|Keep a float in your line...|
Michele has been much less clumsy in her efforts, and she gave all of us at her talk a simple, clear, and efficient method for flipping our dogs' conception of pressure (and our own), from oppositional force to welcome invitation.** As she mentioned, there had been some trepidation on the part of the Expo organizers around her presentation of her process, given that it relies on negative reinforcement to get rolling, but I can say with absolute conviction that her method could have saved my dogs a great deal of annoyance if I'd been acquainted with it earlier. And even having muddled my way to a rough approximation of what she's doing with the leash, I am better able now to refine my techniques intelligently (and to expand them into similar work with hand to body contact). I can more easily move forward thanks not only to the clarity of her approach but also to the intellectual and moral affirmation I took from noting its overlap with my own nascent ideas. Out of respect for her care in presenting the specifics of her method, I'll wait to describe them here until I've had a chance to review her notes, but I think they should be disseminated widely, as I'm convinced that they have the potential to reduce the use of negative reinforcement significantly. As long as we use leashes primarily to contain rather than to communicate, and as long as we labor under the misconception that the signals we send each other across the line must necessarily be aversive, we miss a great opportunity to get in better touch with our dogs.
** It's probably no coincidence that Michele is a champion "freestyler," i.e., she dances (beautifully) with her dogs. Anyone who's done much partnered dancing can readily understand how this mode of training is analogous to "giving good weight," and can also guess how seamlessly it might integrate with other vital forms of kinesthetic awareness and communication.
Photo by George Grall.