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Tips for Training Your Canine Companion


									Tips for Training Your
 Canine Companion

  To train your dog to be a good hunting companion, it helps to
        understand the behavior of this domesticated wolf

                           Harrison B. Tordoff

      INCE BOYHOOD    I have loved to   have lived with dogs all my life and
         hunt upland birds. Some see    find their companionship essential.
         this as an odd obsession for   Hunting dogs are not just compan-
         an ornithologist. How could    ions, however; they also work for their
anyone who likes birds enough to        living. Much of what they do is in-
spend a lifetime studying them pos-     stinctive—that is, programmed ge-
sibly enjoy shooting them? However      netically—but they do need training
illogical my hunting may seem, it has   to make them pleasant and effective
led to an interest in bird dogs that    partners.
rivals my fascination with birds. I        Whole libraries have been written

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER   1990                                                    27
Dog Training
on dogs and dog training, but the in-          come only from the kind of one-to-one
evitable day arrived when 1 con-               intimacy I shared with my dogs.
cluded that 1 could write a better book
on training pointing dogs. I reached              Born Hunters. Training dogs to
this smug conclusion with my seventh           hunt for you is easier if you keep their
bird dog, Dolly. Seven dogs is proba-          behavior in mind. Dogs are domesti-
bly an inadequate sample, but the sad          cated wolves, dramatically altered in
fact is that one person's adult life can       appearance and behavior by selective
only accommodate about six or seven            breeding over the millennia they have
dogs, one at a time. Professionals             lived with us. They are social animals,
routinely train dogs by the dozens or          happiest when hunting with compan-
h u n d r e d s over a career, but this sort   ions, eager for praise and recognition,
of relationship is much different than         and willing to accept their status in a
that between a single dog and its              social hierarchy. Just as our own once
owner. In any event, I wrote my little         essential hunting instincts can be re-
book, striving for a lively, informed          directed, so can those of dogs. Dogs
discussion, based on a scientific un-          that herd, guard, or pull sleds are
derstanding of dog behavior. Despite           happy workers, substituting their
my best efforts, I sounded hopelessly          new work for hunting. No one could
professorial. So my dog manuscript             m a k e sled dogs work as hard as they
gathered dust in m y file while I con-         do if the dogs didn't want to. Dogs
templated the difficulty of writing            and m a n y h u m a n s are n e v e r m o r e
entertaining, informative popular              alive than when hunting, ironic in an
articles. Meanwhile, a Michigan gen-           age when hunting is unnecessary for
tleman in his eighties, Roy Strickland,        survival and is increasingly criticized.
scooped me completely with his                    Wolf packs typically include a
Common Sense Grouse and             Woodcock   d o m i n a n t male (the alpha male), his
Dog Training.          It was salt in my       mate (the alpha female), a few sub-
wounds that Mr. Strickland had been            d o m i n a n t individuals, and pups up
a professional dog trainer for most of         to a year of age. The s u b d o m i n a n t s
his life, because I was convinced that         are c o m m o n l y y o u n g adult progeny
my insights, such as they were, could          of the alpha pair. Rank differences
                                               within the s u b d o m i n a n t males and
                                               females are often slight. When small,
Harrison B. Tordoff is a professor and         pups are the focus of the pack's activ-
curator of evolutionary biology at the
                                               ity, but as pups approach adult size
James Ford Bell Museum of Natural
History, University of Minnesota, Min-         they are merely tolerated by older
neapolis. This article is reprinted from       pack members. A new pack forms as
the fall 1989 issue of Imprint, quarterly      a pack splits or, more often, as a lone
newsletter of the Bell Museum. Used            wolf leaves its natal pack and attracts
with permission.                               another single wolf as a mate.

28                                                               T H E MINNESOTA   VOLUNTEER
                                                                           LYNN ROGERS
   Within the pack,
each wolf knows its
place in the domi-
nance hierarchy and
knows who it can
bully with impunity,
who it must give
way to, and who it
must accept as an
equal. Dogs see their
masters as dominant
pack members. A
fully socialized dog
that views all hu-
mans as dominants
is a safe and reliable Like these wolf pups, to which they are closely related,
pet. Problems arise dogs learn social skills and signals at an early age.
as dogs that are not
fully socialized mature and become fill an emotional need of their own-
more aggressive. Some dogs treat ers, as do most dogs that are pets.
large people as dominants and small
people as subordinates; these are not       Early Training. Traditional doc-
to be trusted around kids. The safest    trine held that serious training of bird
way to introduce a dog and small         dogs should not begin before a dog is
children into a household is children    1 year old. This makes as much sense
first, then dog. A dog already in resi- as arguing that prospective concert
dence may resent the arrival of a new    pianists or Olympic athletes should
child.                                   delay formal training until age 16. We
  The most dramatic change pro-            now know that learning abilities in
duced by the domestication of dogs         dogs are fully developed by about 12
has been behavioral neoteny, which         weeks, and any training program
prevents a dog from ever wanting to        should take proper advantage of this.
become a pack leader, thus allowing           Dog trainers could also take advan-
a lifelong attachment to its master.       tage of the classic study of dog behav-
Selection for neoteny, the retention of    ior carried out at the Jackson Labora-
juvenile traits into adult life, is most   tory in Maine, resulting in Genetics and
notable in breeds such as the toy          the Social Behavior of the Dog by John
varieties. These perpetual puppies         Paul Scott and John L. Fuller. The
are so dependent on humans they            following are highlights of some of
could not possibly survive in the wild.    Scott and Fuller's findings.
As child substitutes, such dogs often        Socialization, the formation of so-

