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ins-and-outs of teaching a solid settle to serial canine over-reacters
on 15 March 2014
SUMMARY: The ins-and-outs of teaching a solid settle to serial canine over-reacters.
AUDIENCE: The author primarily wrote this book for owners, but the protocols may be too demanding for that readership without the encouragement of a professional.
In a nutshell: Another book in the recent trend of reducing prompting, and letting the dog work it out more. This one focuses on mat work, or how to teach your dog to relax at the mere sight of your training mat.
There is also a great chapter on puppy socialization - possibly one of the best chapters I've ever read on the topic (pragmatically concise, responsibly thorough, and surprisingly original).
Style: The book meets the big three's of non-fiction: it flows, it entertains, and it educates. The author has this knack for illustrating abstract concepts with great analogies. It turns out she is a professional writer (fiction and non fiction) in addition to her dog work. She certainly raises the bar for the rest of us on the style front.
Technique: She not only writes well, but she clearly masters the underlying theory. I have not face-palmed once. Not - one - single - time. Coming from this painfully pedantic theory nerd (i.e. me), it means a lot. Her reasoning and facts were as good as water-tight.
She also produces references for the facts she presents, which is a nice touch in a book written for the layman.
The book also got me to pause and think about some of the finer stuff:
Downside of prompting: a full-length discussion reviewing the dangers of over-prompting
Cue as tertiary reinforcer, when the cue itself becomes motivating.
Delivering the reward by throwing it away for the dog to chase, to allow him to shed tension.
Technique meets style: Her grasp of technique and style made for insightful imagery. Some extracts:
Dogs asking questions: A dog making a mistake is asking you a question. You have failed to answer it if he makes the same mistake twice.
Combat pay: That extra yummy piece of cheese for the really tough situation.
Poisoned cue: A cue with a history of unpleasant, or unclear, consequences.
Splitting, not lumping: About the importance to taking solid baby steps before running a marathon
On the minus front: The demands on owner compliance seem utopic. The need to keep records, and the micro-nano-mini-splitting (i.e. if the dog gets stuck, split the next step into five tiny steps) will discourage many 'civilian' readers, I fear.
I would love to see one chapter dedicated to training school settings. I am considering using it for our school, but I need additional guidance before I do that.
The verdict: I absolutely loved it. It read like a breeze, it was accurate, it added original points to old theories, and it was chock-full of analogies (always a plus for client communication). And, it gave me new things to add to my toolbox as a trainer. Consider me a happy customer.