Saturday, July 12, 2008

A tired dog is a good dog

The title above is a quote from Job Michael Evans, an author and dog trainer for the Monks of New Skete who passed away in the mid 90s. He inspired me to train dogs, and his books certainly taught me a lot of what I know about dog behavior. He came up with training regimes such as "Radical Regimen for Recalcitrant Rovers," and my favorite motto of all: "Train, don't complain." I used to post that one on the wall at my obedience classes. Getting through to the humans is much harder than training the dogs! 

Today's training guru, Cesar Millan of the TV show, Dog Whisperer, preaches some of the same methods. Many dog trainers just hate him, because he does dangerous things on his television show that no owner should EVER try. I agree with that, but I think he does a lot of good too. If you've read his books, he talks quite a bit about how he exercises his dog pack for several hours every day. That is something none of us has time for, but it is a big factor in controlling aggression in the pack. All those pit bulls are too tired to become over-stimulated and start a fight when a new dog comes into the group. Sometimes this isn't obvious on the show. It is portrayed as his "power" over the pack. Don't be fooled. He definitely is a leader and in charge of those dogs, but exercise and training have a lot to do with their behavior. 

Taking that theory down to the pet owner level, if we exercise our dogs several times a day with a game or a walk, their down time will be much calmer and less destructive. We all know what a bored puppy can do with his teeth when you're not watching! 

It's work, yes, and requires effort on the owner's part. But you knew that when you got a dog, right? You committed to caring for this animal, right? Time with us, exercise and training are the promises we make when we add a dog to our homes. It's like having a two year old child for fifteen years. 

But you knew that too... right?

The dog shown above is Sandy, a yellow Lab puppy, five months old, who has been boarding with me. She wore out every dog in the house, then FINALLY fell asleep. She would have been hell on wheels if no other dogs were here to play with. 


1 comment:

Cheryl S. Smith said...

You're right about the mantra of dog trainers everywhere, "a tired dog is a good dog." (I don't think Job originated it, he just put it in a book.) Exercise - both physical and mental - is a daily requirement. We all need to keep pointing that out.
And while I agree that Millan does frequently mention exercise, I can't overlook the horrendous other things he does - alpha rolls, e-collars, forcing dogs into situations of which they are afraid. I've only watched a smattering of his shows, and I've seen him get bit multiple times, so these certainly aren't techniques I want to recommend to owners or even use myself. Mainly positive is so much more fun for everyone, and less stress all around.
Cheryl S. Smith