This past weekend Lynn and I had the good fortune of attending two one-day seminars (Advanced Canine Language on Saturday and Lost Dog Recovery on Sunday) with Nelson Hodges of Canine Content (and a huge thank you to Dogs Behavin’ for hosting). The weekend was jam-packed with invaluable information that we will be incorporating into our training approaches. If I were to try to summarize everything we learned it would take several pages, so I’ll try to narrow this down to a few of the most salient takeaways we gleaned from the lectures.
Number one from the Lost Dog Recovery portion is to think like the dog, not just any dog, but the dog you’re trying to find. When searching for a lost dog, consider the dog’s motives and personality. Where would he go check out first, what paths is he used to traveling? Is he running up to the first person he meets? Is he hunkering down and hiding? Is he cruising the neighborhood for some dog friends? Consider what would be a good place to hide for a dog, what resources are they looking for (where are sources of food and water), what “roadways” could they travel along (alleyways, railroad tracks, washes… paths of travel out of sight of humans).
One insight from Nelson that really rang true, is most of the time with lost dog searches the search team acts like a group of kids playing soccer—everyone’s just following the ball! There needs to be strategy and thinking ahead; think where the ball is going to go, don’t all go to where the ball just was. Everyone on a search team should have a specific job and area of search.
An exercise that Lynn found particularly valuable from the Canine Language day was to literally put ourselves in a dog’s position. This exercise required one person squat down to dog-level and experience many different types of approaches from another person. Though we often feel like we know what a dog would think, it’s a very powerful experience to be in their physical position. Nelson ran us through many different drills, and most of the variations were only subtly different in terms of speed or where our eyes were looking or if we were passing the dog or stopping next to them or in front of them, etc. All of these small changes made big differences for the comfort of the person in the dog's position.
Because these two full days were just not enough, we are very excited by the opportunity to continue our canine education with Nelson this winter at his intensive 3-day Relationship Based Behavior Modification seminar. Here is a stellar review Troy Bogden gave Nelson’s 3-day workshop for those interested in learning more:
“You will not learn how to speak or communicate *TO* your dog. This is very different from most seminars where you typically learn to train a dog to pay attention to you with food, pressure, or play; training dogs to perform behaviors *for* you so that they can co-exist in the human world.
This seminar is really more about learning to listen, learning to understand how the canine thinks, sees, and interprets the world. Once your knowledge is raised, you will then learn how to follow a dog instead of leading the dog (I know, right?), how to interact in a way that lets dogs know you really understand them and want to work *with* them. You learn to earn the dog's trust, respect, and interest in you by first showing them you understand them and how to truly fulfill their needs before asking them to do for you. As you gain this partnership, you will also learn how to improve your body language and use it without the aid of other tools to guide your dog to work with you, not for you. This seminar will change the way you think about training dogs. Well worth it!”