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.