Semper Gumby!

The Marines have a motto. It is "Semper Fidelis" which is Latin for "Always Faithful". When I was stationed with the air wing we had a modification of that motto to "Semper Gumby" which meant "Always Flexible". Things could change quickly on a flightline hence the reason for our modified motto.

Today Jack came with me to the prison to be a distraction for the dogs during their session. When I decided to take him my plan was to possibly let him meet and play with Walker since Walker is still a puppy. I under estimated how over stimulated Walker would get however so it turned into a completely different session. It turns out that flexibility is also very important in dog training.
It took him awhile but he did finally settle down. (we did a lot of parallel walking and move aways) Instead of letting him say hello when he calmed down I decided to wait until another session to let them meet. I want to get him working with other dogs around and NOT expecting it to lead to playtime every time. I'll be switching up the dogs I bring as much as I can.

In Coopers case I wasn't planning on letting them play but maybe do a greeting. Instead Jack got to play the role of distraction dog with him too. We've learned that Cooper will only work for hotdog bits and that the hand signals make him flinch. Instead of not using hand signals I am hoping pairing them with the treats will help counter condition him to hand movements. Very rarely do I believe dogs have been hit in the past like many adopters do. They see a dog react to a hand movement and assume they were all abused. Most of the time I see normal reactions to movement, not true flinching. Some of those dogs are also just being shy or showing submissive body language. In Coopers case however (and I should have taped it!) I do think he may have been hit. We need hands to mean good things to him now so we are also going to up the clicker work with him. And because we want him to like being touched we are actually training him to jump ON people. (on cue only of course) Interestingly he does his stretch and bow calming signal while in the upright position as well as on the floor.

It is fascinating to see how different these two dogs are. It is also a great example to the handlers how the training needs to change based on the dog you are working with. They ARE all different! So please remember that when you are working with your own dogs. Stay flexible because sometimes not everything goes as planned and that's ok! Sometimes the new plan turns out better than the old plan in the long run.

I think Semper Gumby is an excellent motto for people training dogs everywhere. Hmmm, maybe I should make that into a t-shirt.

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