I'm in awe almost daily. When the level of canine intelligence is visualized it can be quite inspirational. I've recently written about my old girl; the one shown below in yesterday's blog; and her change in feeding routine. Being that her hearing and her sight are nearly gone she is no longer able to hear or see communications directed at her. This has become a dangerous situation because she cannot heed a warning; which is what happened at feeding time with her tendency to hover around other's bowls. So she is now required to go directly to the corner bed and await my release after eating. It amazes me at this age that she was able to easily switch her routine. And just the other day as I really put it to the test. I fed the dogs outside; this is the first time since the change of rules and I wondered if she would make her way into the kitchen after she finished or stand there pondering what to do. She had a quick look around and headed into the kitchen. I waited for a minute and then went to see if she had indeed made it to the bed; there she was waiting for her treat.
All dogs are smart; but being that they are very different they often need to learn in different ways. Generally the clearer you make the lesson the easier it is for the dog to understand. Some dogs have more work drive; others may need a little push to get working and obtain an education. Finding out what makes your dog tick or absorb training easily can be a task. My Jessie is not so much a thinker; she simply reacts so, clicker training is an excellent path to her success. Luke on the other hand thinks; there is an moment of hesitation before he proceeds. He is also very touch sensitive; which in itself can lead to failure if I am not careful with my touch. Touch can be a road block for many dogs; and often owners do realize that this is indeed the obstacle leading to frustration for both.
Recently I was trying out the Clicker Leash with Luke. I only used a clicker for Luke's training in the very beginning; it wasn't the best method for him at the time. So when I decided to try the clicker leash for his pulling I didn't know if he would indeed catch on. I first tackled the click = treats at home in the living room which he caught onto quite quickly. This is a very important part of clicker training. (more on clicker training in another blog)
Off to the park; I allowed Luke to first run free and get his ya ya's out before hooking him up and doing the trial run. After years of leash training he pulls at only a fraction of the power that he once did; but he still does. So Clicker Leash on; treats in hand and away we go. As soon as I got some slack on the leash; click/treat. Within minutes he was not pulling; he was still scanning the park but he was paying attention to me without eye contact. By the end of the first time round the park he was heeling and giving me fabulous eye contact; I was impressed.
A dog's intelligence is there; we simply need to tap into it. Once you discover the key that opens up the brain; there are no limits to what you can teach your dog. If you watch dogs closely you will see that they use their intelligence to teach themselves all the time. Luke often goes to the front door and barks; he knows that this will get the girls up and moving. He then swoops in and either grabs the toy that they had or the bed he wanted to lay on and the girls are left barking at the door. Dogs train us extremely well and without our knowledge.
We humans do not naturally think like dogs; this fact alone can create a mystery effect around the canine brain. "What the heck is he thinking?" Sometimes our dogs do things that we simply cannot understand or explain; but, if you take the time to watch closely many unanswered questions can be answered. Typically you must think like a dog to solve a canine issue; break it down, keep it simple. The core is simple; the individuality in each dog adds the complication.
The dog's brain is simple yet complicated; find the key and you're off and running.