Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Words and Perspective

Well, I haven’t been able to do a lot of training with the boy lately since he’s been such a sickie. (As you’ve no doubt noticed from my frantic posts about his intestinal health!)

So, I have been doing a lot of thinking, which can be dangerous. None-the-less, I have decided that there are some words I would like to drop from my vocabulary and internal voice. Typically these are words that I use as a catchall, because it is easier to say X then put the thought into what I am trying to say. I think these words limit my relationship with the boy and our training.

The words that I am looking to drop:


I use this word with Ike a lot. What do I typically mean when I use it? That Ike is so over stimulated that he has withdrawn, his ears are flat, tail tucked, and paws behave as though they are stuck in molasses. After all, in Ike’s world slow is safe!

Is this an accurate word for Ike? Shut Down means closed for business in my mind. Ike bounces back 80% of the time. And frequently he tries even if he is overwhelmed.

Would it be better to say over-whelmed or over-stimulated? I will take it on a case-by-case basis, but I am going to try and limit my use of the phrase Shut Down. I don’t think it gives enough info and can be misleading as to Sir Ike’s actual condition/behavior.


I work with two reactive dogs. Ike’s reactivity is directed at creepy people primarily, and has lessened dramatically with counter-conditioning and his new thyroid supplement. Carmen’s reactivity is directed at dogs and in general isn’t as bad as I always thought it was. With additional exposure and training I think Carmen won’t be bad at all.

The reason I want to drop this word? I think many lay-people do not understand the nuances of it. Truthfully it means a dog is over stimulated by something and doesn’t have appropriate coping mechanisms for what they are feeling. What do people think of? Gnashing teeth, dangerous dogs, etc.


I think criteria is another term that is just plain vague. For example, I want to train myself to list what my actual criteria is for the teeter rather than just saying, “I like my criteria for Ike’s teeter.” Unless you are inside my head that sentence doesn’t mean squat!

Blowing Me Off.

As in that lovely colloquial phrase, “My dog blew me off.” One hears it all the time, and what does it mean? That someone is ignoring you or choosing not to interact with you. When it comes to dogs, I don’t think they think like that. I think they are rather zen and you, the handler, lost your connection with your dog in that moment.

Saying, “[insert dog’s name] blew me off” doesn’t really explain what happened. Assuming it is because you weren’t paying enough attention and you lost the connection with your dog, wouldn’t you get more out of trying to figure out where you lost the connection and taking some responsibility for the relationship rather than placing it all on your four-legged friend?

I don’t use this phrase that often and Katrin has made me swear it off forever as it is such an inaccurate phrase, but man alive you hear it a lot.

What do all of these words have in common? They are not specific enough. Sometimes I use words and I don’t really *think* about what I mean or what I am saying or how I am going to try and remedy the issue I am talking about.

So, I am going to attempt to be more specific about what our issues, dog and handler alike, are and what I plan on doing about them.

I am also going to try very hard to continue to think about Ike’s perspective in all of our training together. I like agility a lot, and I like the challenge of motivating Ike. However, I need to be eternally cognizant that Ike isn’t over the moon about agility. He likes agility because we do it together.

I am focusing on earning Ike’s C-ATCH because I think that is a good goal for us. CPE is a venue that is more relaxed, which suits Ike’s personality. However, I catch myself PUSHING things. There are two NADAC trials coming up in Wrentham. I had to stop myself from entering both days of both trials. I would love to compete on both days, but Ike would HATE that. Ike might not really want to compete on one day. NADAC is pushing it a bit as far as Ike’s comfort level goes (course times are faster, for one).

I have to do my part in making us a successful team and that means respecting what Ike’s comfort level is. I need to keep things in perspective. If Ike isn’t having fun, I need to re-evaluate.


Cat and Tessie said...

You know, you should seriously give AKC a shot. No one is forcing you to do FAST, so it's two runs a day, which I think would be in Mr. Ike's comfort level for sure. It's not as OMG-DRAMA as USDAA, but admittedly not as laid back as NADAC or CPE. But the two classes per day would definately be Ike friendly, as well as the exceptionally generous course times. Plus there are LOTS of trials in the area. CSSC has a trial in Wrentham in late May.

Katrin said...

Katrin over here is jumping for joy- someone actually making a commitement to BE MORE CLEAR and use words that actually MEAN what they want to say!!!

And I'm not even talking about ease of communication for Ike (though that will of course be a good benifit) I am think about it for ME and how much easier it is for ME to teach someone who actually says what they mean to say! Do you know how few people actually do that?!


K9-CRAZY said...

Your post has made me evaluate some of my words...

What do you think of "stupid"?

Just kidding! :)

Words can be dangerous, can't they?

JULES & IKE said...

Cat: I should try it and see whether or not it melts our brains, huh? One day out of 365 isn't such a huge commitment!

Katrin and Tracy: Let's see if I can stick with this!!