Leave it to the experts to gorgeously explain what's been rolling around in my head, and what I'd tried to say but couldn't get it out right. Dog trainer and author Patricia McConnell wrote a wonderful blog entry recently on the "umwelt" of dogs that was, in a way, a spiritual (or "Aha") moment for me. I discovered a parallel of my reaction while reading an article on Ron Paul in this month's Atlantic magazine, specifically on how Paul wrote of "his enlightenment [of Misean economics] in the language of a religious testimonial: "Although the works were magnificent, and clarified many issues for me, it was more of a revelation to find intellectuals who could confirm what I 'already knew.'"
Yeah, people, I did just quote the unofficial leader of the tea party movement. But he totally hit the nail on the head when it comes to an "Aha" moment, right!?
|Hiking with a few pups (Chester & Kim) last month|
Why "Après Pooch?"
If you visit www.aprespooch.com and click on About Us, you'll find that my reason for the name is its "Connection With Ski Resort Culture". This is true. This is the most obvious reason, since we are located in a ski resort town. But it's not the primary one, and in fact, I think the name is a bit cheesy if that's all it means. I had a client tell me over the summer, "You must be college-educated." "How's that?" I asked. "The name of your business. You obviously put a lot of thought into it." I was beaming for days over that comment.
Literally translated, the name means "after dog". I've been told that makes sense, too, as I'm technically "looking after" my clients' pups. Okay, I get that. But that's not the primary reason for the name, either.
The "Après Pooch," to me, is the next dog, the new way of raising and caring for dogs. It's progressive and it's proactive. It's a state of dog ownership in which I'm not comfortable with the status quo. I do not accept that black and white theories answer the question of what our role is as the owner -- or guardian -- of our pets. While traditional (and, in my opinion, worn out) dominance methods are certainly abhorrent to me as a general rule, positive (clicker) methods do me very little good as a pet sitter who interacts with her clients' pups on a short-term basis. Even for pups that I walk regularly, if the owner and I aren't consistent with our training techniques (or we disagree on them altogether), positive methods won't make our relationship better or the walks any easier.
The Name Is My Inspiration ...
... to be the best pet care provider for my clients' pups, as well as being a spectacular "mom" to my golden retrievers, Bella and Hunter.
I want to give all of my "kids" the best experience possible. My goal is to piece together the bits of common training methods that result (for my company) in a satisfied, fully realized, dog. That to me means experiencing the world for themselves. To have a break from humans demanding that their dogs see the world as they do; to appreciate the world as we do. I find it silly that dog owners demand (and even glorify) absolute obedience. That the ideal dog is one whom the AKC (or other such group) has given its seal of approval. I find it ridiculous that some pups rarely get to put their four paws on the ground. I am saddened that some pups never get the chance to take in its surroundings without the strain of the leash at its neck.
Is the "life purpose" of a dog to satisfy the demands and commands of humans?
From my business name, to my daily role as my golden's mom, to the way in which I think of and handle my "kids" on a daily basis, I am shouting a resounding "No"!
|On a mini-hike a few miles south of Mammoth|
This Doesn't Mean Letting Every Pup Run Free
A leash-free experience is not necessarily what every dog needs. Obviously, for safety reasons, I do not let every dog in my charge off-leash. In fact, I only do this when the owner requests it and I feel that we are in a safe area. Rather, it is my goal to try and understand the umwelt of each dog I work with. It is part of my every-day work to ask myself how this or that pup experiences the world, and then challenge myself:
- Why is he reacting this way? Is it a funny smell, or a strange noise? What might he be feeling about that smell or noise?
- How can I make him more comfortable in this space?
- How does he react to today's group of dogs?
- Can I help him see this situation in a new way? Can I find a way to provide him with the chance to react differently next time?
- Can I get him to express his feelings to me, rather than towards that external "enemy"? This is a Natural Dog Training method that works fascinatingly well, even with dogs I only encounter for a few hours on a single Daycare booking.
In McConnell's Own Words
Pulled right from her blog entry:
“'Umwelt' is a term coined by Uexkull to mean the world of an organism, as it is sensed, perceived and interpreted. The point, which was well explained by Alexandra [Horowitz], is that each species sees the world differently, based on their perceptual abilities (ie, bees see colors we don’t, dogs smell things we don’t) and the parts of their environment that are relative to them...
Given what we know about dogs, as listed by Horowitz: The world, to them, is: Incredibly smelly ... Full of our Knees ... Running at a Different Rate ... [the concept that] scents come and go at different rates than visual signals, disappearing, moving around, full of information about the past in a sensory world that make look the same to us but is constantly changing to a dog. She also reminded us that dogs see at a faster “flicker-fusion” rate than humans, such that their brains divide visual signals into smaller units than do ours ... Full of Details — that may be irrelevant to us ... Evaluated based on how a dog can relate to it: Can it fit in my mouth? Do I chew it or chase it?"
This is NOT what I mean ...
... by allowing your dogs to be dogs. Am I horrible for dressing up my B? Oh, come on, I'm allowed to be silly with her every now and then, right? She looks completely dejected in that pumpkin costume, though, doesn't she?
This is NOT what I mean ...
... by putting all four paws on the ground! This is my sister with her husky mix, Mika. My first Mammoth "baby."