Search        

Search the Kerry Blues Website


  • Sign In



    Forgot password?
  • or
  • Join Now

Now entering the Kerry comfort zone!

  No Items in Cart

800-532-2890

Humans: 101

 

© 2007 By Tess of Helena

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from By Tess of Helena.

Do our dogs train us? You bet! In a new book, Training People, one canine reveals the secret of how they do it.

 Excerpted from Training People used with permission of Chronicle Books, LLC, San Francisco. Visit ChronicleBooks.com.

Introduction: People Live To Please You

Many dogs find the idea of owning and training human beings intimidating. And the plain fact is that for some dogs, owning people is not worth the trouble. After all, people are a completely different species, with poorly developed senses of smell, hearing, and sight; idiosyncratic thought processes; inefficient communication techniques; and erratic temperaments. Each of these can be troublesome, and in combination they are often mystifying, even aggravating.

A female who does not resist your scratching her stockings is a promising prospect.

 

 

Still, despite their limitations, people often make charming, loyal, and rewarding companions. And although we canines are generally above such "commercial" considerations, the fact is that most humans are willing, even eager, to work long hours outside the home den to obtain the financial resources needed to support using appropriate style and comfort.

This book will show you how to get the most out of owning people. There is no better place to start than with the fundamentals. Effective people ownership and training is made immeasurably easier and more enjoyable by keeping in mind two elementary truths: People love dogs. They live to please us. [1]

How To Choose A Human

Volumes have been written on how to choose a human, but the truth is, given the short time typically available to make the choice, it is always something of a gamble. While the specific conditions under which you make the selection vary--kennel, pet store, magazine ad, Internet, and so on--the basic selection criteria are the same. (Having said that, I for one would never select a person without inspecting him or her firsthand.)

Most experienced dogs prefer to pick their person in a kennel setting. Having driven some distance to see you, humans typically take more time to offer themselves for inspection. It is a good idea to have your mother or father present to offer their opinion, as they likely have considerable experience in assessing human traits. Still, since your canine brain has developed extremely rapidly (whereas the human brain takes at least 140 years--20 "human years"--to reach what passes for full maturation), even as a puppy you are fully able to make a good choice.[2]

As your potential people approach to display themselves, watch carefully. Are they alert? Do they appear intelligent, interested? Do they seem lazy? Humans who demonstrate sloth tend to resist vigorous physical activity, and thus are harder to train to assist you in your daily exercise.

Another important indicator is personal dress, particularly as it relates to your breed. For example, if you are of long-haired stock, prone to shedding, it is good to avoid selecting a human who dresses with excessive neatness. Such people are prone to irritability when required to do the sort of household chores you need and expect.

Your overall goal is to select a human with an Accommodating Personality. Some dogs use a point system, allocating a number for each important trait, giving added weight to especially desirable characteristics. That is fine if you are so inclined, but a less formal approach works equally well. Just keep in mind the key qualities needed to accommodate your specific needs.

Among the most valuable assessment instruments is the Playfulness Test. Playfulness cannot be overemphasized. Playful people are much easier to train. So, unless you want a companion whose only duties are to provide you with food and shelter, select for playfulness.

Get near your potential human. Rollover on your back, then wait. Does the human bend down to tickle you? Does he smile? Begin to "talk" in a voice other than that used to communicate with other adult humans? Change of voice is extremely important. Humans have few skills, but one is variable voice tone. National studies show that fully one half of humans address their canine owners in a mawkish, cloying voice. They use a similar tone in addressing their newborn offspring. A person who speaks to you in this manner is especially eager to do your bidding.

The Conditioned Reflex

All training of humans is based on the conditioned reflex. The pioneering experiment in this regard took place in Russia in the late 19th century. Two Borzois initially had great difficulty training their human attendant, a physiologist named Pavlov. Consistent with their elevated social status, the Borzois preferred to have meals prepared and served with appropriate decorum. Pavlov, however, seemed oblivious to this need and consistently presented meals without notice or manners.

The dogs were determined to get him to ring the dinner bell announcing their meals. They decided to give him a tangible cue that the bell should be rung, and then reward him for doing so. Through experimentation the dogs found that Pavlov responded enthusiastically to canine salivation. (Humans often display strange preferences. It is pointless to judge them.) They had to engage in visible salivation nearly a hundred times while nudging the bell before he understood. However, once he grasped the connection of action to response, he consistently utilized the desired bell-ringing behavior, and they would salivate to reward him. For the rest of their lives the Borzois' meals were appropriately announced and served.

Reverse Psychology

Humans, being prone to delusions, tend to believe that they, not you, control the relationship. Properly managed, this harmless fantasy can be used to your advantage. Let them feel in control, and they will do almost anything for you.

Many of the traditional training techniques build on this insight. In most cases your person responds to the Physical Cues described below, but still believes he is freely deciding on a course of action. Human verbalization provides for easy monitoring: If your person commonly says, "good girl," "my dog," or "I have a great dog," your training approach is paying off beautifully. Keep in mind that excessive discipline can jeopardize this highly useful state of mind.


