Doggone crazy – the evolution of my hobbies and how they always lead to buying more books!

Dear Reader:

I tend to cycle through major new hobbies every 10 years or so. There are some constants: books, cooking, hiking, camping, and knitting. But I seem to always jump whole hog into a new hobby, spend a few years pursuing it maniacally, and then move on.

My first great hobby/passion was paper arts: rubber stamping, card making, carving my own stamps and so on. And yes! I have an amazing library on paper arts. This lasted a number of years and then I maxed out.

And moved on to gardening when I bought my first house. These are a couple pictures from my garden a few years ago:

I spent years digging up my entire (large) lawn and planting veggies, flowers, fruiting shrubs and trees, and herbs. And yes, you guessed it: buying books! I have an excellent garden library leaning toward heirlooms and unusual vegetables. I taught classes on organic gardening locally. And then I maxed out and shifted to:

Dogs!

See my “about” section for names and pictures of my pets.

I grew up with a ton of dogs (we bred springer spaniels and had a few other miscellaneous dogs, as well as goats, sheep, rabbits, geese, and a cat – a story for another day). During the 70’s I did 4H obedience training with our springers and showed them at the County Fair.

But when I got my first dog as an adult three years ago, I sought out a friend who was a local dog trainer (on the side) to work with my 9 yr old rescued coonhound, Breezy.

Breezy getting’ riled up (see tail in motion) – she loved to play!

Stacey, the dog trainer, was really helpful – she turned me on to training using treats – in the 70’s when I learned dog training, it was all choke collars and yanking dogs around. I THINK we were allowed to praise them. I’m not really sure. I DO remember how impossible it was to get a springer spaniel to do a group stay (that’s where a line of dogs “stay” together). Maybe this was partly their springerness, maybe the fact that I was 12 or 13, but I also think it had something to do with the training methods of the time.

And yes, once I got Breezy: wait for it…. I acquired an amazing dog-related library. This has been growing steadily over the past years. Breed-related books, dog-related memoirs, training books, trick books, game books, dog health books – you name it, I’ve acquired it.

Breezy passed away from cancer at 11. And I’ve since gotten new dogs. I had a tragic encounter with a very bad force-based trainer (NO TREATS! Alpha role ‘em! Yank that dog around on their choke chain! Show them whose boss!). Long story short, not an effective way to train a dog, in my experience.

In the past year, I’ve gotten two elderly rescues and “rehabbed” them. Like Breezy, both have severe arthritis problems, but I’m proud to say that, with a lot of meds and slowly increasing exercise, but are doing very well. Ruby the 13 yr old retriever mix can comfortably hike for an hour or two. Gilbert the 14 yr old beagle is harder to walk (he wants to hunt all my neighborhood’s rabbits which is hard to do walking on a trail or street) but he can go for 30 minutes or so. I also got Gus, the blonde golden retriever, from a carefully chosen breeder last summer.

And then I found an amazing, regional dog trainer Dr. Sue Kapla of Canine Consultants.  She did her dissertation on problem dog behaviors and, among her many years of experience training dogs and doing herding and shutzhund-related work, she was certified to use Chris Bach’s The Third Way dog training methods.

I drove 200 miles round trip for eight weeks to take Sue’s puppy class with my golden puppy, Gus. And it was great. This system is scientifically based on animal behavior principles. You use treats and physical limits and it worked beautifully.

I’m training Gus to visit nursing homes – he needs to be a very polite greeter, non-reactive to other dogs and weird sights and sounds. I started working with Sue privately this summer (260 miles round trip). And I’m really psyched to stay we start our first obedience class session next week.

So meanwhile, I’ve been having so much fun training Gus that I’ve gotten interested in doing some obedience competition. And, of course, this has meant that I NEED lots of new obedience-related books.

I’ve spent a lot time this week in my blog listing books. I want to take a break from that today and just tell you about what I’m reading now:

49) Chris Bach’s The Third Way Comprehensive Reference Book (2nd Ed) HC This spiral bound book is available from her at the above website.

50) Chris Bach’s The Third Way Article Booklet (2nd Ed) HC Available from her website.

51) Dr. Susan Kapla, The Canine Connection: Teach your dog to love to learn. HC. Sue gave me this during my private lessons.

52) Barbara S. (ironically!) Handler, Successful Obedience Handling: Put your best foot forward in the obedience ring (2nd Ed, 2003, Alpine Press)

I’m about a third of the way through #49, the reference book. It is dense so I just read a few pages at a time. Because Chris trained my trainer, Sue, I know some of the basics, but this book is helping me to learn more and more deeply understand the underlying principles.

I’m really enjoying it. The basic idea is that dogs are not people – they are a different species. They think and learn differently (its amazing how often people anthropomorphize dogs and get into problems managing them because of this). They are really good at being dogs and we need to work with them on their terms. The focus is on using reinforcers (stuff they want – treats, pets, praise, freedom to go through a door etc) to help them understand and respond to our cues (sit, stay etc).

As professional trainers, Sue and Chris work a lot with dogs that have (human-defined) problem behaviors, like fear-based aggression. With any dog, there need to be limits to behaviors and you do use physical limits with dogs under their approaches. For instance, with a dog (on a flat collar) who is reacting to other dogs and needs to learn that they only get access to them (such as to play) when you want them to, I stand behind Gus with a short, but loose leash, keeping him in a “sit-maintain.” (this means he is expected to stay sitting as the other dog walks by)

If he jumps up, I tighten the leash so he feels some pull on his collar and remind him “sit.” When he sits, I relax the leash back to a loose leash.

Other basics, like “sit” are taught with treats as an initial “lure” (meaning you guide the dog into the behavior by moving the treat), reinforced regularly until the dog knows the behavior and cue very well, and then the treats come out only for improvements ( for example, a proofed sit where I toss a stick or a toy and he maintains his sit or a longer sit or a sit-maintain where I’m at a greater distance, etc.). I’m shortening their methods a lot, but this is the basic idea.

I’ve found their approaches to work really well, Gus learns fast, and we have a lot of fun.

Of course, I have a whole lot more books than the ones above – I’ll be devoting different blog entries to other dog-related books in future.

!!Blog-related reading achievement announcement!!

Yippee! I finished my first book from my library since starting this blog. It is mentioned as #30 in my mystery post: Henning Mankell’s Sidetracked.

Gus is reading it next.

I plan to do a Henning Mankell post next week for Mystery Wednesday – at that point, I’ll spend some time telling you about the book (I’ve taken the “no spoilers” pledge).

Happy reading! Ruby

K and HC refer to kindle and hard copy books I own. I number books consecutively in the order I mention them in my blog.

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    1. The List « A Year of Actually Reading My Own Books

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