A while back I had it in my head that I wanted to be a dog trainer. All right, so perhaps that notion hasn't quite disappeared, but I have come to the conclusion that due to our move, it is not financially feasible for me to take a course right now. So, I found the next best thing; a book. Well, actually, I found a few books and have been deeply engrossed in one of them. I can't quite remember the title, I'm horrible with book titles, but it is basically about the applied behavior and psychology of dogs. It is a very good, but heavy read. There is so much information that I have to read it in little sections, put the book away and digest what I've just read. It started by outlining the history of the domesticated dog and moved into puppy learning and behavior. It was published in 2000 and a lot of the references are quite old-dating back to 1949-but I think some of the information is still relevant and the stuff that is not will give me a base of knowledge that I can apply to my style of training. If someone asks me "why" or "why not" I will be better equipped to answer those questions.
I personally like Operant Conditioning, which basically means you teach the dog to make decisions and to problem solve. This is the type of learning that service dogs-police dogs, guide dogs-under go. This book seems to promote Classical Conditioning, which means you teach your dog a bunch of things and just expect it to perform them. This works for some people, but I enjoy challenging my dogs and having them make decisions and do the right thing because they want to. For example, when Glacier and I approach a car parked across a sidewalk, he will pause letting me know there is something there. I praise him and then ask him to "forward?" Glacier uses his little doggie brain and eyes to select the safest path and takes me around the vehicle safely. Dogs who are classically trained wouldn't have the ability to determine what was safest and would need me to tell them which direction to go. This is problematic if you can't see anything and don't know which is the safest route. That said, I am only on Chapter two and may be wrong on the book's take on Classical Conditioning as there is another section labelled Instrumental Learning.
The psychology behind a puppy's learning has been absolutely amazing to read about. Even though I don't know much about Kyo's history, reading some of the psychological responses to being weaned too early and isolation from human or other dog contact makes me think that Kyo's behavioral issues were caused by these two things. Separation anxiety, excessive mouthing/lack of bite inhibition and hyper activity are all behavioral issues that can be caused by taking a puppy from its litter too early and/or not socialising it properly.
From what I do know of Kyo's past, his family crated him at least eight hours a day while they were away at work. If this was done during his puppy development stages, it could have contributed to his crazy behaviors. I always knew that his issues stemmed from his past, and perhaps poor breeding, but it's interesting to actually read about it and have my inklings confirmed.
Taking a course would have been good in that it would provide structured learning, but just reading books can also be just as beneficial. I can read differing opinions, training methods and theories and draw my own conclusions. I can take different training practices and put them together to create a training method I am comfortable with. Some of the training programs I was reading insist that you do everything their way and some of the things that they teach I do not agree with. Eventually, when finances are a bit more stable, I will definitely enroll in an actual course, but for now I'll stick with my books and learn as much as I can on my own. I know that type of learning can be problematic in that anyone can read a book and think that they are an expert when really they are a moron and are not qualified to teach an ant to find a sugar bowl, but I'm hoping I'm not a moron and I am not attempting to train anyone's dog until I have an actual qualification under my belt. Reading just gives me a platform to build up from. Another route I thought I may try is to apprentice with a trainer once in the UK. I'm not sure if anyone would be willing to teach me or if this would be a financially viable option either, but it's worth exploring.
For now, I'll keep reading and learning as much as I can through that method. Mr. K is an internet Ninja and can find me practically any book I could want in an accessible format. So, thank you Mr. K. :) And as for my Blog, be prepared for me to yammer on about dog behavior/psychology/training at length because aside from training for the triathlon, it's the thing that is under my skin the most right now. :)