Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finished Book: "Plenty in Life is Free" by Kathy Sdao

Beautiful, memorable and as perfect as perfect gets.
On this unseasonably warm October afternoon (it's 70-something in Wisconsin!), I finished reading Kathy Sdao's beautiful, 93-page book Plenty in Life is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace.

For those who have not heard of or read Kathy's book, the pages within talk about rethinking the NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) training protocol and challenge oneself to consider becoming an active, communicating partner (not leader) in the relationship with your canine friends through alternate ways of training. To be 100% honest, I have never felt comfortable with the NILIF protocol. I tried it with my own "problem" dogs and never made it past a week of of the program. It never felt "right" and I wasn't happy dictating that my dog had to offer me something, at my cue/command, in order to get what he wanted.

In Kathy's beautiful writing, her experience, outlook, passion and ability to deliver a salient message left me satisfied beyond belief.  I am energized, excited and ready to continue on the journey with my own dogs and with my clients, both current and future, with her approach to training. Throughout the pages, Kathy layouts a handful of alternative methods to the NILIF protocol/philosophy, all of which gravitate around the central idea that we, humans, need to get SMART (See Mark and Reward (Training)) with our dogs offer. We must be active in the participation and become skilled partners and listeners. It is our duty to reinforce our dogs (with petting, praise, walks, car rides...whatever!) when they reinforce us (with ANY behavior that you want them to do).
" training focus has shifted gradually away from ensuring animals' compliance with my directives. Instead I've become increasingly aware of the critical need for me to observe the animals I train - intentionally watching their behaviors with mindful intention. This cultivation of the skills of clearly seeing behavior and learning to recognize and respond to desirable behaviors trumps any reward-rationing protocol. It also precedes - temporally and philosophically - any attempts I make to improve the animal's obedience to my requests." 
For me to say that Kathy's book is the best dog book I have ever read would be an understatement. It is about as perfect as perfect gets and I will proudly recommend it atop the previously #1-ranked "Bones".

Kathy - if I ever get the opportunity to meet you in person, I will see, mark and reward you with the biggest bear hug I can offer.