As I have discussed so many times before on this blog, there are some dog breeds that are perceived as being less intelligent than others.
I have determined that the reason for this is not that they are less intelligent, but that these breeds are heavily distracted by an inborn tendency to do a particular job. This gives the impression that these breeds are not smart because they ignore human direction since they are busy doing or trying to do their job.
They have other interests.
It is simply not the case that they are less intelligent no matter what the book says.
In fact, these dog breeds are just as intelligent and are actually better problem solvers than many other breeds believed to be smarter. They don’t need humans to tell them what to do because they thrive on figuring it out themselves.
For example, livestock guardian dogs are bred to work independently of humans. In order to be trained well, they need to be super-motivated.
In order to communicate to these dogs well you need to teach them that they will be rewarded for thinking. They need to be able to figure things out on their own. That is what they were bred to do. If you try to “command” them you are taking that away. You are trying to make them something they are not. But they are not stupid or stubborn.
I have started to teach Ira to think HOW he can do something that will get him what he wants. I am using shaping to have him become “operant” which means that he has learned that he will get rewarded when he figures out what gives the reward.
It makes him think. I am not just luring him.
In the exercise in the video below we are using a box to help Ira learn that he has a choice. He can work to get a reward or not. His choice. Otherwise there is nothing.
Ira will also work for: time outside, being allowed to come inside, being allowed to bark at something at the window and his favourite thing – sock toys.
Livestock guardian breeds were developed to make their own decisions. I have noticed in the last few months that Ira has become more independent in his choice of activities, likely as a result of becoming more mature. He often does not seem to care if I am around. He has not fully learned that the source of fun is me.
This is what shaping is teaching him to do.
Even if your dog is a working livestock guardian dog, you need to be able to have your dog respond to you in certain situations.
These breeds are not less intelligent just because they don’t respond when you “tell them” to. It actually means they need more training – the appropriate training.
This view of intelligence is based on the human perception that a dog should do something immediately without proper training just because we say so. Some breeds will be more willing to do this because of an inbred desire to be near their humans.
Many breeds are not like this, so the perception is that they are not smart because they won’t do what we want when we command it and would rather be somewhere else. With proper motivation and training, purpose bred dogs are as intelligent and able to problem solve than any other breed.
If you want to great book to help you train your “difficult” or stubborn dog check out Jane Killion’s Book WHEN PIGS FLY – Training Success With Impossible Dogs. This is where I found the information about using shaping to train a purpose bred dog or a dog of a more independent breed. This dog training professional knows what she is talking about, having worked with, trialed and shown Bull Terriers to a high level in multiple venues.
You will find a lot of great information to help you with your stubborn dog in this book that will likely transform your relationship with your dog, and your dog’s relationship with you.
Why not consider trying shaping as Ira and I are doing. It is really making a world of difference!