There is great stuff coming from Hungary. A few years ago I read Vilmos Csanyl’s book “If Dogs Could Talk”. Csanyl is a companion dog owner, and the head of the Ethology Department at the University of Budapest. In his book he wonderfully fuses science and relationship.
His ethology research group conducts very interesting studies on behavior, canine cognizant abilities and how dogs and wolves are different.
And then there is this Hungarian group of dog owners who take chaining tricks into a cool performance to a whole new level. Last year about this time I saw a Youtube clip called “A Doggy Christmas Surprise”. You may have seen it – it’s a bunch of dogs, intact as they often are in Europe, decorating a Christmas tree. And last week someone sent me the sequel, called “A Doggy Summer” – it’s the same group of dogs having fun at the beach. Both clips are awesome, and well worth watching. If I’d be any computer savvier I would have a direct link to it from this post, but because I am not, you have to go to www.youtube.com and type Mirror Method Dogs into the search box. Doggy Christmas is the first and Doggy Summer the third clip, and in between is one about the group and their training philosophy.
That clip is called “About Our Group” and the method called Mirror Method. They say that the dog reflects the behavior and personality of the owner, and in order to change the dog’s behavior, one has to make changes in his own first. Wise words.
The Mirror method consists of three, equally important, parts: relationship – training – natural for the dog interactions.
They use the word hierarchy and leader, but state that leadership is established without force and violence. They also talk about distance between owner and dog and I’m curious what they mean by that. They say that without that relationship first, obedience isn’t possible and I totally agree. The mindful leadership relationship is what I call the foundation necessary for learning and good behavior.
For the mechanical part, the teaching of tricks and positions, they use a clicker and treats. I am not a clicker trainer, but do believe it’s a great tool for purely mechanical learning – when the cerebral cortex in addressed, not the emotional limbic system.
The third part is to tap into the dog’s instincts; in other words create opportunities for the dog to live his nature. Living his nature doesn’t mean free for all, but structured teamwork that allows the dog to do things important to him. In the clip they showed retrieving and protection work – I love tracking, cause most dogs are interested in purposeful nose work.
I agree with one more statement the group makes: that marvelous things are possible with every dog, if the owner follows the holistic three-part philosophy of Leadership Relationship; Training and Practice and Purposeful Teamwork and Interactions.