Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dog tricks

Just yesterday at the beach an adolescent male ridgeback stole my dog's ball and wouldn't let it go. He kept running farther away while chewing on it vigorously. That kind of ruins my game with my dog,to say nothing of how fast some animals can ruin a good ball. Then too dogs sometimes get into a scrap over something like stealing a toy. I figured these two dogs combined weighed about 130 lbs. and my bitch was shadowing him pretty closely, so forestalling any escalation seemed a good idea.

When I finally got close enough to the ridgeback to be able to make a move, I yelled "DROP IT!" which worked, slightly to my surprise. Of course he went right for it again, which is why I wear stout boots for dog walks. I stepped on the ball and said "LEAVE IT!" and "OFF!" while crowding him off the spot.

Mind you this can be risky; I've stepped away from a dog or two if they seemed especially determined. I don't relish my toes as a chew toy. I'd never met this dog before, and particularly being young and rambunctious, I couldn't be not entirely sure he knew or would respond to common commands. By the same token I didn't think he'd be overly dominant yet.

I believe that a dominant tone of voice is really the key to grabbing control anyway. In most circumstances, when immediate attention is required, from either man or beast, a strongly projected"YO!" seems to be universally effective in establishing one's presence.

What reminded me of yesterday's experience was an email that arrived this morning with a similar theme (a nice synchronicity!) In it was a story about a man who was attacked by a dog. He retreated behind a car and shouted "SIT", which worked! Just about every dog knows that word, unless it's been taught in German or Spanish or Vietnamese, etc., but even then it's a word they might very well have heard and recognize.

The point is, use of a common command in a strong voice can be a valuable trick. Pitching a hand up high over a dog's head (or towards one further away) reinforces this with body language; as a dog's nose goes up, the other end tends to go down.

There are similar psychological tricks in fighting. For instance, grapplers learn to release holds when their training partner taps out. On the street, this could aid an escape. The better response, from the grappler's point of view, would be to stop increasing pressure or ease back a bit, but not to relinquish control unconsciously.

The idea is to control direction of attention. NLP is useful because it teaches modalities of consciousness. Applied Kinesiology or similar body therapies are good for learning pressure and release points. Lead the mind, the body follows. Lead the body, the mind pays attention.

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