Stupid? I think not.
Good Friday morning; the sun is just coming up here in SoCal, my three dogs are nice and snug in bed and I have my coffee, nice. I wanted to discuss the concept of stupid dogs today. There are a lot of people out there who think that they are living with a stupid dog; I often hear this and the delivery sounds something like "well he's a bulldog," or "you know; she is a sight hound." First let me state the obvious; ALL DOGS ARE INDIVIDUALS. Okay; some breeds are predisposed to certain hardwired behaviors and particular lines can carry behavior genetic material but other than that, they are all different.
I say that there are no stupid dogs; only people who haven't found the right button to push as of yet. And for many that means that they may always feel like they have a stupid dog for the simple reason that it can often take a very experienced dog trainer to find the button. But experience is the only thing that is needed; flexibility is a more viable trait when looking for the magic button. I've worked with more bulldogs than you can imagine; most people consider the breed to be doomed in the obedience department. But I am here to tell you that they are so smart that they have us all convinced that they are not. We all know humans who play the "stupid" card when it suits their needs, right?
When I get a call for a new training session or behavior issue; I try not to let the breed or mix of breeds interfere. I meet the dog and am often surprised by the combination of a certain behavior and a breed. Aggressive Golden retriever? Fearful Rottweiller? Problem child Standard Poodle? What?????? That's right; dogs do not come out of cookie cutters, although many look like they do. You must look at the inside of a dog; the heart and the brain to work strategically with the individual. I repeatedly see behaviors that could be interpreted as stupid; but more often than not it is a lack of understanding or the unwillingness of a trainer to venture further.
When a dog doesn't "get it;" it does not mean that they are being dominant or stupid. It simply means that you have been unsuccessful in your attempt to create a positive reaction to your action. Dogs who are soft; the ones that are not comfortable offering up a new behavior when they are not quite sure, these dogs are not stupid they just lack confidence. Once you can tap into that then you're off to the races. Some dogs shut down easily; this is behavior is often lost on guardians. Shutting down is caused by stress; stress itself can be caused by a plethora of situations, so finding the cause can be like finding a missing piece of a puzzle.
Of course there are dogs who are so smart that they can and have outwitted their guardian. I've seen this one often; the owner thinks that they are in charge and in reality it is the dog running the show. And these are not all the "smart" breeds. What makes me tick is entirely different from what makes the next person tick. The approach, delivery and response to training has to be thought out for each individual. I've worked with sight hounds who stood stone faced while their owner attempted to teach a simple behavior............stood and stood. Even with a rabbit like lure, nothing. You must sit back and watch; watch all the signs and in this particular instance it was the smallest lack of boldness that held the secret. The cure to this problem was a simple touch. The slightest touch on the side of the dogs face held the secret to success.
Another case was frustration; this is something I see often and a fallout behavior that I watch for like a hawk. The dog kept walking out of the room "yep a bulldog." After each attempt at a new behavior he simply got up and left. He was frustrated; why sit here and try and try without success was his mindset. So we pulled out the big guns, chicken and he never left again. He needed a ton of feedback and praise to reassure him that he was on the right track. Even once weaned off the treats he fully enjoyed his education sessions as did his guardian.
Just like a child who does not succeed in a tradition school setting who is in fact amazingly intelligent; it takes an open minded teacher and a bit of work to discover what makes that individual mind tick. The same is true for our canines; they are all different and amazing in their own special way. What makes your dog tick?