I Don’t Know About Dog Training, But I Know About Common Sense

Ok, I have a question for you. Let me set the scene.

Your puppy has for the last 24 hours been suffering from diarrhea. Upon returning from the cinema at 11pm (Rise of the Planet of the Apes – watch it now, thank me later), you let your puppy outside so that it can do its business. Once that is done, do you:

a) Feed it again despite the fact it has diarrhea, has already eaten and the time is 11pm.

b) Not feed it again.

If you choose ‘a’, you are wrong because guess what? The inevitable happened within five minutes. On the carpet.

If you choose ‘b’, well done. You have common sense.

Guess which one Helen chose?

Captain Picard Facepalm

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About Timon Singh

Timon Singh lives in Bristol, England with his girlfriend Helen Harfield. He is a graduate of Liverpool University where he received a degree in Social and Economic History. He is currently a Creative Copywriter and does freelance work for Den of Geek and Inhabitat. An avid film geek, he can often be found on his sofa basking in the power of his home cinema system. He can also be found on Twitter: @timonsingh
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2 Responses to I Don’t Know About Dog Training, But I Know About Common Sense

  1. feed them plain boiled rice with some egg in if they have a bad stomach. Some dog foods can be pretty rich.

  2. I. Westray says:

    The cover of "The Power of Positive Dog Training" has a quote from Jean Donaldson. Makes sense to me, because this book is a wonderful successor to "Culture Clash," Donaldson’s classic set of essays about the value of operant conditioning and the flaws of other training methods."Culture Clash" is the word-of-mouth classic that clicker-training dog people recommend most often, at least in my experience. It’s a lively, engaging book, but it’s basically written as a sort of argument for operant methods rather than other training approaches, not as a practical training guide. Because of that "Clash" is not well-organized for use as a how-to title. It has no index, the chapters aren’t organized around typical training issues, and so on.Well, "Power of Positive Dog Training" is the practical version. The book is organized around a six-week training regimen — there’s one chapter for each week. Pat Miller does address all the differences between operant training and, say, punishment-based approaches, but she does so largely in her introductory chapters, in a way that complements the approachable, clearly-stated training course she’s describing. She doesn’t seem to be attacking the methods she’s describing, just laying out the advantages of positive methods to win you over. When an author describes "team you and your dog," you know her heart’s in the right place, don’t you?When it comes to the training chapters, you’ll love the structure of this book. Each week has some Core Exercises and some Bonus Games. They’re written with a careful sense of how you’re going to use them, which just works.Take one of the core exercises from week 3 — "Wait." First Miller explains what the behavior is and why you need it: Wait tells your dog to stay back for a moment or two, and you might use it to keep your dog from rushing out the door when you open it. Then you get simply-stated instructions for how to train the behavior: do this, do this, when the dog does that reward it in this way, and so on. At the end of this section there’s a little "remember" paragraph that helps to frame the instructions in terms of the overall approach. (In this case Miller reminds us we’re trying to set the dog up to succeed, not trying to lure her into making a mistake we can correct.) Then we get Training Tips, which is a sort of "usual questions" category that addresses some of the common questions or problems that come up in teaching a given behavior. ("My dog wanders off when I try to train this, what should I do?")Simple enough, isn’t it? Good technical writing has a way of seeming so simple that anyone could have written it. (Bad technical writing, well, that’s like wading through the six languages in your VCR manual and never being sure which language you’re in.)The rest of this book serves to complement the training course. First you have those introductory essays. For most readers, for people who don’t have a stake in punishment-based traditional methods, these six brief chapters would be a perfect introduction to positive-reinforcement training. (If you’re completely convinced that the purpose of training your dog is to establish your dominance as alpha dog, well, maybe you need Jean Donaldson to needle you some.) Then you have section two, the training regimen, with six chapters for six weeks of training. Section three is built around common challenges: separation anxiety, housetraining, resource-guarding, and adjusting to children are four of the seven topics that get treated in detail.The good organization continues into the back of the book. "Power" has five appendices with useful information like sample calendars you might use, or a list of possible treats you might not have thought of using. Finally, the index is actually useful and complete. (For some reason this is a real problem with lots of dog books; I’ve got a few "Which breed is right for you" books that don’t even list breeds in the index, and "Culture Clash" has no index at all.)Basically, this is the training book I’ve liked best so far. The writing style is candid and engaging, the structure is thoughtful and consistent, and as a book it just has the feel of a more mature work than most of its competition. I don’t give too many five-star ratings, but I’ll give one here.

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