Wednesday, 28 March 2012


I think I found my next book to read this evening. I was reading an article in todays paper about Sergeant Rex of the US Marines - heard of him? I hadn't.

Sergeant Rex was a bomb sniffing GSD working in Iraq. He and his owner Corporal Megan Leavey of the US Marines got blown up in 2006 by an IED.  The blast left both the dog and his handler severely injured and discharged from military service in 2007.

Now five years on after asking if she could adopt her canine colleague, Corporal Megan has been granted care of Rex.

It sounds an incredibly story of companionship and unbreakable bonds.

Another part of the article that caught my eye was about the ranking of dog and handler. Rex was known as Sergeant Rex because handlers are trained to address their dogs as one rank higher than their own so they learn to respect them. I thought WOW .... there's something here for us agility handlers / trainers to consider.

It made me think of those people who disrespect their dogs vocally:
"you stupid dog why won't you wait when I tell you"
"silly animal don't you know what a contact point is"
"he's like that, stupid really".

How different would it be if these same people had to address their dogs as one rank higher:
"Sir, permission to lead out to the front cross position"
"May I request your attendance on the A-Frame down contact - sir"

Joking aside there's an important message here. To respect our dogs in this fashion we need to think carefully about our language. I'm not suggesting that my readers disrespect their dogs at all, I'm thinking about language in the much broader sense of the word.

We know dogs read our body language, if this language is 'spoken' in the same way as you'd speak to a superior it would be very clear, concise, polite and accurate. If not we'd get quizzed, challenged, disciplined etc...

Around superiors we think carefully about our own actions, we plan ahead, we consider what behaviour to display to keep the boss happy and how to get a pay rise or promotion. Now translate that into agility speak treating the dog as our superior: What do we need to do to:
- encourage the dog (boss) to wait; 
- train (convince) the dog (boss) that he needs to touch the contact points
- convince the dog (boss) that going faster is better

A very interesting concept and an idea for when I judge next, or for my next training session.

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