Posts tagged ‘book’

Go with the flow

I just finished reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow: The Psychology of Optimum Experience”.  Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s work focuses on happiness, creativity and success.  He is best known for his work on flow.

In Csikszentmihalyi’s own words, Flow is the state of:

“being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Focus and concentration are the foundation of flow. When we’re engaged in flow we engage all of our physical and emotional resources to act and learn. And, flow isn’t just a way to maximize our potential, it is also very a strongly intrinsically rewarding state of mind.

Most researchers seem to think that flow is a uniquely human trait. I find this odd because it seems to me that flow is the natural state for a mentally balanced dog. In my experience, dogs have an absolutely wonderful natural tendency to become completely immersed, and find great joy in, even the simplest of tasks.

Flow is a complex abstract concept. If you’re interested you really need to read Csikszentmihalyi’s book. For those who want the Cliff Notes version, this video presents an accessible short description of flow:

The video emphasizes the importance of flow in education. When we are challenged in ways that stretch our skills without stretching them too far, we tend to move into flow. I think that this is true for dogs as well as for humans.

Flow is important to dog training in two ways.

First, if you experience flow regularly as you work with your dog, not only will you be driven to seek out more of the good feelings elicited by the positive experience, being in the flow state also puts you on the right track to master the art of dog training.

Second, when the dog experiences flow during training sessions not only does he get more out of the work — because the work itself becomes intrinsically rewarding he’ll learn to look forward to training sessions.

How can we harness the power of flow? According Csikszentmihalyi there are five essential steps involved in transforming the performance of physical acts into flow*. The first time I first read these steps I was shocked by their striking similarity to a class handout I wrote some time ago explaining how to set up a dog training session.

Combining Csikszentmihalyi’s steps with mine I came up with the following blueprint to achieve flow in dog training:

  1. Start by setting an overall goal that includes several measurable sub-goals. Having a plan in place, even an informal mental plan, before you get started helps keep you focused on the task at hand. Measurable stepwise sub-goals help provide a sense of accomplishment along the way.
    ..
  2. Find ways to measure your progress. Define how you plan to measure success at each step in the process. This will keep you on task and remind you to keep giving your dog helpful input as you work. Humans have an unfortunate tendency to obsess about end goals. It’s important for us to remember that in flow the journey, not the destination, is our goal.
    ..
  3. Make successively finer adjustments both to your performance and to your dog’s performance as you progress. Strive for better performance in many different sub-parts of the task. Working on different parts of a task helps keep training interesting. Mastering one part of a task also frees mental resources to focus on other parts.
    ..
  4. Look for ways to use your training skills to deal with unexpected outside forces that act as distractions. Use novelty to keep your dog (and yourself) interested in the work. Remember the importance of surprise in learning.
    ..
  5. Increase the level of difficulty as your skills and your dog’s skills improve. Regularly adding new challenges improves skills and helps prevent boredom.

A wonderful side benefit of a flow-centered training program is that, because it is strongly intrinsically rewarding, sharing time in the flow state enhances the relationship between you and your dog. It also provides excellent cross-training  opportunities to enhance your dog’s ability to exercise self-control.

* Chapter 5, page 97.

June 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm 3 comments

Time to Eat the Dog

fryingpan

New Zealand’s Dominion Post published an ‘interesting’ opinion piece today on the supposedly dire environmental impacts posed by pet keeping.

Victoria University professors Brenda and Robert Vale, architects who specialise in sustainable living, say pet owners should swap cats and dogs for creatures they can eat, such as chickens or rabbits, in their provocative new book Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living.

The couple have assessed the carbon emissions created by popular pets, taking into account the ingredients of pet food and the land needed to create them.

“If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around,” Brenda Vale said.

“A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don’t worry about having Alsatians and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact … is comparable.”

Do you suppose that the Vales took into account the fact that most of the “meat” that goes into commercial dog food is byproducts that might otherwise go to waste?  Did they also take into account the fact that most pet owners (present company included) don’t buy a new set of dog beds, crates, bowls, leashes and kennels every time they get a new dog.