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER   1990                                                          29
Dog Training
rial bonds, is the basis for dog-human            ond, before the puppy is 3 to 4 months
relationships. W h e t h e r rewarded,            old, it should be introduced to the
punished, or ignored, the young dog               e n v i r o n m e n t in which it will live as
of the proper age forms an emotional              an adult.
attachment to whatever is present at
that time. A young animal automati-                  Choosing Pups. What does all this
cally becomes attached to individuals             mean to someone thinking about get-
and objects with which it comes into              ting a new dog? First, start with a 7-
contact during the critical period.               week-old p u p p y of good breeding;
This period begins at about 3 weeks,              that is, a puppy whose parents share
when puppies first show a startle re-             the kind of behavior you want in your
sponse to sound, peaks at 7 weeks,                dog. Puppies taken too early from the
then tapers off and ends at about 12              litter may remain infantile in behav-
to 14 weeks.                                      ior and s h o w abnormal parental be-
   The amount of human contact nec-               havior as adults. Pups left too long
essary for socialization to h u m a n s is        with the litter can become psychologi-
low; in one case, as little as two 20-            cally affected by dominance struggles
minute periods per week. Much bet-                with siblings and m a y act timid and
ter, however, is regular daily contact            less responsive to humans.
involving plenty of petting and han-                 Again, m a k e sure that the parents
dling through the critical period.                have behavior that is acceptable to
O n c e puppies are well socialized to            you. Dog b e h a v i o r has important
humans, the job is done, and puppies              genetic components, dramatically il-
going to new owners will transfer                 lustrated by behavioral differences
loyalties. So if you get an older dog,            a m o n g such breeds as g r e y h o u n d s ,
make sure it had regular human con-               which hunt by sight, and retrievers,
tact as a pup.                                    guard dogs, pointers, and blood-
   The mere act of feeding a dog is a             hounds, specialists in hunting by
minor part of the c a r e - d e p e n d e n c y   scent. Even within breeds, subtle
relationship. A puppy doesn't auto-               behavioral differences between indi-
matically love you because you feed               viduals are likely to have a strong
it. Machine-fed puppies can b e c o m e           heritable basis.
just as attached to people as hand-fed               I think the puppy should live in the
puppies. Feeding by itself does not               house with you for abundant human
produce a highly socialized animal.               contact and c o m p l e t e socialization.
   Finally, Scott and Fuller suggest two          It's a two-way street: The dog learns
basic rules for producing a well-bal-             to read your behavior and respond ac-
anced and well-adjusted dog. First,               cordingly, while you learn the s a m e
the ideal time for the owner to estab-            things about your dog. If a dog must
lish a close social relationship is when          be put in a kennel, the one-dog owner
the p u p p y is 6 to 8 w e e k s old. Sec-       m a y be w o r s e off than the o w n e r of

30                                                                   T H E MINNESOTA   VOLUNTEER
two or more, since the single dog lacks    dog in a fit of uncontrolled temper.
even canine companionship for most            What about formal o b e d i e n c e
of its hours. Dogs have strong social      schools? I am unenthusiastic about
needs, and the life of a solitary dog in   them for bird dogs, because the simple
a backyard kennel can be lonely. It        commands you need are readily and
takes extra effort to make such a dog      effectively taught in your yard. The
into a good hunter or companion.           mechanical perfection stressed in
   From 7 to 10 weeks your puppy           obedience schools seems unnecessary
learns about a new world that in-          to me, and some dog trainers think the
cludes his name, housebreaking, and        drill school atmosphere saps spirit
the meaning of no. There are many          and enthusiasm. But others strongly
good books on dog training that tell       endorse obedience schools. Clearly,
how to teach these things, along with      formal obedience training is much
the commands, sit, stay, come, and heel;   better than no training at all.
essential for making the dog a good           Konrad Lorenz, father of ethology
citizen.                                   (the evolutionary study of animal
   By this time your puppy should be       behavior) and author of the delight-
an established member of the family.       ful book, Man Meets Dog, writes of
Training periods should be frequent        dogs in The Wild Canids: "To love one's
and brief—daily or twice daily, five to    brother as one does oneself is one of
10 minutes per session. Keep the           the most beautiful commands of
training relaxed and make it fun. Give     Christianity, though there are few
lots of praise and aim for consistency.    men and women able to live up to it.
Avoid punishment until a puppy is          A faithful dog, however, loves its
old enough to know what is expected.       master much more than it loves itself
Punish the dog no more severely than       and certainly more than its master
necessary to produce results.              ever can be able to love it back. There
   C o m m a n d s should be used spar-    certainly is no creature in the world
ingly and only when enforceable, for       in which 'bond behavior,' in other
if a dog is allowed to ignore a com-       words personal friendship, has be-
mand or obey only after repetition         come an equally powerful motivation
and persuasion, it learns that disobe-     as it has in dogs."
dience is acceptable behavior. Silence        Lorenz loved large, wolflike dogs,
is always preferable to an unenforce-      admiring their willingness to give
able command. Consistency and              their lives in defense of their master.
good-humored firmness work. For            My dog, Dolly, is less warlike, capable
punishment, scolding or shaking is         perhaps of defending me from a
enough. If you really lose your tem-       wounded woodcock, provided little
per, as happens to most of us at times,    risk of pain is involved. But in her
quit working with the dog until            own way, she too offers unique per-
you've cooled off. It's easy to ruin a     sonal friendship. •

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER   1990                                                       31

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