Suzanne Clothier on leadership

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JudyN
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Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by JudyN » Wed Jan 07, 2015 7:56 am

I asked for Bones Would Rain From the Sky for Christmas, as Suzanne Clothier is very well respected on here. To be honest, I'm finding her writing rather fluffy for me and though I think it's important to focus on the bond & relationship between dog & owner as distinct from training, feel that she's spending a long time telling me what I already know.

But I'm a bit confused by her thoughts on leadership and resources. According to her, puppies are competing for status from the moment they start play-fighting, and you need to show leadership in everything you do. If a dog does guard resources, including not getting off the sofa or bed when asked, this is a clear sign that it doesn't see you as leader and you need to step up a gear. I haven't yet read exactly how you do this, but going from this article http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-arti ... hip-basics it sounds very NILIF.

And in my experience, it doesn't work anything like she describes in the article under 'Regaining Resource Control'. Having a dog who is compliant and will do anything you ask of him before you let him have a valued resource in no way means that dog will them give it up to you when asked because he respects your leadership. Been there, got the t shirt :wink:

Similarly, I don't think the ability to control a dog in exciting circumstances, such as if a cat runs out in front of it is to do with leadership, but is to do with training (including training on self-control).

Maybe it's to do with how you define 'leadership'. Maybe I'm a crap leader. But it does worry me that although she speaks out against the usual 'status-reducing' ploys, her approach does encourage people to start worrying about who is top dog again, and we know how damaging that can be.
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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by minkee » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:29 am

I think it has a lot to do with where you are on your, for want of a better term, 'doggy journey'. I read Bones when I very first got Scout, the only book I had had previously was one for kids about how Guide Dogs are trained, and a CM book. It was light-years away from anything I had been reading or told, and finally set me on the right track with something that sounded like it suited me. I can overlook a lot of things that aren't really aimed at me (notably the turn it takes at the end that explains some of the fluffiness earlier!) because that's just her and who she is, and that's fine by me, doesn't change who I am. What was important was the aspect of listening to and trying to understand your dog.

I think Jasper would stump any one of our more respected trainers. He is a law unto himself! I wonder what they'd make of him?

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by jacksdad » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:52 am

Judy, welcome to the dark side....

you sound like you are having similar questions, similar thoughts that have all lead me to reject the idea that dogs need us to be "leaders". Or that simply being any type of leader, good, bad, so so, will have any affect on dog behavior.

In my opinion, there are more problems with the idea/theory than there are usable application or value. A big issue is what is leadership? what is the consistent uniform definition that we can all point to AND say these things are relevant to a dog. We know they are relevant for X Y Z reasons. And when we do them, dogs "jump to" and respond. "We" all think we know what "leadership" means, we don't. we each have our own little twist on it. We also have no data that any one can replicate that backs up any claim that doing X Y, Z in in the name of leadership is even meaningful to the dogs.

On the other hand we have mountains of data that show how using learning theory, operand conditioning etc can create the desired behaviors, and make them strong and have a high percentage of reliability under a wide variety of trained for situations.

my opinion that the whole reason we are now having to deal with the whole "leadership" fad is because people still struggle with "how to be" with their dogs. And in my opinion, it is very simple. be your self, be kind, enjoy your dog. teach your dog some life skills such as sit, down stay, recall, off the couch etc. that simple.

when you pick apart dominance theory, leadership theory, NILIF, it has MUCH more to do with giving guidance for how the human should behave than anything to do with dog training. It seems the goal is to make people more mindful of what they actual reinforce, teach, encourage from your dog. And it doesn't hurt that these theories also feed the human ego a bit or a lot depending on how they are explained.

The more I learn, the less convinced that "leadership" is even relevant, necessary, and simply extra overhead that doesn't help.

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by JudyN » Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:02 pm

Minkee, yes - I did agree with her about the relationship bits, and it's true I see a lot of people treat their dogs like a bit of self-propelling luggage and don't like it when they have the wheels of a supermarket trolley :lol: But I just found the idea that if your dog doesn't always do what you tell him then he doesn't respect you as a leader contra to everything I've learned from this site.

Jacksdad, I'm not ready to totally ditch the idea of leadership. I like that Jasper looks to me for direction, will ask me if he wants to go in a different direction to what I had in mind, and that if I tell him we can't go that way then he will follow me with good grace. But on the other hand, I don't think that the fact that he will leave the kitchen like a lamb when I ask him to is because of his respect for me as 'leader'. And when he won't get off the bed when asked... viewing that as a 'leadership' thing could be very unhelpful. Maybe I just view it as leadership when it looks like leadership to me :? Which does suggest it's not a useful concept after all...
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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by jacksdad » Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:33 pm

is asking for direction from someone a sign that person is your leader? if I ask my sister, what should I do? does that make her my leader? or my son, hey son you know a lot about X, what should I do? is my son now my leader?

keep chewing on it...the "dark side" is seductive err I mean liberating. you will join us...it is only a matter of time..muwaahahahahaha :twisted: :lol:

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by bendog » Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:36 pm

I liked the book because it made me think. Not because I agreed with all of it.