Physical Clues

People respond well to Physical Cues. They are primarily visual creatures, and, driven by their innate desire to please, humans can become very adept at interpreting signals you send through posture, position, and facial expression.

Ear angle, head position, and tail motion are simple and effective training tools. If you want humans to pay attention, simply raise your ears. Even a slight lift will cause them to focus on you. Combining the Ear Raise with an altered head position reinforces the effect. For example, tipping the head to one side while raising the ears will more often than not generate an inquiry by your human as to what it is you want. If you wish him or her to pick something up for you, combine the Ear Raise with staring intently at the object. With duller humans, a bark command may be necessary.

Horizontal Tail Motion [HTM] generates a strongly positive response among people, and almost always generates expressions of human affection. HTM or "wagging" has multiple useful variations: [5]

    • Standard: The tail is moved horizontally at one full cycle per second. This conveys to your human that she is pleasing you.
    • Rapid: Two to three cycles per second (this rate can be difficult to sustain for longtailed breeds) . Humans understand that you are very pleased with them.
    • Hip-Involved: Rapid HTM combined with side-to-side hip motion. The highest HTM praise you can give your human. Use it sparingly.

Getting The Food You Want

One of the many attractive traits about us dogs is that we are enthusiastic omnivores. We genuinely enjoy food, appreciating the rich diversity of nature's bounty. Our ancestors bred that trait into humans, no doubt because if humans' food inclinations replicated ours, it would be all the easier to train them to hunt and gather for us. Generally speaking, this strategy has worked brilliantly: In their eagerness to serve, humans typically provide us excellent fare.

One of the benefits of modernity is the vast range of food choices humans have developed for us. The variety of packaged cuisine is far better than it was a mere thirty years ago-without question the result of more advanced training of people by dogs. Choices now include an interesting range of dry and pre-moistened "kibble," meaty "patties," tasty canned products; and a delightful array of fresh meats and delicacies.

Packaged foods are now made to suit a wide array of canine life circumstances. For example, a leading maker presently offers balanced blends for "The Large Dog," "The Puppy," "Active Maturity," and "Weight Loss." Well-placed sources indicate that a "Post-Menopausal Treats" product is on the horizon, and a pre-exercise energy bar has been recently introduced.

Most humans will make a principled effort to provide you with excellent prepared or custom foods. However, some are uninformed about canine nutrition; others are simply cheap; still others attempt foolishly to impose their dietary neuroses on you. For all these, corrective training is required.

Table Food

Although most canines prefer to have their meals served privately, others are willing--at least some of the time--to share food with their humans. Human "table food" varies widely in quality. A regrettably high percentage of humans are incompetent in food preparation. Thus, if you are inclined to grace the human table with your presence, do so judiciously until you determine whether or not their cuisine is worth eating.

Most humans will instinctively offer you samples of their food. Some do not, either out of that peculiar human sense of unworthiness, fear of offending you, or discomfort with your appearance at the "servants" table." To help overcome such inhibitions, use the Physical Cues described earlier. Humans at the table find the Ear Lift, Head Tilt, and fast Horizontal Tail Movement irresistible. Should you feel the portions offered are too small, apply the Paw Pull to the human foreleg.

People greatly appreciate praise, and excellent preparation of food is certainly worth a reward. If you are pleased with your person's cooking, feel free to mimic that peculiar "mmmm ..." sound humans make when they enjoy the taste of food. With our higher-pitched vocal chords, the sound you make will be perceived by the human ear as an endearing "whine."

If you are especially fond of a particular dish, you can give your person exceptional praise through Physical Cues: sitting up on hind legs, rolling over, or other enthusiastic gestures. Humans deeply appreciate such generous displays of approval.


[1] The fossil record makes clear that dogs preexisted humans by many millions of years. Scientists believe that this fact, combined with close association of canine and human remains in ancient times, proves humans were originally bred from wild apes specifically to serve dogs.

[2] For reasons that remain a mystery, humans consider a year to be one-seventh the length we canines know it to be.

[3] Adolescent people are especially amenable to troining-precisely the reverse of their reputation among human adults. As adolescents struggle with defining themselves in the often baffling human world, they are all the more receptive to the stabilizing influence of conine guidance.

[4] Being territorial, humans like to lie down in gross as a means of scent marking.

[5] The word "wag" is derived from Old French wage, which meant a dog full of mischievous humor, a wit A dog that used clever physical cues to dupe humans into getting what he wanted was assumed to have a finely developed sense of humor.


Share This Article





About Us

The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Kerry Blue Terrier breed in the areas of education, rescue and health & genetics. Learn More.

Newsletter

Join Our Email Newsletter List.

Contact Info

1-800-532-2890

P. O. Box 1495
Solvang, CA 93464
USA

Box 109
11420 - 142 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5M 1V1
Canada

Feedback

Corrections? Feedback?


Contact the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation