Jane calls any dog that is challenging or difficult a “Pigs Fly” dog. Typically, Pigs Fly dogs are terriers or sighthounds- ones who have been selectively bred to work independently of their handler. That said, a Pigs Fly dog is not determined by breed. Any dog can seem impossible to train, and when I talked to Jane about Maisy, she described my seriously biddable dog as a Pigs Fly dog, too. And I suppose it’s true; Maisy may be eager to please, but she hasn’t been easy.
Jane has a training system that she claims will work with any dog, even the ones who aren’t all that interested in pleasing their humans. This system isn’t necessarily new (it’s all based on operant conditioning, and relies heavily on positive reinforcement), but she’s coined some new terminology and phrases that are easier to understand for those who just don’t want to bother with all the scientific terminology (which is probably most people). This makes the Pigs Fly system easily accessible to a wide audience.
|Poor lighting+cheap camera=subpar photos.|
She is also very much a behaviorist. I don’t mean that in the sense that she works with troubled dogs (although she has). No, I mean that she operates from the standpoint that we can’t know what our dogs are thinking or feeling, and that while it’s fun to try and guess, we need to train based on the behavior we see in front of us. She’s not wrong, and while I agree with her to a certain extent, she takes it further than I do. Perhaps I tend to be too anthropomorphic, but I’ll admit that I don’t care for this approach.
In fact, that was very much my feeling on the whole weekend: while she’s not wrong, she also doesn’t resonate with me. The fact of the matter is that she’s a far better mechanical trainer that I will ever be. But her style struck me as cold, sterile, and lacking in heart or soul. And frankly, I was outright uncomfortable with the way this played out at times.
That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything; on the contrary, I picked up some great tips. Still, the stylistic differences challenged my beliefs and philosophies on training. They forced me to think about who I am as a trainer, as a person, and how my personality influences the way I interact with dogs. In fact, I suspect that I will be reflecting on the weekend for a long time to come, even after I’ve finished blogging about the seminar proper.
But for now, we must focus on the task at hand. Over the next several weeks, I will be bringing you posts covering what I learned. So sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy Jane Killion in all her brilliance.