What next, a book on the merits of cannibalizing children?

It looks to me like these folks took a page from PeTA’s playbook, using shock tactics to promote themselves.  This is one dog-related book I won’t be buying.  In fact, I’m not even going to post a link to it.

October 23, 2009 at 3:10 am 8 comments

Is Your Dog a Werewolf?

Take a more detailed test here

Using a video to promote a novel is – well, a novel idea.  The clip above is the trailer for Toby Barlow’s “Sharp Teeth” a fascinating blend of horror, dark humor and social commentary spun up in prose as sparse and beautiful as a Wyoming Prairie.

The first twist to the story is that, instead of turning into wolves at the full of the moon, these lycanthropes turn into large dogs at will. They don’t inhabit medieval forests and villages, this pack lives in Los Angeles – where they take in the homeless and other social outcasts.  And they love to play bridge.

sharpteeth.jpg

The book is written in a unique style of prose:

But nobody seems to recall
the sublime form of a dog as she lies
curled up like a comma
in the cool forgiving summer shade
there beneath the bed.
Or the absolute satisfaction
performed with quiet muscular grace
of a dog roughly going at a good meal.
Or the joyful dance in a dog’s eyes
as she sits alert watching,
waiting for you
to do
that something
she wants you to do.
“Do it,” she says. “Do it now.”

I don’t read much nonfiction but this book intrigued me and I ordered a copy today.

Oh, and I gave my dogs that test.  When I said “Rumsfeld” two of them laid back their ears, looked away and slitted their eyes.  And – when I told them that I KNEW what they did last night, the three of them slunk off to the back room as one. 

I hope they’re plotting my transformation – not my demise………

February 16, 2008 at 4:28 am 1 comment

The Best New Book on Dog Training

illbehaveddog.jpg

How to Have an Ill-Behaved Dog from the Self-Hurt Series at Knock Knock is THE best book on dog training that I’ve read in a long time.  I’m not joking.  This book will give you all the information you need to train your dog.

This is from the promo on Knock Knock’s website:
Have you ever been to the dog park and wondered, “How do those people achieve such ill-behaved dogs?” Or perhaps you’re thinking about adopting a canine companion and want to start off on the right paw. Whether you’re experienced or new at the pet game, this book will teach you the most cutting-edge techniques for cultivating a dog who doesn’t listen, barks incessantly, and destroys your shoes.

Learn How To:

·         Develop your dog into a narcissistic extension of yourself
·         Make sure your dog jumps on all visitors
·         Harness your dog’s natural drives to extract the worst possible behavior with the minimum effort 

And, if you follow the directions in the book, I guarantee that you will have an obnoxious, ill-behaved dog!  There’s even a place inside the front cover where you can sign a pledge committing yourself to accomplish the task. 

If you read this little gem of a book closely, you’ll see that the folks who wrote it (and by the way, the only way that the book disappointed me was that it gave no credit to the authors or editors) must be absolutely brilliant dog trainers… or psychotherapists who specialize in treating dysfunctional dog owners.  Their descriptions of neurotic dog owners, obnoxious dogs and the ways that they create each other are deviously clever and wonderfully entertaining. 

You might think that this is just a silly, useless, little book — and you’d be wrong.  “How to Have an Ill-Behaved Dog” provides the thoughtful dog owner with a sort of magic mirror on “How Not to Live With a Dog.” 

Get this book and read it twice.  The first time read it purely to be entertained.  It’s a very funny book and even someone who isn’t a dog owner will appreciate the humor.  Then read it a second time with a more critical eye, to see if you recognize yourself (or your dog) anywhere in its pages.  If you do — use the book as a guide to change, and correct the parts of your behavior that you saw mirrored in the book.  If you see yourself in many places in its pages, you may want to call a professional dog trainer – and a therapist!

January 9, 2008 at 5:37 am 1 comment


Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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