In past posts, I have referred to Gel as an honest dog. In addition, I’ve read posts where other people have said the same things about their dogs. This lead me to wonder if dogs have the potential to be dishonest or is this “honesty” a term that we use to describe a particular dog that we work well with.
Do dogs go out to work thinking I’m not going to give it my all today because I really don’t feel like it? I don’t think so. Do they go out to work and decide that there’s too much pressure or the work is over their head so they quit or don’t work to their full potential? If the handler were able to see through these issues could they return the dog’s work to “honesty?”
Because I’ve had him since he was six and a half months old and we’ve worked through a lot of train wrecks, most of which I created myself, Gel and I have a solid relationship. There are times that he doesn’t work as well as I’d like him to, and I accuse him of slacking or being a jerk or whatever; but in every instance when I go back over it in my mind, I know that it wasn’t Gel’s fault that he didn’t work as I wanted him to, it was me.
Some dogs simply don’t work well for some people. For example, when Wally went up to give the sheep grain yesterday morning, I suggested that he take Gel with him to push the sheep off the feeder. Gel loves that job so I figured he’d work fine for Wally. Wrong. Wally started breaking ice and spreading hay for the sheep and Buster and when he looked around for Gel to get him to keep the sheep off the feeder, Gel was gone. He had jumped the ElectroNet and was heading home. He came back when Wally called him and did what he needed to do, but he shouldn’t have left to begin with. If it was me in there with the sheep, he wouldn’t have left, but he doesn’t have the relationship with Wally that he does with me.
I believe “honesty” in a dog is nothing more than a by-product of the relationship a dog has with the handler. Dogs are honest by nature; they don’t have the thought process necessary to make them dishonest. If you put too much pressure on them, they will quit. Does that make them dishonest? Fern was a perfect example of this. She isn’t the type of dog that is going to work through a lot of yelling and carrying on; it has nothing to do with honesty. Split will work through yelling and that is something that is to her detriment. I don’t think you should have to handle a dog with kid gloves, but when the time comes that you ask them to do something that is contrary to what their instinct is telling them to do, here comes the pressure and they have to be able to take it and listen to you and trust that what you are asking them to do is the right thing. Stock is like crack to Split. She is addicted and can’t get enough of it. Keeping her from trying to work Merlin is a pain in the ass. Working Merlin is dangerous, but she doesn’t see it that way. She is the type of dog, at least at this point, who needs to be put up out of the way when you don’t want her working. Maybe with age, she’ll settle down. If I was training these dogs to be trial dogs, I’d have a lot more leniency in who I keep and who I place; but when you need a dog to be there, when you need it and to be able to work through difficult situations, you need a different kind of dog. Granted, a good farm dog can be a good trial dog, but I am not so sure it goes the other way.
Then again, what do I really know? This is all a great learning process and I’m enjoying the journey.
Until later …