Search for Zeva's enlightenment (and mine) -- Part 3

What Color Is Your Dog?: Train Your Dog Based on His Personality "Color" (Kennel Club Books) - Joel Silverman

The Zeva Project is my quest to find an activity that Zeva and I can participate in together to relieve her current state of boredom. I am reading nine books, some of which are on the psychology and training of dogs and some which describe specific dog activities.


Another excellent book in my dog project, although this still isn't the book that I am specifically looking for.


This book emphasizes training your dog based on his personality type.  This is somewhat similar to methods where training is selected based on the breed of your dog.  The idea is that since all dogs of a certain breed or group share traits and behaviors, training in accordance with those behaviors makes sense.  This book takes that further though, because we know that all dogs have their own personalities, no matter the breed, and no matter the litter.  Just as we humans are not exactly like our brothers and sisters even when we are born of the same parents and raised in the same environment, so it is with dogs.  Training according to their temperaments makes the most sense.


Joel Silverman is an expert in animal training and has experience with marine animals and movie dogs.  This was a fun book because he shared stories about particular dogs he trained, and the movies or commercials in which you can find them.


This is Duke starring in a Polaroid commercial: 


And this one: 


Silverman has divided dogs into five personality types for training purposes.  At the center of the spectrum is the Yellow Dog (as in Mellow).  The Hot Dogs (out of control, always ready for anything) are the Red and Orange Dogs, and the Cool Dogs (shy to fearful) are the Green and Blue Dogs.


". . .  two points . . . stand out: one, that people need to develop relationships with their dogs before training them; and two, that dogs, like people have a wide variety of personalities and should be trained accordingly."


"Beliefs based on universal truths about dog behavior may have little basis in the reality of your dog's situation in your household."


Before you even think about beginning to train your dog, you need to learn to know your dog, including what treats are his favorites (and surprisingly, to me at least, treats should not be used as a reward for Red Dogs -- they are entirely too excitable already and the prospects of treats only excites them more.  With red and orange dogs, you need to focus on calming them down, so they can pay attention to what you are communicating to them -- tactile reward is best for Hot Dogs); where he prefers to be petted (ears, chest, above the tail), his favorite place (den, backyard), etc.


Then you need to categorize him by color.  Silverman gives you behaviors to help you with this step.  When I first started reading, I was convinced my dog must be both red and blue (seemingly contradictory), but by the time I was done with the analysis I knew that she was a GreenBlue.  


The techniques of training each command do not vary.  What changes is how you as the trainer act, reward your dog, and correct your dog. Based on the behavior color of your dog, you will determine how you should act (move, talk and touch), reward and correct in order to get the most satisfactory results.  Like all training methods, this has much more to do with training the trainer than with training the dog.  You are training yourself not to send mixed signals to your dog.  The better you learn to do this, the better able you will be to effectively train your dog.  


Silverman breaks everything down for you, making it easy to know which action is best for you to take.


The objective is to train your dog to the extent that you are moving him into the center of the spectrum, from Red to Orange towards Yellow, or from Blue to Green towards Yellow.


Having taken several group obedience training classes with my dog, I have had the opportunity to observe the viability of this method.  In group, there are many personalities of dogs, all of which were being trained using the same actions, rewards and corrections.  Looking back, I can see the exact point he is making.  Using high-pitched voices, which we were told to always do, only makes Red Dogs more excitable, and moving forward too fast with the training only exacerbates the fearfulness in shy dogs.  But it is group training, and therefore you have to make accommodation for the group as a whole, and I learned a lot in those classes, they were invaluable to me.  What this book does is allow me to tweak those lessons in order to get the most enjoyment and best results for both me and Zeva.


I want to share this quote from the end of the book, because it's important.  If I had a young person to give the book to, I certainly would.  As it is, I will definitely be acquiring it for my own library.


"As you work with your dog, I am going to ask you to do something as a favor to me.  If you learned something from this book, share it with a child or someone young.  We need to teach young children so much about responsible pet ownership and training.  I really believe that if enough kids learn at an early and impressionable age, we can make a difference.  There will be fewer dogs in animal shelters and humane societies, and more in caring homes with families that love them."