Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"stubborn" Breeds

Is this the picture of "stubborn"
Stubborn, difficult, spiteful, I've heard it all in regards to pugs and many other breeds and I just don't buy it. I'll start by saying pugs are the breed I know best, they're the only breed I've lived with as an adult and fully trained from puppyhood on. I work with all sorts of other breeds and various mixes, and I've done training with lots of breeds as well, but none to the degree I have with the pugs, so maybe others have different experiences to compare to working with pugs.

When I see a dog not perform as you would hope they would, I feel it's due to one of a couple of different reasons:

-1 the dog hasn't been given enough motivation to *want* to do what you're asking, the behavior has to either be so reinforcing on it's own that the dog naturally wants to do it, or we have to make it so fun they can't wait to offer it, that's our job, not the dog's job, not always an easy one, but it's our responsibility.

2- The dog doesn't fully understand his job. Often times when we train a behavior we are not 100% clear on what we want. Take the seesaw/teeter for example, what do we want the dog to actually do? Run to the pivot point, wait and run to the end? Do they really understand that, especially when the pivot point is totally different from one teeter to the next. We can't call a dog stubborn, because they run to what they believe to be the pivot point and wait, and wait, and contrast if a dog is taught to run to the end of the teeter, ride it down and wait until they're released, that should be crystal clear, so long as you proof the behavior on a variety of equipment.

3-The dog hasn't been properly proofed. I still have issues with this one! Take the weird weave poles from last weekend, that both my dogs had trouble with and the barrels used as jump wings at the Parkersburg trial back in April. They were things that didn't even occur to me to be proofing for. When the picture is changed for the dog in any way the dog may not fully understand what to do, Kittie didn't refuse to weave last Saturday because she's a stubborn pug, she had trouble because they looked different, it was probably confusing and distracting for her. That's not their fault this is something you can train for though.

4- We are almost always different at trials than at class or at home. Even if you don't get nervous, you *are* different. I know when I'm class, I'm sitting around, chatting with friends, casually watching, when it's my turn I grab my dog out of her crate and after a real quick play session (for Kittie) we run, as opposed to at trials where you wait around for hours, then rush around to get the ring early enough that the gate steward doesn't have a fit, you're surrounded by people who are keyed up, we often get more disappointed by mistakes than we would in class where you can just try it again. The picture is different for the dogs in competition, so it's no wonder that many dogs don't perform the same, especially "green" dogs.

Even if you truly believe your dog is acting stubborn or doing something out of spite, how is that helping the situation? Instead of throwing my hands up, claiming "what do you want, it's a *pug*", I'd rather find a way to better train or motivate my dog..........Maybe I'm just more stubborn than the average pug!


Jamie said...

That is a GREAT photo!

Anonymous said...

Pugs are listed on the low end of intelligence by the AKC. Have you ever worked with a lab or golden retriever? Those are intelligent dogs. I love how pug owners for some reason percieve them to be a smart breed.

westoverpugs said...

Well, that's a great attitude, and yes, I have worked with both labs and goldens. I wouldn't say they're smarter, more resilient and *easier* to train sure, but not smarter.