Annie Ingersoll is an excellent dog trainer. Also, an excellent human trainer. Yesterday I had my behavior nicely controlled by Annie after only a few minutes of her "Introduction to Dog Training" class.
At first, Annie had the several dozen people who'd come to the one hour class briefly introduce themselves: their name, name of their dog, breed and age of dog, whether it had come from the Willamette Humane Society.
Then she walked over to a whiteboard with a marker in hand and said, "Aside from food, water, and shelter, what other needs do dogs have?"
People started throwing out ideas. "Exercise." "Affection." "Chewing."
Cleverly -- because this is what I'll always remember from the class, after forgetting everything else -- Annie had tucked a plastic container filled with dog treats under her arm.
After someone yelled out a suggestion Annie would say, "OK, good idea," then toss a dog treat at them. (She had good aim; almost always she hit her target, even when in the back row.) My wife made one of the first suggestions. I reached out for the treat but dropped it.
Damn! I thought.
Another guy at a table to the right of, and behind, me already had caught two dog treats. I wanted (1) more treats to give to our dogs who were waiting in the car, and (2) to cleanly catch a treat so my male competitiveness could be assuaged.
I found myself desperately thinking of ideas to yell out. Annie had moved on to another question: "What resources can be controlled by a dog owner to reward their pet?"
I really wanted to get more dog treats.
I'd noticed that Annie was rewarding anybody who made even a half-good suggestion. So I started to yell out whatever popped into my mind, even if the reasonable side of me (as contrasted with the dog-treat-desiring side of me) was whispering "That's a stupid idea" inside my head.
"Fun!" I was almost embarassed to yell that out as loudly as I did, because a more reticent woman at the table in front of me had started to say "Fu..." and I wanted to beat her to the treat.
So I out-shouted her and got a treat thrown in my direction which -- Praise Dog! -- I caught cleanly on the fly. I carefully placed it on the floor next to my growing collection of dog treats, which were pieces of jerky and biscuits.
"Didn't someone else also say 'fun'?" Annie perceptively asked. Whew. Guilt went away. The woman I out-yelled ended up getting a treat also.
Disturbingly, though, Annie didn't write anything on the board with her marker. "Actually 'fun' should be part of all the other resources you can control, like going for a walk and petting," she said. "It isn't really a separate resource."
By this time in the class I wasn't satisfied with just getting a dog treat from Annie when I did something she wanted me to do. I expected to see my suggestion written down on the board, which was, um...
A resource she was controlling. Along with the dog treats.
Bingo! Main lesson learned.
Annie had me doing what she wanted by giving me stuff I wanted. On the handout she gave us near the end of the class, Dog Training 101 was described in some pithy words:
What's In It For Me NOW?
Establish Calm, Clear, GENTLE Leadership
Life rewards: Nothing in Life is Free (NILF)
l learned a lot from the class. Most notably, that if a human who doesn't even eat dog treats can be motivated to do things by having the treats thrown in his direction, they will work much better with an actual dog.
What a fun article and entertaining article, Brian. And a great site.
Posted by: Susan Carey | April 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Susan, thanks for the positive comment. Nice! I find positive comments tasty! You've made me want to write more blog posts about the Willamette Humane Society. Like Annie, you're a good human trainer also.
(Most women are, including my wife. After all, they have to handle male human animals throughout life -- a manageable, albeit difficult, job requiring the right "treats" to shape behavior.)
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 16, 2012 at 10:18 AM
I just told Annie Ingersoll about this blog post. Had some questions for her.
Annie, your class yesterday stimulated a blog post about dog/human training.
Laurel and I enjoyed it a lot. My only question is: Why are dog treats mysteriously appearing when I empty the dishwasher and wipe down the sink after using it? Also, when I (occasionally) put a towel back neatly after using it?
Oh, and also… Why has Laurel started wearing a dog treat pouch inside the house?
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM
What a great article. Entertaining and insightful. My dogs and I have been through classes at Willamette Humane Society with Annie and I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun we had. Not only did my dogs learn to be better behaved but I also really enjoyed the experience.
Posted by: Tom | April 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM