a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Nondog People

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nondog People

SUMMARY: In which I am reminded that I hang out with a rare crowd of doggily aware humans.

On the Wednesday night hike, dogs came up more than once (and it wasn't even me!).

One man told how his sister-in-law had adopted a dog after Katrina who was rescued floating on a mattress in the Mississippi. "It turns out," he says, "that the dog is half German Shepherd and half Blue Heeler!" I say something about, or best guess, if it was found abandoned, and he said, no, really, that's what it is. And he said, do you know what a Blue Heeler is? And I said yes, it's a (and he couldn't wait for me to say it so had to rush in to say it slightly ahead of me) "a kind of Australian Cattle Dog" (except I didn't say "a kind of").

He later said that the dog has lots of energy and can run really fast and jump over really high things and climbs on all kinds of things, so he told his family (I'm thinking "to teach the dog agility", but no--) that they needed to teach that dog to play fetch so he could burn off some energy. That's OK, I think that's a worthy goal.

A dog-owning lady ("I've always had a dog my whole life") said, Well, some dogs retrieve and some dogs don't, and you can't teach them. It's like playing with you, some dogs will and some dogs won't. I said, oh, but they can be taught. And she said, I dunno-- and the other guy said, it's really pretty simple, you just make it clear to the dog that he's supposed to bring the stick back to you when you throw it.

Later another guy said, I've heard about the newest thing in dog training, where you're supposed to train them by talking to them and telling them what you want and using food to reward them, instead of, like, punishing them if they misbehave. And I'm afraid that I did then go off on the "oh, yes, operant conditioning has become much more popular since my first dog back in the late '70s, its popularity probably started with dolphin trainers because you can't hit them with a rolled up newspaper if they don't do want you want, and dogs learn so much more quickly with positive reward and negative punishment blah blah blah--" and their eyes started glazing over, except the dog-owning lady said, what if they bite somebody? And I stopped, sort of stunned, and stuttered something about contacting the humane society for a good behaviorist and that's definitely something that I'd give a very harsh correction (positive punishment, but I didn't say that) for.

So then I realize one reason why I like hanging out with my agility friends. Everyone seems to have so much deeper understanding about dogs, dog genetics, dog behavior, dog training, and just--dogs!

Except my sister who is more into horses, although she's always had dogs, too, but there's a lot of similarity in communicating with any other animal who doesn't speak English or other languages commonly taught in the local high schools. So she understands. But doing horse jumping competitions is a whole lot more expensive and challenging than dog competitions. For one thing, when you go to an out-of-town event, your horses can't sleep in the hotel room with you on the other double bed. They at least need their own giant crate. (Ha ha. That's a dog person's joke about horse people. Whereupon the horse people say, now I realize one reason why I like hanging out with my horsey people friends.)

OK, I have to go finish packing for the trial tomorrow. We got everything set up this afternoon in record time for 3 rings with only about 4 people (or really it was at least half a dozen)--no contact equipment in any of the first classes! But a REALLY low turnout for our shows. We are going to lose so much money. We were discussing whether it's because it's Easter weekend (over 100 fewer runs on Sunday than Saturday) or because of the cost of gas for people farther away, or because it's harder to get titles now with the bigger requirements in CPE, or because there are so bloody many agility events available in our area.


  1. I thought that because I had ridden hunters and jumpers since I was a kid, and professionally since, yikes. Let's just say a long time, and had always had dogs that I "trained", dog agility would be like the easiest thing ever. Just like what i do at work all day except with dogs! So simple! So easy! A bunch of jumps then add in those tunnels and climbing bits. Easy peasy thing to do to tire out Ruby. Holy Moly did that turn out to be a whole different can of peanuts. It gives me humbleness and empathy with my beginner riders let's say. But the dog shows are WAY cheaper and it is a sport I can afford to have as Hobby! All my horses need to be on the payroll as employees. Dogs get to be fun pets!

  2. i tends to prefer communicating with my doggie frenz too....

    while on friday, friends at school will be discussing what movie to watch and which place to hang out..... my mind starts drifting away thinking how to make my dog paws stick on the contact...

    btw.. how i wish i was at your place.... trial is happen too seldom... until i will travel north south east west, no mattter what it takes...

  3. I'm always amazed at how people think they're experts on dog behavior just because they have a dog. Never had a training class in their life but they know everything. I think the more you get into training the more you realize just how little you know.

    I was sitting next to several groups of border collie 'experts' (they had a pet BC at home) at a sheep herding competition and when the smooth coated BC's would come in the ring they'd question each other, 'What kind of dog is that?' Of course I'd have to butt in and tell them it's a BC. They'd say 'It can't possibly be, I have one at home and know all about them and that looks nothing like my dog.'

  4. I have a lot of admiration for training horses. As I pointed out to my sister, if my border collie, for example hypothetically REFUSES ANOTHER *#*$% JUMP in the middle of a snooker run (YES, YOU, BOOST!), all you do is fail to get a Snooker Q (BOOST!), you don't end up in the hospital because when the horse stops you keep going and land on your head in the hospital unconscious for a week.

    Pacco--15 years ago here in our area, there was no dog agility, either; to get a couple of trials a year, people had to drive 800 miles to the nearest competition. It was a gradual thing, and we did lots of demos at every event we could think of to spread the word about dog agility, and tried to get into the papers and on local TV shows and everything, so that more people would know about it. You're the future of dog agility in Malaysia! (OK so maybe it's a little more complicated than in California--)

    About people knowing about dogs: Wikipedia has that problem. You can tell when someone who has had one dog of a breed has updated a breed article. Like "Shelties don't like to play with toys," or "Corgis are easily spooked by strange noises," or "Australian Shepherds are known for looking like they're smiling when they're very happy." Argh!

  5. I much prefer to talk to dog people, non-dog people don't really get it, and when they try it usually ends badly with me correcting them (I can't keep my mouth shut) and then they go off in a huff. I do have a few "non dog" friends but I am careful not to talk about dogs to them...

  6. Oh! the trouble I have gotten into by trying to talk to "pet" people. I'm sure I must have been just like them at one time (OK, no, I don't really believe that so why do I say it?)but, c'mon! There's so much information available now in books, on the 'net, that there's just no excuse for being so uninformed.
    I just don't try anymore. I change the subject or I excuse myself and go get a stiff drink.

  7. I meant to mention that Wishy the Writer posted on a similar topic not long ago:
    How Do I keep From Scaring Newbies?