This is a blog inspired by the acquisition of a new puppy (Simon, a Dobermann, born 15/11/2010). However, since even I don't really believe the emotional life of a puppy can sustain a blog indefinitely, I'm combining such reflections as Simon's progress gives rise to with my other indulgence, books. So this will be about books and dogs, in particular books about dogs, and dogs in books. There'll also be plenty of photos of Simon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Homecoming

Apparently mother dogs, not to call them bitches, are only too relieved to see the last of the pups leave the premises, so at least you don't feel a heel carting off her offspring. But you're not the big hero either -- the pup seems entirely indifferent to the great privilege of being taken home by you, and complains at the top of his voice.
I came home armed with an excellent Puppy Pack compiled by the breeder, which confirmed my impression, gleaned from other preparatory reading (about which more later), that Dog Training Ain't What It Used to Be. Like other species (e.g. human beings), dogs apparently respond better to reward than to punishment -- the old Yank and Stomp School, to which I subjected my first dog (we both survived it, but only just), seems to have been relegated to the dustbin, along with choke chains and electric collars. And Barbara Woodhouse, who put the fear of God into two generations of dog owners.
BUT nor is reward to be confused with pampering. Be The Pack Leader is the new mantra, indeed the title of a best-selling book by Cesar Millan, the original Dog Whisperer. The Pack Leader takes no nonsense, and always takes the lead -- first out of the door, first to eat, first at everything. This is actually quite a difficult state of mind for naturally unassertive people to cultivate, which may mean that naturally unassertive people should not acquire Dobermanns.  Or become assertive. Be bloody, bold and resolute, the witches urged Macbeth (and see where that got him). Apparently it's all a matter of body language -- but learning a new language at an advanced age is notoriously difficult.
But all this is just talk. Here's a picture (or two)::

It'll be clear from these picture that the process of reward is well under way. Watch this space for developments.
And what about books?  Well, the Puppy Pack is a sizeable book, and I have mentioned the Dog Whisperer's book. And Macbeth, of course (there's plenty to be said about Shakespeare and Dogs, and I may yet say it). But here's a poem. It's by Philip Larkin, and it's about cattle, not dogs, but mutatis mutandis it applies to all animals, including and especially humans. And it's about what could be called Training Methods, though the poem is called

The widest prairies have electric fences,
For though old cattle know they must not stray
Young steers are always scenting purer water
Not here but anywhere. Beyond the wires

Leads them to blunder up against the wires
Whose muscle-shredding violence gives no quarter.
Young steers become old cattle from that day,
Electric limits to their widest senses.
Ouch. But fortunately such methods, as I've said, are now history.  Watch this space for what happens when we take down the wires.


No comments:

Post a Comment