Friday, April 4, 2014

Jumpy the Cattle Dog - A Rant

I have been seeing (this video of Jumpy the Cattle Dog doing Skidboot's routine) shared all over Facebook over the past week, and I finally watched it today.  I know Skidboot by name only, as an amazingly clever cattle dog who would perform an enormous variety of tricks.  I have a book about him sitting on my book shelf.  (I may read it while I work the graveyard shift at work tonight, actually!)

The video features a very tempting dog toy, and Jumpy performs a two minute routine of tricks and commands.  Sits, downs, back up, move forward, stay, "don't look at it", turn away and finally at the end he is allowed to touch the toy but has to wait 'til the "Count of 3!" before he can have the toy.  The training is incredible, the dog is incredible, I loved it!

And of course, the comments left on the video are a mixture of delighted and outrage.  Outrage that this dog is being Tortured.  Not Being Natural.  Evil.  Cruel.  Teased.  Controlled.  Slavery.

No, no, no!

You know what is cruel?

A chained dog.  A dog living in an outdoor kennel, day after day, for 15 years.  A dog confined to one room and walked for ten minutes twice a day.  A dog who lays on a couch all day while his owner is gone for 12 hours and tosses some kibble in a bowl upon arrival home.  A dog who is not housebroken, yet is blamed  and resented for it.  An invisible dog.  A Christmas puppy taken to the shelter after 8 months.  An obese dog.  A starving dog.  Dogs cared for to the minimum physical standards, with their minds neglected.

Dogs are victims of humans, always.  We domesticated them, and they are dependent upon us.  To love them, to protect them, to keep them safe, to understand them and to train them.  Training a dog to do tricks is not cruel.  Training obedience is not cruel.  Jumpy's owner probably spent more quality time teaching Jumpy just half of the tricks and behaviors seen in this two minute routine than some people spend with their dogs during their entire lives.  How is that cruel?

A dog craves more than to simply be alive.  A full belly.  A dog, no matter what breed, craves purpose and bond.  And Bravo! to Jumpy's owner for fulfilling Jumpy.  For being Jumpy's friend.  For using the incredible mind of that cattle dog in as many ways possible.  As it should be.

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  1. I have a friend who has told other friends (never me, of course, because I would PUNCH HIM IN THE HEAD and he knows it) that he thinks it's "mean" to train dogs extensively because (somehow) he believes they're happier in ignorance. I am not really able to articulate the reasoning because I don't understand it myself, but I think it is probably rooted in some version of the noble savage myth -- this idea that dogs would be pure and free and unfettered if only we didn't force them into artificial behaviors.

    And that is total crap, as we all well know. But it makes me sad for the dogs whose people think that they are somehow being kinder by NOT interacting with their dogs and NOT giving them mental stimulation or interesting challenges to enliven their days.

    like, whaaaat

    If you're doing it right -- training motivationally and working hard to keep the process fun for the dog and not too frustrating or demoralizing -- then it should be an awesome challenging game of infinite fun. The challenge is what MAKES it fun. Just getting what you want immediately is not fun. That's why there are no video games that just go "hooray you won!!" as soon as you turn them on. It's the PROCESS of winning that is the whole point of the game. No challenge = no fun.

    Seriously sometimes I feel like my job as a dog owner is just to make their lives the best possible fun adventure game. But that does not mean a game that goes directly from "Start" to "Hooray You Won!!"