I think there's a line somewhere between the people like Suzanne who seem to think all training is based on the dog doing what you want because you are a leader, and the science-y side of quadrants and training and rewards which would help build better relationships with dogs.

science is great, and there is no doubt it works, but it can feel a bit clinical. The dog is "only doing it for food"

However I also think jacksdad is spot on, there is a lot of ego in leadership ideals or even, to be slightly less cynical, people just like the idea that their dog loves them as much as they love their dog, and it doesn't really mean much to the dog.

I feel like trust is more important than leadership. A lot of the things she suggests that I liked are about listening to your dog, and keeping them safe. Which to me is more about being someone your dog can trust rather than being a leader per se. And even then it doesn't always hold true.

Maybe those of us with food guarders or aggressive dogs are more likely to get defensive when someone claims that we have failed our dogs somehow because we aren't good leaders or they don't trust us enough! I know I often feel my relationship with my dogs is almost solely just as a provider of treats and I'm sure that I'm missing something and there should be more of a connection. I love them dearly, but I doubt they have any real feelings for me beyond food, and possibly familiarity/security.

Poppy will trust me to keep her safe from strangers she is afraid of, but won't trust me not to steal her dinner :/
I would love to know if she has ever owned a terrier ;)

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by jacksdad » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:30 pm

I bet if you dissected human relationships you would find equally un"fuzzy" explanations for why people spend time together or commit to each other for any length of time up to and including life.

the how or why something actually works often takes away the magic, the romance, the fuzzy feelings, the ego boost .....

science can help explain a lot of things, but so far hasn't helped us know for sure how another living being "feels". And I think you are right, people want to know how their dog feels about them, they want to know does their dog actually like them and appreciate what they do.

my very unscientific two cents.... being able to apply the science of good, sound, humane training mixed with being safe, and fun, and gentle with our dogs makes life good for our dogs. So if you can do that, ya I think they like us. I have no doubts Jack likes me and not just for the food that comes from me. that he chooses to be near me when he could go to another room, when something isn't right health wise he seeks me out..all that say to me, he trusts and likes me.

For me, if dogs could talk, the highest praise for me... "I feel safe with you". second highest, if given a choice, choosing to be around me.

after only 3 hours of work with a client's dog, I got dog kisses. this is from a dog with a bite history. yes, food played a role in reaching that point, but being safe, being kind, not putting pressure on the dog played just as much if not more a role. Certainly didn't get to that point by trying to be "alpha" or "leader".

our relationship with our dogs may start based on food, and science gives us the tools to bridge the "language gap" (learning theory, operand conditioning, classical conditioning etc), but I think our bond/relationship with our dogs can be more than that if we choose to make it so.

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by JudyN » Thu Jan 08, 2015 4:35 am

bendog wrote:Maybe those of us with food guarders or aggressive dogs are more likely to get defensive when someone claims that we have failed our dogs somehow because we aren't good leaders or they don't trust us enough! I know I often feel my relationship with my dogs is almost solely just as a provider of treats and I'm sure that I'm missing something and there should be more of a connection. I love them dearly, but I doubt they have any real feelings for me beyond food, and possibly familiarity/security.
Yes, it's very seductive, isn't it, the idea that you are in control, you are 'the boss' - and equally, you feel like such a berk when you ask your dog to do something and he blows you off in public, or when someone tells you your dog is stubborn just because he's communicating his desires to you and waiting to see if you'll comply. You worry that you look weak.

Jacksdad, yes, thinking about it, when Jasper chooses to follow me when I don't go the way he wants, it's not really about leadership - it's because he's a Mummy's boy and feels just as compelled to follow me as if I was dragging him along on a lead. And if he puts the brakes on when he is on the lead - well, he's learnt that I can be more 'stubborn' than him and he doesn't want to stand in one place for ages so again, leadership isn't needed to explain it (if he's put the brakes on because he's scared of something, like a dustbin lorry, that's a different matter and we'll take a detour).

I did Clothier a disservice, actually - after implying that if your dog sees you as leader then he will give you access to all resources, she went on to say that even a 'high-status' dog won't take something off a 'low-status' dog and so even a dog who sees you as leader can't be expected to give up what he has in his mouth. So whereas I might doubt her use of status and leadership, her approach for guardy dogs isn't what I thought it was.
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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by Nettle » Thu Jan 08, 2015 4:54 am

I'm on the side of 'dogs want to feel safe'. That, at times, includes us respecting them. Us trying to deduce what is in their minds at the time because they are less able to find out what is in ours. Us understanding what is really important to them so that if they ought to stop/give it up/come back (in our opinion), we either make it worth their doing so, or we cut them some slack and keep our egos right out of it.

