International Pet Trainer Association

An animal that can learn – M. Hasbrouck

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You could be ambushed by the hidden danger lying in wait for you, that of believing, for example, that because all of your puppy’s litter bark a lot, there is nothing to be done about curing him of this failing. Don’t believe the trite phrases that are trotted out, pronounced in all earnest, by so many people, and especially by those that the great specialists call the ‘Bud-trainers’, the sort who never leave the bar of their local breed clubs.

All too often, their competence consists of repeating a few generalisations. ‘This breed, much too independent, never obeys the recall’; ‘this breed will only obey a single master’; ‘under six months/ a year/ a year and a half, or after three years, a dog can’t be trained or re-trained’, and so on.

The dog is above all an animal with a formidable capacity to learn, as Eberhardt Trumler points out in his book, ‘Der Hund Ernst Genommen’. For over half a century, I have seen every sort of dog and difficulty. On condition that you know the hidden buttons and springs, you can ask anything of a dog. Or rather, almost anything. As far as I’m aware, no animal puts away the washing-up.

No dog is a lost cause. I am still waiting for one crazy beyond redemption. Many vets and breeders turn up, saying, ‘You are the last chance for this dog. He has bitten someone on more than one occasion, he’s been to this club and that club and he’s come back worse, from all of them. He has to be put down.’

On every such occasion, once the master has learned how to do things correctly, and how to apply what he’s learned, the dog becomes stable again, sweet-tempered, normal, in less than two days. Why? Because he is an animal that learns!

Dog and wolf are descended from the same ancestor. The former is still wild, frightened, unreachable, the latter has been selected over several millenia for his qualities of adaptation, courage, willingness to accept Man’s will, and for his effectiveness.

The dog is an admirable animal. After so many years, I still marvel each time at the rapidity with which he makes a lasting modification to his attitude. Nothing is ever lost beyond reclaim with our brave four-legged companion. You can truly always regain everything. Euthanasia because of bad behaviour is merely the act of people who believe in the old adages; ‘a German Shepherd Dog goes mad as he gets older’; ‘A Doberman that has bitten once, will bite again’; ‘I took my labrador to training and that turned him nasty’.

There is some truth in popular wisdom, but you have to be able to recognize which part. Training for bite work, guard and protection, is strictly for the specialist, whether a security professional or, preferably, a competitor in the ring at a high level.

Starting a dog off on trained attack without knowing the solid elements in controlling the animal is like putting a razor in the hands of a monkey, in the famous words of the great teacher of equitation, Baucher.

On the other hand, a well-adjusted sheepdog that knows how to do everything always provides an entertaining spectacle when he works, such is his mental communication with his master. Channel your puppy’s energy in a flexible way, and then that of your young dog. Encourage his good actions. You will be surprised at the facility with which he will pick up on his work when older.

Everything is easier with a young animal. But be careful; in some lines of easygoing dogs, mistakes don’t lead to serious consequences, and you won’t have to repeat the work too often, because with these flexible animals it is easy and just as quick to do and to undo a lesson. In other families, something established is very difficult to erase. A very good puppy learns incredibly quickly. And that includes how to do things wrong.

Michel Hasbrouck

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