'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Yesterday, Lola's brother Rocky came to visit for five or so hours. Because the weather was horrible, the walk we took was brief and on-lead, so there was no piles of sleepy puppies to photo. They spent most of their time playing (wrestling and eating each other), but we had a couple of problems: namely, fighting.

Lola and Rocky (and Jess, of course) have met each other before. My girls are fine with other dogs coming into the house, even without having to have met them outside first. Rocky, however, must not have felt entirely comfortable; he lunged at Lola (though not Jess) whenever she came too close, starting very loud, fast and flashy fights. Each time we separated them and put them into a different room to cool down, and then they would be fine for a while. Apparently Rocky doesn't do this at his home (where he lives with three other dogs, including his and Lola's mother), but like with Lola and Jess all of the others are older than him. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by being at ours, and took it out on the similarly-aged puppy (who isn't an angel either; she gave as good as she got and more).

It was interesting to see the behavioural similarities and differences between L and Rocky. There are physical differences of course; he is still chunkier (not fat, just more heavily built) and he is still a little shorter than Lola (in height and in length). And of course he has smooth, short and silky hair, whilst L's is longer, scruffier and slightly more coarse. But the behavioural differences are much more interesting.

- Both dogs have a tendency to air-snap at other dogs that come too close when they're getting a treat. Lola does it to Jess, Rocky does it to some of the others there.

- Rocky is much more laidback around the house; or, rather, he's not as drive'y and frantic as Lola. For instance, Lola (and one of her sisters, apparently) has a habit of air-snapping at your face amidst giving you licks. Rocky also takes treats much more nicely than Lola (or, for that matter, Jess).

- Lola is a lot quieter than Rocky outside. Oh yes, apparently he found his voice especially last week, and he barks at e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Dog? Screechbark. Person? Barkbarkbark. Everything is given a sharp yap (and considering it is the same sort of pitch as Lola's high bark, it was quite painful to hear). He also pulls more on lead, and doesn't check in as much as Lola (I'm not stupid, though: I know she only checks in for the hope of getting a treat, which happens sporadically).

- Rocky and Lola's "main" difference (or the most prominent thing for me) was their quickness to try new things. Rocky hasn't been taught with aversive methods, but he also hasn't really played around with training. He knows how to sit and give his paw - and that's about it. We worked for maybe twenty minutes (with two clickers and two different items; we tried first with my new--and extremely quiet--clicker and the stool I usually start shaping with, and then moved on to my extremely loud clicker and a moneybox, which rattles slightly when touched) to shape him to try and touch the object. It was only in the last few minutes that he started taking slow steps towards the object. On the other hand, Lola (who has played the shaping game before) was readily smacking the moneybox, then a remote, and then a big plastic box.


Sara said...

FAscinating to see similarities & differences. Looks like nurture plays a strong role in the learning factor. I'm a big believer that you need to teach dogs HOW to learn. Seems like Lola is already an avid learner.

Sophie said...

It was definitely interesting! I'd love to see the other puppies (it was a big litter - nine pups including Lola originally, though one died, sadly) and see how similar/different they all are.

Lola definitely enjoy learning; otoh, Rocky seemed to enjoy the food (sort of), but wasn't that bothered.