I very often have clients' dogs trying to get in my car when I leave, or coming straight to me when I arrive, sitting on my foot and gazing adoringly up at me. This isn't because they see me as a leader :roll: or because I smell of dogs (I hope :lol: ) it's because I'm not flaky and they reckon they'll be safe on my watch.

Equally I have met dogs that badly wanted to bite me. These are ones that have been thrown so much onto their own resources that they have never felt safe with any human. The ones that aren't ill usually change their minds as the session progresses, but not always. Just to put it in proportion. :wink: and stop me thinking I know more than I do.
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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by katej215 » Thu Jan 08, 2015 8:00 am

Judy..I need to go back and read this book again now!! I don't remember it being fluffy at all..(hmmm says a lot huh!) :lol:

I don't have a problem with the concept of leadership, after all we're the species with the big complex brains that therefore have the ability to understand and shape behaviours and of course we're in control of resources...Also, I dont see leadership = being the boss or being in rigid control, it's about guidance and understanding. I like the analogy of parenting.

Our relationship with our dogs is 2 way right?...we might not always agree with each other and often there are blocks in communication..but what makes us the leader in the relationship is our ability to look to how we may improve upon such blocks / differences of opinion in the future...that's where our 'power' lies...

What I'm not comfortable with is the idea that our dogs will comply with us out of respect for us as leaders.. :? Dogs will always act in what they see as being in their best interests right...so therefore is 'respect' alluding to the idea of a state of complete trust ...so that whatever we ask of a dog, in the dogs mind it will always see the request as being in its best interests regardless of fears or breed hardwiring? ... :?
i need to re read before this seminar in March. Judy are you going? Is anyone going aside from Minkee and myself? :D

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by JudyN » Thu Jan 08, 2015 8:17 am

katej215 wrote:What I'm not comfortable with is the idea that our dogs will comply with us out of respect for us as leaders.. :? Dogs will always act in what they see as being in their best interests right...so therefore is 'respect' alluding to the idea of a state of complete trust ...so that whatever we ask of a dog, in the dogs mind it will always see the request as being in its best interests regardless of fears or breed hardwiring? ... :? D
I think it could be a case of the dog realising that he gains by doing what we ask in enough individual circumstances that either he generalises and decides that doing what we ask is (almost) always in his interests, or that doing what is asked becomes a habit, something he just 'does' without bothering to think too much about why (again, breed dependent - salukis are notorious for asking why :wink: ). I wonder if there's an element of us infantilising dogs, breeding the ones that have more puppyish tendencies and therefore more likely to see us as a parent figure even when mature. But that might be putting human values onto dogs, wanting to see the relationship as a parent/child thing which doesn't really have a parallel in a dog's mind.

To me, respect is very closely tied in with trust - that I am someone worth listening to, someone that can be relied on to keep him safe and fulfil his needs.

I'm not planning to go to the seminar myself, Kate, as I couldn't take Jasper and don't think my back would hold out for a whole day. But I'm planning to stay at my mum's, just down the road, and I'm really hoping I can meet up with you & whoever else is going, for a dog walk, meal, drink or whatever. We'll have to plan nearer the time :D
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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by katej215 » Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:59 am

JudyN wrote:and I'm really hoping I can meet up with you & whoever else is going, for a dog walk, meal, drink or whatever. We'll have to plan nearer the time
yes definitely !! :D

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by jacksdad » Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:08 pm

Nettle wrote:I'm on the side of 'dogs want to feel safe'.
I have to thank you some day...beyond words....for confirming for me that this is was the right path to follow.

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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by Nettle » Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:29 pm

:oops: thank you - and thank you for listening. Because I san say, but you had to do.
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Re: Suzanne Clothier on leadership

Post by WufWuf » Thu Jan 08, 2015 1:13 pm

jacksdad wrote: Nettle wrote:I'm on the side of 'dogs want to feel safe'.



I have to thank you some day...beyond words....for confirming for me that this is was the right path to follow.
Ditto what JD said :D

I often tell people I'm Honey's "security blanket" for want of a better way to explain my relationship with her.

I think the leadership thing is a very complicated one as once again it like so many things it comes down to personal definiton of the word "leader". Even in the human world "leader" is difficult to define and just becasue one might be described as a "leader" in certain situations one must also be able to follow, for example - A "world leader" would need to be able to be a follower if they wish to learn a new skill, you can't go into a kitchen and "lead" a chef who knows far more than you do about cooking.

So in my opinion I think that the word only serves to complicate things and it would be best if we left if out of dog training and behaviour in the vast majority of situations.

FWIW I recently learned that S.C breeds GSD's, so that might explain some things :wink:
Operant conditioning rocks but classical conditioning rules

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