Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Natural Dogfood and Reliability

Japanese summer sun is so intense, we have planted a green vine curtain of bitter melon outside the sitting room window to give natural shade and reduce air-conditioning costs. The benefits are also the delicious gourds which are not nearly as bitter as the name suggests: I'm having one fried in sesame oil with sea salt and soy every day for breakfast, somewhat in the coffee bitterness spectrum. When they turn yellow and sweet, I add them chopped as topping to the kibble: the dogs love it, and it helps them cope with the heat.
Lately Sherlock is having a bit of a relapse with the barking: he's great before I show any signs of getting ready, downing patiently as I potter between fridge, counter and table, but when I definitively start loading the food bowls he gets jumpy and vocal, and the rattle of kibble makes him wild. Even when I get him to sit, I have to fondle his ears to get him to shut up, which makes it hard to dole out cups full of kibble and mix things. Then, when I carry the bowl over to Claire (she always goes first) he is jumping up in the air, cavorting and jostling, and then once she gets her head down and starts chomping, he seems to remember and dashes off to his cage where he will plonk his butt down noisily with a final burst of barking. I go to him and ask him to wait while I feed Nobu, and that he seems able to manage. When I return to with his bowl, he drools amply but heroically sits to attention quietly! I guess I should be pleased the window of barking is slowly getting smaller.
A Fetchmasters blogpost on training for 100% reliable results reminds us that no-one is perfect, including us, and that only a robot could guarantee the same behavior every time:
A dog is a creature governed by its biological needs, psychology, emotional state, instincts and a host of other drivers of behavior. They are complex, living beings, and as such they have strengths, weaknesses and limitations.
Sadly friends here were discussing shock collars as the be all and end all training tool for gundogs, the go-to for reliability to teach "leave it" on walkies and in the field: basically, the belief that an e-collar can shock a dog into any wanted behavior is an unfortunate myth. Fetchmasters debunk:
One of the most common questions we answer at our workshops around the country is: Is it possible to train a dog to 100% reliability using positive methods and without the use of e-collars?Since our audience typically consists of people who either believe in positive training or want to, our answer usually catches them by surprise: Heck No! But it also is impossible to train any dog to 100% reliability using any methodology … e-collar training included.
In other words, Sherlock is a already a great dog doing his best. If his little foibles and barking episodes really bug me, all I need to do is cut some cheese and increase the number of mini-training sessions through the day. Mummy, stop being so lazy and sloppy with the training, or else just chill and love the dogs the way they love you: life is good!
Special thanks to the Positive Gun Dog Association for this interesting positive reinforcement related blog post.

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